Like the children of overly strict parents, America hates the New England Patriots and their fans. We’re your daddy. Sure, occasionally you get one over on us – or two in Eli Manning’s case – but for the better part of seventeen years we’ve spanked you and sent you to your rooms crying.
Make no mistake, it’s not enough for us to simply lift Lombardi’s. No, we want to make you angry. We relish your resentful jealousy. We bathe in the salty tears of your disappointment. The fires of your hate keep us warm in the cold New England winters.
Tears of the Vanquished
The truly great thing about being a Patriots fan is this: it doesn’t matter who we beat, the whole country loses their minds about it. Those of us who are old enough to remember watching Steve Grogan or Tony Eason know that we need to cherish every victory; we haven’t always been so fortunate. But some victories are sweeter than others.
Beating the Steelers – as we do with simply absurd frequency – always satisfies the soul more than a normal win. To do it in Pittsburgh, after a textbook Brady 4th quarter drive and an end zone interception rivaled only by Malcolm Butler’s Super Bowl clinching INT over Seattle – makes it even more special.
But the greatest part, it’s what gets us up early to troll the internet, listen to sports talk radio or, God forbid, turn on ESPN is getting to hear the incessant whining. From the Pittsburgh locker room, the legions of Steelers fans, and the incalculable throngs of Patriot haters from Buffalo to Denver – the chorus of complaints is music to our ears.
New England: Not Arrogant, Just Better Than You
Pittsburgh was the better team for much of last night’s game. What was billed as the game of the year lived up to the hype. For once, Tomlin’s squad wasn’t steamrolled. They moved the ball well, dominated possession, and got pressure on Brady. The Steelers did almost everything they needed to win. They should have won.
They didn’t win for a number of reasons. First, obviously, Big Ben went bust and threw a terrible pick. Second, obviously, Jesse James dropped what should have been the game winning touchdown. And third, inexplicably, they decided not to double Gronk at any point on New England’s final drive or two-point conversion.
Pittsburgh was the better team until it actually mattered. Then, as usual, they got out played.
The Catch That Wasn’t
Like everyone watching the game live, I thought James caught the ball, broke the plane, and maintained possession. That’s because the live shot was from the backside of the play and a million feet away. The second America saw the replay it was clear the ball not only moved, but touched the ground.
It doesn’t matter if he broke the plane. It doesn’t matter that he wasn’t touched by a defender. He didn’t maintain control through the ground. As famed Patriot-hater Tony Dungy said on Football Night In America, “this is absolutely the right call based on the rule”.
There isn’t a league official or football analyst who thinks that Jesse James caught that ball by the letter of the rule. Not one. It’s clear that he lost possession as he went to the ground. We can argue about the ridiculous nature of the rule all we want, but from Calvin Jonson to Dez Bryant to Adam Thielen last week, that’s always been an incomplete pass.
The Glory of Twitter
The greatest aspect of not just this win, but how this win was achieved, has to be the reaction across the Twittersphere. Pittsburgh’s Scott Kacsmar (@FO_ScottKacsmar) spent hours criticizing the rule and then shifted his attention to how weak the AFC East is. Ironic that this comes for a guy whose team plays the Browns and Bengals twice a year.
My personal favorite comes from Buffalo’s Sal Maiorana (@salmaiorana). You know, Buffalo – home of the “Bills Mafia” and epicenter of drunken tailgate videos and Super Bowl runner-ups. Inside of twenty minutes, Sal made my night almost as much as the Patriots. He called it “one of the worst calls you’ll ever see” and proclaimed he loved it “when the most entitled fan base in the universe revels in its good fortune with the very arrogance that [we] loathe most about them”. Music to my ears.
That someone is so obsessed with New England that they dedicate their lives to crying about games their team wasn’t even in is glorious. Sal, buddy, you complete me. I take so much joy in your suffering I can’t even explain it. When, not if, Brady wins his sixth Super Bowl we’ll have Bob Kraft fly you in for the party. It’s the only way you’ll get that close to a Lombardi.