As the New England Patriots’ tyranny has defied every NFL democratic rule, their death has been prematurely reported regularly, repeatedly. That is the Dewey-beats-Truman headline of professional football, famous for the embarrassing wrongness of it all. Only it keeps appearing. We never learn.
Maybe the world is just so eager to be done with New England that after a couple of decades of suffering the Pats dynasty, it will seize on any little wheeze and rush to declare it a death rattle.
Who doesn’t want to be the first to find the exact moment of the Patriots’ demise, and be awarded “I told you so” privileges for the rest of time?
Good luck with that. I’ll to stick to more intrepid and worthwhile writing, like grocery lists and Post-it notes.
This season has been a particularly active one for this specific fiction. Writing off the New England Patriots, as they were losing as many as five games in a season for the first time since 2009, was a fool’s errand but a popular one. And they noticed, quarterback Tom Brady in particular. And you better believe they began turning slights into green energy. That is the cleanest burning of the gasses.
Keep in mind when reading the following that the Pats have risen from the “media pallet of death” (a Don King term) with zombie-like regularity. This is a team of “Walking Dead” extras.
From FiveThirtyEight.com on Sept. 26, after the Patriots lost two of their first three games: “The sky is falling in New England. The arm of Tom Brady suddenly seems every bit of 41 years old, with the future Hall of Famer unable to find receivers deep downfield as in years past. The Patriots have a losing record in the early season, and the obituaries are being written.”
An Associated Press dispatch on Dec. 17, following the second of consecutive close losses to Miami and Pittsburgh: “Tom Brady scrambled and heaved up a wobbly pass of his back foot, the sort of things a less-experienced, less-accomplished and, well, less-cool, QB might do.
“The ball was picked off, and the New England Patriots were on their way to a second consecutive defeat.
“More importantly – and more interestingly – they were on their way to a five-loss season for the first time in nearly a decade.
“And, finally, there were on their way to putting this thought in the minds of other teams around the NFL: Maybe, just maybe, the Patriots are not who they’ve been for oh-so-long. Maybe, just maybe, they’re not heading to another Super Bowl.”
And this, from Stephen A. Smith, the pundit with no indoor voice, on Dec. 23, after the Patriots lost receiver Josh Gordon to indefinite suspension following violation of the NFL’s substance-abuse policy: “I think they’re done.”
I can’t be entirely sure, but I think the team inside all the AFC media functions this week looked vaguely familiar. They sure seemed like Patriots.
Here they are no more done than reality TV, regardless of how much you wish the end of both. In fact, they are a 2 1/2-point favorite over the Los Angeles Rams to win their sixth Super Bowl since 2001 and their third in five years.
One day they will be right. Brady will betray his age. Rob Gronkowski will turn as immobile and vulnerable as a confederate statue in the town square. Bill Belichick will think of something better to do. It is somewhat inevitable (I’ve learned to equivocate).
But predicting that exact fall of this empire is more difficult than timing the stock market.
Just drop me note afterward.