Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Picking Up the Pieces After Super Bowl XLIII.5

Loyal readers, having spent the last few days reeling and searching for answers following New England's already infamous loss to Indianapolis on Sunday night, I have overcome the unavoidable irrationality that inexorably follows in the wake of a punch-to-the-gut loss such as this. To that end, I now feel comfortable and confident in my abilities to shed a pragmatic light on this head-scratching game.

So whom or what is to blame for this prime time disgrace? Let's take a closer look into the potential culprits. (Note: I fully realize that this topic has already been debated ad nauseum, but bear with me, a fresh take does lie ahead.)

Bill Belichick - The easiest person to point the proverbial finger at, as it was his decision to go for it on that fateful fourth-and-two. Virtually everyone with a forum -- be it radio show, blog, megaphone, or bathroom stall wall -- has ruthlessly lambasted Belichick's decision for the past 48 hours, with no foreseeable end in sight. Even Tedy Bruschi -- probably the closest individual to the sullen New England coach besides his family and Tom Brady -- unleashed a series of verbal and literary barbs to his former coach on this posting. This was staggering to me, and surely to anyone else who witnessed the bond that developed between these two men over the past decade (capped off by the oft-emotionless Belichick displaying a rare flicker of feeling while discussing Bruschi's retirement at a press conference earlier this season). Now, let the record state that I vehemently disagree with Belichick's daring decision. Channeling the wise words of a less-than-wise man, it's all about risk vs reward. You simply cannot risk putting your team into that situation, even if converting on the play would win the game. You must have at least a modicum of faith in your defense, which had held Peyton Manning's relentless attack relatively in-check the entire game. There is a difference between coaching to win and coaching with reckless abandon, and someone as shrewd and decorated as Belichick should know that. Indefensible. But that said, allow me to play devil's advocate for a moment. The Patriots offense had dominated the Colts defense all game, amassing 477 yards of total offense. Belichick coaches aggressively -- it's in his blood, it's who he is --and given his Super Bowl pedigree, it's difficult to question his decision making. So when the game was on the line, he felt confident that his offense, which has been firing on all cylinders, could get those two yards. Despite the notable (understatement of the century) risk of attempting this feat on his own 28 yard line, a gain of two would have won the game. Period. Many, but not all, of the critics and cynics who have ripped Belichick to shreds over this matter would have spent the last two days praising him had the play worked in New England's favor. But such is the fickle nature of Monday Mornings Quarterbacks, and as long as Belichick continues to coach, he's just going to have to deal with that. The ignominy of the decision lies with him, and him alone.

The Patriots Defense: Regardless of the absurdly difficult spot that Belichick's fourth down gamble put them in, they still could have won the game by keeping the Colts out of the endzone during that final possession. Easier said that done, yes, but the Patriots still had a six point lead when their defense took the field, and that cannot be ignored. Surrendering a seventeen point fourth quarter lead certainly warrants at least a light dusting of blame as well.

Lawrence Maroney: If this supreme disappointment of a running back (Does anyone actually remember how good he was in college? He was a beast! What happened?!?) didn't catch to a case of the fumbles at the effing goal-line, the Pats would have won the game. End of story. Why is this not being discussed more? He literally gave away a touchdown. Not only did it take seven potential points away from the Patriots, but it completely galvanized the entire Indianapolis team and brought the listless crowd roaring back into that game. Complete turning point in the game.

So those are the chief candidates. But who bears the lions share of the liability? To whom shall the chorus of complaints be channeled? Contrary to overwhelming popular belief, none of the aforementioned individuals. In fact, the guilty party was not even on the field on Sunday night. Furthermore, he was not inside Lucas Oil Stadium or even in the state of Indiana. Who is this clandestine culprit, you ask?


That's right ladies and gentlemen, yours truly. I blame myself and so should you. My egregious inability to identify an alarming trend and to react accordingly resulted in the unfortunate events (through the eyes of New Englanders, at least) that took place late Sunday night. To be quite candid, my Wes Welker jersey is cursed. Now, before you dismiss this notion as merely the delusional ranting of someone with a little too much time on his hands, allow me to take you through the tumultuous tale of this star-crossed gridiron garb. You be the judge.


