No sooner am I giddy about the Patriots' offensive brilliance and defensive solidity in the preseason contest with Carolina than two weeks blink by in a whirlwind of Red Sox tragedy and triumph, work intensity, wedding errands, meetings and endless planning, and next thing you know we're talking about Troy Brown AND Richard Seymour on the PUP list, Rodney Harrison admitting to using HGH, and Randy Moss still nowhere near the field. My father has taken to saying things like, "Well, there goes that undefeated season now."
Oh, come off it. You'd gotten a little cocky, too. We all had. And if the health and / or suspension status of everyone was still the same as it was two weeks ago, we all still would be. I was personally preparing a downright schmoopy post for this blog about looking forward to what was sure to be a classic Patriots season, and beginning to grow nostalgic for everything from cheering through my scarf in a driving snowstorm to the smell of charcoal briquettes in the cold. And the Patriots had even started to return to their familiar role as my security blanket and the bearer of my sorrows when everything in the world of the Sox turned to crap, a role they have borne patiently and steadfastly for the better part of a decade.
I'm not saying they still can't be, and I still believe this Patriots season has the potential to be an astounding one. My confidence in the Patriots system and its roster depth has far more historical track record to back it up and far more all-time-classic success stories under its belt than any such belief I have in the Red Sox; in that way I am actually a better fan when it comes to my football team, less inclined to doubt and criticize, and panic when the chips fall where they may.
But this Rodney Harrison thing.
I have been known to take a hard-line view on matters relating to performance-enhancing drugs in both the sports I follow. I wish to God there had been some way to prevent Barry Bonds, whom I consider both a terrible person and an unconscionable cheater, from breaking Hank Aaron's record, and I have gone on record wondering aloud how many federal juries Jason Giambi has to admit he cheated to before he's prevented from continuing to play baseball. And through it all I have fully acknowledged that this particular Angel of Death may one day visit itself upon one of my own, and dreaded the day it would.
There are just two considerations that prevent Rodney Harrison from being dead to me--the fact that he used HGH in order to try to fight his way back from injuries the last two seasons, and the fact that the alleged dates of his use don't happen to taint any Patriots championships. After some thought, I did decide that warrants at least some consideration as an important difference between the case of Harrison and those who took substances while healthy in order to inflate individual career numbers or give themselves a totally artificial advantage.
But I'm also mad at him. Or, more like mad because of him. I wish he hadn't felt like he had no other option.
And I'm mad at him, in a weird way, for taking himself away from me as one of my unassailable, unvarnished favorites, turning into a guy I whose name I have to preface with a disclaimer or defend to fans of other teams, even more than early in his tenure with the Pats when he still carried a reputation as a dirty hitter. For taking himself away from his younger teammates as the reformed headhunter, the squeaky-clean veteran who has found Jesus and Bill Belichick and is there to tell you you best recognize the Patriots way, Junior. I may still find a way to reconcile my affection for him against my stance on performance-enhancing drugs, but he will never be quite the same totally righteous guy to me again.
Those other guys can eventually come back from their injuries. The Rodney Harrison I've known and loved unconditionally through all the ups and downs of the last few years, probably not so much.