FOXBOROUGH -- Ordinarily, ours is a cynical region when it comes to sports teams. No doubt we grew into this following eight decades of major league baseball frustration, but it can also be traced to our status as East Coast elitists. We are short on manners, tall on skepticism, and our stellar institutions of higher learning assure that we are constantly replenished with great young minds.
And so it has been with a critical eye that we've looked at our teams through the years. The Celtics of the 1960s were certainly an exception, but their dynasty predated mass media and sports talk shows. In the last 30 years, it's fair to say that our teams and stars have been scrutinized and second-guessed as much as those in any American city. No blind allegiance. No yahooism.
It is hardly news that New England has fallen in love with its professional football team. Stressing team above self, providing a role model for high school coaches across the land, getting the job done in the clutch, the Patriots have won three Super Bowls in five years, and come into this postseason tournament with a hard-earned 12-4 record. This explains why the Patriots can do no wrong in the eyes of New England sports fans. Bill Belichick is every bit Red Auerbach while Tom Brady seems to be our latter-day Bill Russell. Owner Robert Kraft, a tireless philanthropist, has built a sparkling stadium and collected three Lombardi Trophies, while winning an award previously presented to Dwight Eisenhower and Omar Bradley. We thought he should have been Time magazine's Man of the Year for 2006. Instead of us.
When it comes to the Patriots, we have become the antithesis of our crusty, caustic image. Suddenly, we are State College, Pa., and the Patriots are the Nittany Lions. We are Columbus, Ohio, and the Patriots are the Buckeyes.
We used to be the Athens of America. Now we are Athens, Ga., and the Patriots are the Bulldogs.
Ya Bloody Hoo.
It is truly amazing. The Patriots play the Jets tomorrow afternoon and you can't find anyone around here who thinks it'll be much of a game. Only a nattering nabob of negativism would even consider the possibility that the home team might lose. It's In Bill We Trust and In Tom We Trust and why would we think anything else? Belichick and Brady are 10-1 with the Patriots in the playoffs. They have never lost at home.
All this must be somewhat amusing to our grumpy goombahs from Gotham. New Yorkers in town for wild-card weekend must be wondering what happened to the traditional edge of Boston sports conversation and coverage.
This from Charles P. Pierce in "Moving the Chains": "The notoriously cranky Boston media went so deeply into the tank for the [Patriots] that some of its members may not dry off until the year 2525. Local television stations, and WEEI, the Boston sports-radio juggernaut, committed themselves to what amounted to gooey weekly infomercials for the franchise."
In this spirit, I am getting on board. Even if they won't grant me all access or allow me to get rich reselling their tickets, I pledge allegiance to the Patriots. It's pretty easy to see that everything they do is correct. Why would anyone ever question them?
Now that my head is uncluttered with silly, needless negativity, I see the light. It's a little tough to type with a Patriots No. 1 foam finger on a each hand, but I'll try to give you the path to New England's next Super Bowl victory.
It all started last week when the San Francisco 49ers took out the Broncos for New England. Getting rid of Mike Shanahan and friends was crucial for New England's magic carpet ride to Miami. Another great thing will happen today when the Chiefs take out the Colts. I'm not really worried about the Colts, but the Chiefs represent the Patriots' only chance at another home game this year. So the Chiefs will win.
We all know the Jets are an ideal first-round matchup for the Patriots. The Jets ranked 25th in the league in offense and 20th in defense. The Jets can't run the football and the Patriots have a ferocious front seven. Sure, the Jets won here in November, but that was on the old, muddy field, and today they'll be playing on the new, perfect FieldTurf. An easy win for the Patriots.
Winning at Baltimore next week will be tougher, but the Ravens simply don't score enough and the Patriots have already proven they know how to beat Steve McNair in a playoff game. When the Chiefs upset the Chargers in San Diego (not far-fetched when we consider the Schottenheimer factor), the AFC Championship game will return here. Think the 9-7 Chiefs can beat the Patriots at home in a playoff game? No bloody way.
If by some chance the Patriots are forced to go to San Diego, that won't be a problem, either, because Belichick will humiliate Schottenheimer in a mismatch of LSU-Notre Dame proportion. Rodney Harrison will be back on the field by then and there's no way a virtual rookie quarterback can beat New England's experience and brainpower in a playoff game.
The Super Bowl, naturally, will be easy. The Patriots already handled the NFC-best Bears and that was on a day when New England turned the ball over five times. Anybody else over there scare you? Bill Parcells? Jeff Garcia? Eli Manning?
No. No. And no. The Super Bowl will be easy.
The celebration at City Hall Plaza should take place on Tuesday, Feb. 6. Only then will we resume ripping J.D. Drew, speculating on the chances of Manny showing up on time in Fort Myers, and wondering why the Sox were so quick to let go of Alex Gonzalez. We will call for the head of Doc Rivers and talk about the death of pro hockey in our town. We will, in other words, get back to doing what we normally do.
In the meantime, join hands and hop aboard the New England Patriots Super Bowl Express.
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.