Photo by Beth
I am most definitely pumped about this game with the Dolphins, not only because the Patriots hang on the precipice of breaking records, but also because my husband, father, sister and I will all be there (and, it turns out, Jaime too!) enjoying the elements on the third deck. It's supposed to rain, though not until at least late in the game, but I have informed the greenhorns that we grizzled Gillette veterans will not be leaving until the scoreboard clock says 00:00, regardless of what wet misery we endure.
(Now that I've gone trumpeting that about, of course, I anticipate some sort of embarrassing scenario in which *I* am the one who pusses out, but never mind.)
In the meantime, the Dolphins have gone and won themselves a game, and signed Bill Parcells to a fake front office position, since they can't rightly give him the title Chief Butt Kicker In Charge of Getting It Together, Goddammit.
I believe Parcells' MO to be as follows: he likes to swoop in when a franchise is a total bottom-feeding wreck and undertake the task of slowly, laboriously turning it around by restocking the roster and verbally abusing its members until a tight ship is being run. Then, for whatever reason, he "retires." Only to come out of retirement again with another flailing team. Bill Parcells is more a football consultant than a head coach. And he's damn good at it.
It may come as a surprise to some that I have respect for Bill Parcells, given he's so widely disliked, but I do. In fact, I even find his audacious, sadistic sense of humor pretty entertaining. He has such a way of getting in people's heads. He is clearly gifted, though in unusual ways; he may be the most underdecorated great head coach in the history of the NFL, because with his last several teams he only stayed long enough to see things on their way, and it was only later those franchises attained success (cf. Patriots, Cowboys). He's an odd duck, but I give him his due.
So here he is among the traffic-cone orange and teal of the Dolphins, which actually has me excited. Things could get really interesting in the AFC East.
Even while that franchise has been struggling, the Patriots have had some classic games against them, no matter what the time of season or locale. Remember the final game of the 2002 season, the overtime nail-biter against the Fish, who themselves had no shot at seeing the postseason but played like men possessed out of a desire to spoil the Patriots' hopes? They even had the Patriots on the ropes, as Gillette Stadium emptied and the commentators remarked that at this late hour, the Patriots still needed a touchdown, a two-point conversion, and a field goal. And then all of a sudden it was vintage Brady leading New England to--whaddya know--a touchdown and a two-point conversion...and moments later, unbelievably, Adam Vinatieri added the three-pointer.
The Packers would lose later that afternoon, dashing the Patriots' aspirations for good, but by the end of that Miami game, when Vinatieri kicked yet another field goal to win, it felt like winning the Super Bowl all over again. Didn't matter that Miami was otherwise an inferior team to the Patriots, even in that ultimately forgettable year.
There is a tacit underpinning of history to games between the Patriots and the Dolphins, and as a franchise, the Dolphins have the most well-developed sense of history I've seen. Hence the champagne-swigging '72 club and the elevated level of play against the Patriots, who are only just pulling even with the Dolphins in the all-time series between the two teams.
I've heard lots of cocky talk about Miami, but I expect a competitive game. You have to when it's the Dolphins and history is on the line. Especially when a Tuna is whispering secrets in their midst.