We’re about 4 hours from the kickoff of the AFC Championship game in Foxboro, MA. Four hours from yet another AFC Championship game in which I have a legitimate rooting interest. My goodness if being a football fan in New England a fun thing. Again, my Patriots take on the Baltimore Ravens; a rematch of last season’s game for a ticket to the Super Bowl. Vividly, I remember Sterling Moore stripping Lee Evans in the end zone on what would have been the game-winning touchdown catch and a ticket for Joe Flacco – arguably the league’s most overrated, overconfident quarterback – to play for a ring. That excitement of the strip was only amplified two plays later, when Billy Cundiff shanked a 30-something yard field goal which would have sent the game to overtime, and Eli’s (where I was watching the game) turned into a raucous scene. I teared up, I called my dad, I called my friends…I called anyone that I could yell to. Two weeks later, I was a mess as Wes Welker couldn’t quite bring in a Tom Brady pass and Eli Manning was hoisting yet another Lombardi Trophy.
So yes, here we are again. As my comrade in this blog does too, I have a way of generally talking myself out of my rooting interest in any game having success. I weigh down my team’s positives, over-exaggerate the opponent’s strengths, and find ways in which I can be certain that no matter how the game plays out, my team won’t prevail.
But this year is different.
Three weeks ago, the Patriots won their Week 17 game and the Houston Texans – a team I once saw as unbeatable in the AFC – fell to the Indianapolis Colts who had nothing to play for. That series of events catapulted New England into the 2-seed in the AFC Playoffs, a first-round bye, and the chance to host this evening’s title game after the Denver Broncos forgot what a Prevent Defense is and let Jacoby Jones get behind them with seconds left in the 4th quarter of the Divisional round before losing to those same Ravens in overtime. After that Week 17 win, I recognized that all Patriots fans are incredibly lucky to root for a team with the success as this franchise has had as of late, and that sports are circular; meaning that this won’t last forever. I was going to stay positive through these Playoffs (until the Super Bowl, if we played San Francisco, but we’ll hold off on that one) because, quite frankly, I don’t know if and when I’ll ever see this type of success from a franchise I root for again. Yes, I want to win desperately. No, I’m not comfortable with a “good season” with a run to the AFC Championship and falling short. But the fact of the matter is that it is foolish to be anything but positive about yet another tremendous season.
Yes, falling short of reaching the Super Bowl would have implications on so many of my sports favorites through my fandom – Tom, Bill, Logan, Wes, and others – but today is not the day to worry and fret about all the possible things that can go wrong. Today is the day to embrace all that has gone right with the New England Patriots throughout this unbelievable run of success.