Fool Me Once...


The first time I ever wore this jersey was during Super Bowl XLII (I literally felt a cold chill race through my body just now at the mere sight of that wretched roman numeral. Damn it all). While smugly sporting my new Welker jersey -- a player who I have harbored an uncanny affinity for ever since his days as a Texas Tech Red Raider -- I eagerly anticipated basking in Super Bowl glory for the fourth time in my life, by virtue of the Greatest Team Ever. Or so I thought. I then watched in abject horror as my beloved Patriots -- so tantalizingly close to completing an unprecedented and historic 19-0 season -- succumbed to the upstart New York Giants via Eli Manning's Houdini-act and David Tyree's helmet-catch. Please excuse me for one moment. ($!%$%^#$@#$%!). I will forever walk with a slight limp from the pain of that game. Eighteen and one. Those words haunt me to this very day. Truly an inauspicious start to the tenure of this garment.


Fool Me Twice...


That ignominious Super Bowl lead directly into seemingly the longest offseason this fan has ever had to endure. After that heart-wrenching February evening, I refused to remove the jersey from the confines of my closet. Not for fear of it being cursed, just to avoid the instantaneous heartache the resulted from the sight of it. After an entire summer of being shunned, I called upon the jersey on opening day of the following NFL season. Giddy with anticipation to witness Brady and company take out their residual frustration on the rest of the league, I was ready to shed the demons of Super Bowl XLII and start a new chapter in my Patriots fandom. Proudly adorned in Pats gear head to toe, the never ending offseason was finally over. The Patriots are back. Everyone is healthy. Time to take back what's ours. Of course, I was living in upstate New York at the time, so the local CBS affiliate was therefore showing the Bills game. Splendid. But less than five minutes into that scintillating spectacle, I was treated to a "Game Break" to no other than the Pats game. Horray! Instantly however, a feeling of deep-seeded trepidation was infused throughout my body as Greg Gumble uttered the words, "Patriot nation holds its collective breath as Tom Brady...". Oh no. I then watched in sheer panic and disgust as Bernard Pollard -- who will forever draw my ire, as long as I shall live -- dove into the side of Brady's left knee, tearing his ACL and MCL in the process. The unthinkable had happened. Done for the season. I still remember the feeling in the pit of my stomach, as the loss of Brady struck the depths of my very soul. You've got to be kidding me. I then hung my head, looked down at my chest, and saw Wes Welker's number 83 jersey starting back at me.

It is difficult to fathom the jersey dishing out a more painful karmic sting than those two woeful occurrences, but the trend continued nonetheless.


Irking the Heavens


Throughout the Brady-less 2008 season, I would put the jersey on mid-way through games that the Patriots had locked up, in a desperate attempt to inject some positive good will into the apparel. Don't judge me. Die hard fans are crazy, irrational beings, and we do things like this. But this felt wrong even to me, and the Karma Gods surely saw through the transparency of this half-baked idea. I knew this would come back to haunt me. After realizing my misdeeds, I then went through the rest of the 2008 NFL season without wearing it or even resting my gaze upon it again. The Patriots finished the season 11-5 and became the only team besides the 1985 Denver Broncos to fail to reach the postseason with such a record.


Old Habits Die Hard


After another painfully long offseason rife with hope and doubt -- in quite uneven amounts -- along came the 2009 season. So many questions filled the increasingly crisp New England air. Will Brady return to his 2007 form? Is this their last chance for another championship? Will the new-look defense be effective? And then, out of nowhere, I found myself witnessing New England's remarkable, unforgettable Monday night comeback against the Bills on the opening weekend of the season. Thanks to a vintage Tom Brady fourth quarter performance, some luck, a Leodis McKelvin miscue, and those dynamite Pat Patriot throwbacks, the Patriots instantly rekindled the flame of unwavering confidence that burned within me throughout the entire offseason following Super Bowl XLII. And then, being the fool that I am, I allowed myself to think that such a phenomenal season debut was a sign that the cosmic tables had finally shifted in my favor. And granted that -- regardless of the ills it hath wrought -- the much-maligned jersey is undeniably handsome, I was looking for any possible excuse to warrant wearing it again. So continued the curse. The lesson: I'm an idiot.


