If we’re going to sit here and perform our weekly passage from the utopian dimension that has been New England Patriots football for the past 17 unparalleled seasons, then perhaps it’s only fair to take an ever-so-brief breather with the sobering admonition that it won’t last forever.
Someday, when Peter Pan is no longer the quarterback of this team, Bill Belichick has retired to Nantucket Sound, and Gillette Stadium closes out its season with a meaningless tilt against the New York Jets, these days will be the paradise we hound our grandkids with, sort of like how were endeared tales of the 1967 Red Sox, but even more obnoxiously.
But in clinching a 17th-straight winning season with their victory over the Miami Dolphins last Sunday, the Patriots have once again added another layer to the impossible task that is trying to relay to the millennial generation just how absurd this all is. Zeke Mowatt, Eugene Chung, Victor Kiam, and box seating more suited for a community football field situated beneath an overpass somewhere rather than an NFL stadium might as well be fairy tales without any real substance.
There has never been a fan base more spoiled with success than what Patriot fans have experienced going on two decades.
Forgive the old man yells at cloud turn here, but many of us earned it.
So, one day, someday, when the freezing reality hits you whippersnappers like the price gouging for a bottle of water on a hot September Sunday in Foxborough, the Patriots may not end up morphing into the likes of the winless Cleveland Browns, but perhaps it will be even worse. The Jacksonville Jaguars. Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Buffalo Bills.
The New England Patriots might one day become Just Another Team. Again.
Whether or not that takes place before the Apocalypse is anyone’s guess.
They won’t get knocked off their pedestal in 2017 though, a permanence wrought from their 9-2 record over the first 11 games of the season, not to mention the competition, already anticipating probabilities that won’t occur for another month and a half. With a three-game lead on the Bills in the AFC East, nobody would truly blame the players if they arrived in Buffalo on Sunday already wearing division title T-shirts, an inevitability that was all but assured the moment the league’s calendar went into effect last spring.
But there’s a line between spoiled and stupid.
Which brings us to Mike Tomlin.
Now, mind you, you probably couldn’t get Belichick to tell you what’s for dinner if he hasn’t even had lunch yet. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a crock pot steaming at home containing his special recipe for pork carnitas. Yet, what’s the point of talking about that when you’ve yet to punish a midday fruit salad while reviewing Bills personnel?
The head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, on the other hand, is already presumably planning the menu for his Hall of Fame induction, and Tomlin isn’t afraid to hint at its gourmet nature.
The Patriots and Steelers, tied atop the AFC standings, don’t face off for another fortnight-plus. But that didn’t stop Tomlin from looking that far ahead during an interview with Tony Dungy on NBC last Sunday.
“Man, I’m going to embrace the elephant in the room, it’s going to be fireworks,” Tomlin said. “It’s probably going to be part one, and that’s going to be a big game. But probably, if we’re both doing what we’re supposed to do, the second one is really going to be big. And what happens in the first is going to set up the second one, and determine the location in the second one.”
Talk about doubling-down on dumb.
Not only is Tomlin fully admitting his team is looking past the Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens in advance of its anticipated showdown with the Patriots, the man is already invested in facing them again in the AFC Championship Game.
I mean, he’s not wrong. But Tomlin’s Shangri-La on Three Rivers is a dangerous avenue to cross, particularly considering his Steelers didn’t exactly look like a team headed to Minnesota two of the last three weeks in struggling to escape also-rans in the Indianapolis Colts and Green Bay Packers.
“Oh, we can win it all,” Tomlin said. “We should win it all.”
He’d never show it publicly, but you can just imagine the grin that adorned Belichick’s face when those words were relayed to him.
“In terms of talent, in terms of having enough competition, depth, I think we check all those boxes. But, checking the boxes doesn’t run the race.”
Thus, here we are, with the New England Patriots sitting in the same backseat that has bred ridiculous screeds of “disrespect” and “underdog” mentality. All Belichick has to do is sit and wait for somebody foolish enough to cast the bait.
If presuming the Patriots are going to win their third Super Bowl in the last four years as fact, not hope, is spoiled, then yes.
But it isn’t stupid.
The competition has already proven it has taken care of that.