Posts Tagged ‘2007’

to the 2007 Pats.  Yeah I know, they never existed, but I had to write a memoir for my communications class so naturally I wrote about the Patriots.  Here it is

 

Devastation Is an Understatement

by

Andrew Ju

 

In ten years nobody will remember the 2007 New England Patriots as the perfect regular season team quarterbacked by a single-season record setting Associated Press MVP Tom Brady, who had fifty passing touchdowns that year, twenty-three of those caught by Randy Moss (also a single-season record.)  Fans will remember the squad as the 18-1, ultimately failing to win the Super Bowl, team that came within a minute of a perfect season.  I will still cringe from the feeling a dagger in my heart at the mere utterance of the 2007 Patriots.  In fifty years, the gang will be long lost beneath the history of organizations that actually won the Super Bowl, but I will be explaining to my grandchildren the most painful heartbreak of my life.

It was February 3, 2008—the date of one of the most anticipated Super Bowls in history: the New York Giants battling the 18-0 New England Patriots, on the verge of completing what would be regarded as the most dominating single season ever.  By a mile.  I dragged a black leather lounge seat in front of the television, ready to celebrate a 19-0, history shattering season with my family.  I did not just expect a victory, I expected the Pats to roll over the 13.5 point spread—I thought for sure the Brady Bunch would put up enough points to win by at least two touchdowns.  After all, New England had essentially steamrolled every opponent that season, so my typical Boston sports fandom cockiness was well justified.  While my parents whipped up their own Super Sunday feast, my brother, who was home from his freshman year at Syracuse University, and I gathered around the TV for the pregame show, eating stereotypical Super Bowl food including wings and Doritos, I paused for a minute to ponder the road to Super Bowl XLII in Arizona.

Backtrack to the previous year’s AFC Championship game.  My brother and I watched at our neighbor and close friend Brent’s house.  In the second quarter against the Indianapolis Colts, the Pats jumped out to a seemingly insurmountable 21-3 lead; certainly Bill Belichick’s astounding head coaching abilities would earn Tom Brady, a dismal Canadian Football League quality receiving squad, and the rest of the team a trip to Super Bowl XLI.  Surely enough, the Patriots choked away the lead, relinquishing the lead and the game with just a little over a minute to play.

“We still have a shot,” I thought, “if there is one qualified QB to march down a field in a minute and a half it has to be Captain Clutch, Tom Brady.”  Brady threw an interception.  Before the game clocks even displayed quadruple zeroes, my brother and I stormed out of Brent’s living room, silently back to our house, disregarding the furniture that we had not put back.  Brent and his family understood.

That offseason, during the ensuing annual NFL Draft, I joyously watched the Patriots trade a fourth-round pick for future Hall of Famer, the Freak, Randy Moss.  This steal of a deal bolstered our awful pass-catching group.  Other additions before the 2007 season started included wideout Wes Welker and Adalius Thomas, who would both prove to be key improvements to the team.  “We’re in for a hell of a year; we’re gonna be” I thought, “Unstoppable.”

I remember the 2007 regular season as vividly as any memory contained in my noggin.  The unforgettable season stuck with me so much that I can still recite stat lines from the first time I watched Randy Moss in a New England uniform.  Week 1 was in the Meadowlands against the Jets; a 38-14 victory that yielded numbers of 22/28 completions/attempts for Tom Brady, 297 yards, three touchdowns, no picks.  Randy Moss reeled in nine catches for 183 yards and a deep touchdown strike.  These stats, to most mean absolutely nothing.  But to me, this was the beginning of something special, which is why I will always keep them stored in my brain—it is impossible for me to forget these stats.  Other memorable victories I will always be able to recite off the top of my head include 48-27 of the Cowboys (who ended up an NFC best 13-3 that season,) 49-28 over the Dolphins, 52-7 over the Redskins, 24-20 over the legitimate Super Bowl contender and biggest Patriots threat Colts, and 56-10 over the Bills.  The best part about these decimations?  They occurred in consecutive games—five straight weeks of sports fan euphoria.  I spent time in fandom heaven.

Witnessing the Patriots writing history on live television never lost its novelty—it was impossible to grow tired of hearing “Brady to Moss.”  On weekdays after school I would plop my pompous New England fan butt in front of the television to watch Sportscenter, where I could watch highlights of an unstoppable force deploying its ordnance on inferior teams.  I basked in my Boston glory and chuckled every time I noticed that on ESPN’s “Bottom Line,” where at the bottom of the TV screen they roll news and scores from the sports world, the headline categories would read NFL, NBA, NHL, and Patriots.

The Pats rolled through the regular season a perfect 16-0, and slept through the playoffs, beating the opposition, playing with their left hands tied behind their backs.  Well, at least it seemed to me like that could happen and we would still win.  On to the Super Bowl.

During the Super Bowl’s traditional annual Media Day, opponent New York Giants’ receiver Plaxico Burress predicted a 21-17 victory for the G Men.  Our boy Tom Brady responded with something along the lines of, “17 points?  C’mon, Plax, we haven’t scored that few all season.”  I fully agreed with Brady; I considered Burress’ words to be utter blasphemy—a bunch of nonsense that would render him a complete fool after the game.  But that’s why they play the game.

Back to February 3, 2008; my parents had finished cooking and eating their meal and my brother and I approached stomach-explosion-stuffed-status as we all anticipated kickoff.  I was situated on my cushiony chair, with my brother to my left hogging an entire couch, and my parents behind us in the kitchen.  Trapped in a deep collective food coma, we expected to breeze by the first half.  That didn’t happen.  Possession after possession, the Giants pounded the front line, pressuring Brady and forcing him to rush the ball, resulting in poor decisions and throws.  It was all right though, because the Patriots entered the locker rooms up 7-3.  “We got this in the bag,” I thought, “after all, nobody’s better than Belichick at making halftime adjustments.”