Seeing is Believing


During much of the early NFL season, I was in the mist of my College Football Extravaganza travels, so I was unable to watch many of the Patriots games. This proved to be a blessing in disguise, as I was unable to drag the team down into the harrowing depths of karmic retribution where I so often reside. But don't take my word for it, have a look for yourself. The following are the games that I did not watch (and thus, was not wearing the jersey) following that memorable Monday-nighter:

Week 3: Patriots 26 Falcons 10
Week 4: Patriots 27 Ravens 21 (although I did catch the final few minutes on a TV at Fenway while attending the final Sox game of the regular season)
Week 7: Patriots 35 Buccaneers 7
Week 9: Patriots 27 Dolphins 17

The one game that I did watch during that stretch, but still not while wearing the jersey:

Week 6: Patriots 59 Titans 0

Not too shabby, eh? When aided by my mental dis-attachment and un-cursed apparel, the Pats seem to have the makeup of a championship caliber team. But now let's take a gander at the other side of the spectrum -- the following are the games that I did watch, while of course sporting the infamous jersey:

Week 2: Patriots 9 Jets 16
Week 5: Patriots 17 Broncos 20 (OT)
Week 10: Patriots 34 Colts 35


Those are the facts, ladies and gentleman, and the facts do not lie. I could present this case in front of a grand jury and obtain a court ruling declaring that it is cursed. And here's the kicker: the jersey was given to me by my ex-girlfriend. If that doesn't complete the perfect storm of requisite weird things needed in order to make me a believer, I don't know what will. I dare you to tell me it isn't cursed. Just try. Something far bigger than this humble blogger is at work here.

But all is not lost, Patriots fans. Before I am condemned, convicted, and executed in the court of public opinion, know that I will no longer allow the evil of my cursed clothing anywhere near myself or the TV for the remainder of this, or any future NFL season. This ghastly garment derailed the greatest season in the history of football, it ruined Tom Brady's ensuing Eff You Season, and it has wreaked more than its fair share of havoc in this young campaign as well. But worry not, as I will not allow this devastating trend to continue. The paranormal Patriots plight by virtue of this jersey ends now. And as for the rest of you fans out there, consider yourself warned. My Christmas wish list this year will consist solely of the red Pat Patriot throwback worn by Tom Brady in the glorious inception of this 2009 season (hint hint), which will thereby and forever eliminate the cosmic backlash of the Welker jersey. At least, that's what I keep telling myself. And in the meantime, take it easy on Bill Belichick. After all, it wasn't even his fault. It was mine.

As always, stay tuned and stay classy.


  1. It's actually really funny that you wrote this, because I considered writing something similar two weeks ago. My jersey woes are as follows:

    From 2004-2008 I wore my Rodney Harrison Pats jersey every Sunday the Pats played, and they did very well in that span (disregarding the 2008 Super Bowl, when I DID NOT wear my jersey for reasons I can't remember).

    Similarly, from 2005-2008 I wore my Mike Robinson PSU jersey every Saturday PSU played, and they did pretty well (the losses are chalked up to Morelli, not a curse... although he was kind of a curse in himself...).

    I didn't think I was cursed.

    This year, I have worn the Pats jersey twice and the PSU jersey three times (thus breaking the tradition of wearing them each time the corresponding team played). The results are below.

    NYJ 16 - NE 9
    IND 35 - NE 34
    IOWA 21 - PSU 10
    PSU 35 - Mich 10 (we all know that Michigan is that bad, so we can ignore this)
    OSU 24 - PSU 7

    Needless to say, I will not be wearing either again until the next season begins for each team.

  2. Was it really necessary to throw in the PSU-Michigan score? Not only does it not assist your arguments in any way, it actually disproves it slightly -- total salt-in-the-wound statement directed towards poor Michigan fan's everywhere. You monster. How dare you.