Patriots season ends
Last week my dad informed me that he had discovered a new word: dystopian.
“There’s nothing new about the word dystopian,” I informed him.
“It’s new to me,” my father said. “I bet there are a lot of people who have never heard it before.”
“I doubt it,” I said.
After our talk, I began working the word dystopian into conversation and emailing my dad links to articles and essays containing the word. By the end of the week, my mind was on other matters, such as the AFC Championship game. I confidently predicted a Patriots victory, though occasionally I paused to imagine a dark and disturbing dystopian future, where the Ravens got to go to the Super Bowl instead.
On Sunday, the New England Sports Fan Friend sent me a text message.
“If you bring a six pack of IPA, we will win,” he wrote.
I swung by the convenience store on my to the New England Sports Fan Friend’s house and grabbed the Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, because there were no IPAs. Now that I think about it, my failure to drive out to the beverage store and pick out a high-quality IPA is probably what set the Patriots on the road to ruin. But I’d rather blame Wes Welker. And bad clock management. And Ravens Hit Man Bernard Pollard, and his bone-crushing tackle of Stevan Ridley, which caused a crucial fumble. And the fact that Tom Brady turned into Joe Flacco, and Joe Flacco turned into Tom Brady.
When I arrived at the New England Sports Fan Friend’s house, he was in pretty high spirits. One of his daughters was running around wearing his vintage Patriots helmets.
“You’re just in time for the Dan Marino interview with Tom Brady,” he said, then told everyone to be quiet and led me over to the TV. I asked him whether his friend Mike the Jets Fan was coming over. “No,” said the New England Sports Fan Friend. “But he has come to regard me as a champion, which is all that matters.”
For some reason, the New England Sports Fan Friend and I were feeling good about the Patriots’ chances, though in hindsight I can see that this was completely delusional. And although the New England Sports Fan Friend is given to making bold, declarative statements, I had to agree with his assessment after Wes Welker dropped a crucial pass, killing a march downfield that likely would have ended in a touchdown or field goal.
“OH MY GOD!” the New England Sports Fan Friend shrieked. “WES WELKER! THAT IS WHY YOU DO NOT HAVE A CONTRACT FOR NEXT YEAR, WES WELKER! BECAUSE YOU DROP PASSES AND LOSE BIG GAMES!”
We were both having flashbacks to last year’s Super Bowl, when a Welker dropped another crucial pass, delivering a similar soul-crushing blow. Tom Brady’s wife, the super model Gisele, stirred up some controversy last year when she told a group of heckling Giants fans that “My husband cannot f-cking throw the ball and catch the ball at the same time. I can’t believe they dropped the ball so many times.”
At the time, I thought she was being a little harsh. After all, Wes Welker is great! I love Wes Welker! And because I like Wes so much, I forgave him for what happened in the Super Bowl. But today I feel a little bit like Gisele. Wes Welker needed to catch a perfectly good, perfectly catchable throw. And he did not.
Other Patriots made mistakes, and the loss of Aqib Talib was certainly a big blow, but here’s a fact that I think is worth noting: After the Welker drop, the Patriots never scored again. It was like the air came out of the team.
Of course, the Ravens deserve credit. They are clearly the better team. They weren’t afraid of the Patriots, and they did what they said they were going to do: Beat the Patriots in Gilette Stadium, and go to the Super Bowl. The Patriots couldn’t stop them, which is why they’re going home. Which is fine, because there is an upside: The next two weeks will be a lot less stressful. I’ll be rooting for the 49ers, but it’s not like I’m emotionally invested in the outcome. And maybe next year, if the Patriots are in a similar position, I’ll grab that six-pack of IPA. Perhaps that will make all the difference.
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