Then I heard something that planted a seed of doubt in my head for the first time all season.  One of the commentators suggested that, “the Giants are right where they wanna be.”

“Oh shit,” was my initial reaction, “what if he’s right?  No team has pressured the Patriots like this all year.  What if this is the single method to stopping those who can’t be stopped?”  Throughout Tom Petty’s halftime performance, I kept convincing myself that the commentator’s words were crazy talk, intended to rile up the audience and cause commotion.  My family and I would have to wait for the second half.

It turned out that whatever second half adjustments Belichick imposed failed.  The Evil Empire’s football team persisted to pressure Brady as I anxiously watched in full-fledged lockdown-focus mode.  My mom could have told me we were moving and I would not have budged.  With time dwindling, the Patriots trailed 10-7.  No points all half, until finally, with a little over two minutes to play in the game, Brady threw a strike between the 8 and 1 of Randy Moss’ jersey on a slant route in the end zone, regaining the lead, 14-10 Pats.  “Moss!” I said, “Yeah!  Hell yeah!”  The way my brother and I were jumping and screaming, we could have registered on the Richter Scale.  I thought for sure this was it, we had done it, our season had culminated in Arizona with an unprecedented 19-0.  “This won’t happen for another decade—no, century!” I thought.

It wouldn’t happen then either.  Everything that could have gone wrong on the ensuing Giant possession did.  The first Super Bowl sealing opportunity came when New York QB Eli Manning threw a botched pass right to Patriot defender Asante Samuel, who is regarded as a premier defensive back.  The pigskin bounced right off Samuel’s hands.

At the time, I made nothing of it, “Psh.  We’re still gonna win.  They have to drive much too far.”

The Patriots soon forced the Giants into a long 3rd down.  As Manning dropped back to pass, the Patriots defensive line swarmed the blockers and engulfed Manning.  In the midst of the moment, I thought this was the season sealing play.  But through dumb luck, Manning escaped the defenders that had nearly downed him and chucked up the ball in hopes that a Giant would be on the other end.

To this day, I cannot stand what happened next—ask me about it and I will tell you I am bitterer about it than anything that’s ever happened to me.  No name scrub receiver David Tyree used his helmet to catch the ball in a play that happens one in a thousand times.

“Oh, shiiiit.  We might actually lose this.  We might actually end up 18-1.”  My family uttered not a single sound over the next few minutes; our hearts raced, our blood rushed, our adrenaline took over.  The G Men soon found themselves hiking the ball a few yards shy from heaven—heaven that would complete the single biggest upset in sports history.  As the players lined up, I noticed 5’9 Patriot cornerback Ellis Hobbs assigned to a 6’5ish Plaxico Burress.

“Get somebody else on him!” I said to myself, “We’re absolutely fucked if Hobbs is man to man with Burress without any help and the Giants throw a fade route!”

The Giants threw a fade.  Hobbs fell down.  Burress caught the winning touchdown with ease with about thirty seconds left to play.  Nobody said anything.  I had lost hope; I did not even consider that thirty seconds was plenty for Tom Brady and the most prolific offense ever to advance the ball into field goal range where we could tie the game.  “This is the end.  We failed.  This season means jack shit in the big scheme of things.”  My family and I watched as Brady and the Pats failed to move the ball anywhere of significance.

I just sat there, staring blankly.  I did not blink; I did not breathe; my heart did not beat.  Statuesque, I sat there with my on my face.  After a few minutes, my dad broke the silence. “That’s sports,” he explained, “you never know.”

These words not only broke the silence—they shattered my disbelief into pieces and injected my blood with rage and anger and every possible F-bomb, A-word, and female dog synonym combination.  I swear I must have come up with new ways to curse.  Storming out of my chair and past the kitchen, I threw my fist straight as a wall as I passed by it.  The wall stood no chance.  I stomped upstairs, fist bloodied, leaving a hole in the wall in my wake.  After slamming my room’s door as hard as my might would allow me to, I went straight to bed.  It surprised me how fast I fell asleep—something took over that instantly put me out of consciousness.

I woke up the next morning to my mom asking me if I was going to school that day.  Wallowing in my own pity and filth, in a sulking voice, I muttered, “No.”  Usually my mom would force me out of my bed, even if I felt sick—she would tell me to take an Advil and suck it up.  In this case, however, she understood.  I was in no mood to be conducting anything of importance or productivity.  I just wanted to mope and sulk in my bed all day, blankly staring at random things, not thinking about anything.  I must have seemed like someone had died, and to be frank, as ridiculous as it sounds, I felt that way.

I dragged my dismal self to school the next day; it turned out that many of my friends shared the same sentiment.  A good chunk of students, like I, rejected the very idea of school on a Monday following the worst defeat we will ever endure.  People from outside New England find difficulty in understanding our relationship with our beloved sports teams.  They say that they have it worse because their teams always lose.  What they do not understand is you expect your team to crush opponents, a tally in the L column hurts more than usual.  A B- mark may bring joy to a C student, but to an A+ student, that same B- agonizes their entire existence.  I’ve tried every tactic when explaining my story to outsiders—analogies, comparisons but no matter how long I drill the mentality of a New England sports fan, they still think half my high school and I are all crazy.  In retrospect, so much for Plaxico’s 21-17 prediction.  17 points would have made victory possible.  So much for “they have much too far to go,” Asante’ Samuel’s interception would have won the season.  So much for 19-0.  February 3, 2008 was not just a Super Bowl loss; it was the killing of the greatest single season sports team ever.  It stole a chunk of my heart that will never be replaced.

 

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