Tom Brady: still pretty in defeat.
Just to remind us that we are mortal, the Patriots lost a game today to the Pittsburgh Steelers, and worse, lost it at
Three Rivers Heinz Field in front of Pittsburgh's insufferable fans.
Oakland fans get all the play as the most crass, boorish fans in the NFL, but I generally give them points for creativity. They've created a subculture out of being a bunch of thugs, and for that, they can rock on with their pseudo-bad selves. Dallas Cowboy fans have also gotten a bad rap as front-running buttmunches, but football is to Texas what baseball is to Boston and New York; being maniacal about football is part of the culture there and so Cowboy fans' passion is at least genuine if a bit irritating. Plus, Cowboy fans have stuck around before and after the dynasty years.
But Pittsburgh fans...ugh. While they have all the boorishness of Oakland's Black Hole, they have little to none of the creativity or sense of humor. And while they do have the loyalty of Cowboy fans, it's tarred over with a smugness that absolutely makes my skin crawl.
Today, the fan sign-du-jour for the People of the Yellow Towels was "Your streak is weak." Points for the rhyme (not), but otherwise? I don't see much that's weak about two new records for consecutive wins set in the NFL. Or two Super Bowls in three years. One of which we ran over Pittsburgh like a pitiful dog in the street to get.
I mean, "Cowher for President"? Given the Steelers' largely irrelevant role in the AFC over the past three to four years, my vote as a Pittsburgh fan would be "Cowher for Coordinator Somewhere Else". But the organization (and the fans, apparently) have stuck with the man through, well, mostly thin, for reasons that remain largely inexplicable.
Well, anyway. The Steelers won a single regular season game today, but you'd have thought they'd beaten us for something meaningful. Other than ending a streak that had surpassed all conceivable historic goals--in other words, acting as the agents of inevitability--I'm not sure what there is for a Steeler fan to be so excited about.
For one thing, Corey Dillon rode the pine today. Our offense has only been entirely engineered around Dillon this year. And he got hurt on Thursday, which leaves little time for revamping your entire philosophy before game time.
For another, Ty Law found himself flailing about immobile on the field somewhere in the second quarter, finally hailing the trainers from the sideline like someone clinging to a life raft in the midst of a roaring Atlantic. He joined just about all of the Patriots' defensive backfield with the exception of Rodney Harrison on the bench through the second half.
Oh, and Tom Ashworth was out, joined in the locker room midway through the third quarter by Matt Light, who in-game reports said had "gotten the wind knocked out of him," but if I'm to believe that a 270-pound offensive lineman was knocked out of a game because of the wind knocked out of him, then I might as well believe that we need a new left tackle.
So, playing without a defensive secondary and, oh, half of our offensive line, as well as without the runningback that has made this year's 6-0 Patriots possible, the Patriots were beaten today by fourteen points. Boo frickin hoo.
But that's not what you'll hear about. Instead, you'll hear about Ben Rothlisberger, and how he's "the new Tom Brady". He might have to get in line--so far since Brady's emergence I've heard of a handful of "new Tom Bradys", most of whom have received an all-day-long country ass-whupping at the hands of the real Tom Brady.
What Rothlisberger has going for him, as far as I can tell, is that he's a giant oak tree of a man, and thus difficult to bring down. He's also probably smart and skilled and all that, but really, I hear someone being compared to Brady and immediately start grumbling over whatever else they have to say.
Why can't Rothlisberger be the new Rothlisberger? Why can't Brady stay the only Brady? Why do the media seize on a single story line and run with it for an entire decade?
Oh, well. If I am to be rational here--and I will be, even if only for just a paragraph--the Patriots were bound to lose at some point, and if one loss every 399 days is what we are to expect, then far be it from me to protest. Plus, the Patriots were being stuffed up front, punk'd downfield, and turnover after turnover was forced against a normally mistake-free offense. Meanwhile, though the injury problem to the defensive secondary was pronounced, the Bus rushed for about 8,700 yards, which is the chief responsibility of the front four. Brady, normally completely unflappable under pressure, threw picks and startlingly inaccurate passes.
They lost. Plain and simple. It's a fact almost as hard to wrap your mind around as the fact that the Red Sox just won the World Series.
But, hey. There was a parade in this town just yesterday, and another one ten months before that. Can't really complain. Of course, being a Calvinistic New Englander, I'm supposed to be looking for something to complain about (and there are plenty of expert journalists out there to help me find something). In fact, I'm probably glad the Patriots lost, right? Because now I have an excuse for what one SI writer called "self-indulgent, narcissistic suffering."
(My advice to the Knights of the Keyboard--give up the ghost. Literally. The Curse story is gone. The "Boston masochism" story has been proven ill-advised. Find something actual. Adapt or die.)
Yep. A victory parade has rolled past, and really, deep in my Bostonian heart, I hated the strange and foreign feeling of happiness. But now I get to revel in some disappointment. Tomorrow I'll even have to bear the slings and arrows of a Steelers fan in the very next cubicle at my office.
Now that's what I've been missing. Right?