Sports fans don’t normally root for an injury, at least the old mantra goes.
Of course, the well-being of an athlete is still a foremost concern, even for the most reasonable, if still devout, patrons of the game. But perhaps knowing their enemies all too well, New Englanders shouldn’t be all that surprised over what happened yesterday in Manhattan when Tom Brady’s knee buckled under the pressure of Bernard Pollard.
Fans reacted with glee.
At least, that’s the word at the ESPN Zone in Times Square, where a New York Times editor was watching yesterday’s Chiefs-Patriots game. When Brady went down, “Most of the people in the restaurant roared with delight.”
Ah, New York. Just oozing with sportsmanship. Here’s a sampling of comments from that same entry on the Times’ Fifth Down blog:
“No one showed any sympathy for him, myself included. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.”
“You better believe I’d have joined in. I cheered in the comfort of my own vehicle. That smug schmuck and his cheating coach deserve some comeuppance.”
“I would’ve danced on the tables if I had been there.”
“Any other team, no way, but you better believe I cheered…”
Now, compare those remarks with those made in say, Indianapolis, Miami, Denver, and, really, even Oakland, where seemingly more rationale football fans seemed to process Brady’s possible loss for the entire season with at least some sense of class.
In New York, they celebrate.
Before you chalk this up as Jets and Giants fans puffing their chests out in a display of team bravado there was also celebration further up the Evil Empire state. In Buffalo, when it was shown on the JumboTron, Bills fans cheered the sight of Brady limping off the field. Stephen Brunt of the Toronto Globe and Mail writes, “[It] might not be nice, or sportsmanlike, but is the kind of thing that happens when two sure losses on your schedule suddenly don’t look quite so sure, when a division that was out of reach might suddenly be up for grabs.”
True. You can understand the layer of uncertainty that just got peeled off the seasons of the Jets, Dolphins, and Bills, making its way clear to Foxborough where it hovers over a normally sound and secure Gillette Stadium. But it’s also the kind of thing that happens when fans know their team isn’t good enough and has to root for a hit to a star’s physical nature.
The Jets are all of a sudden the favorites (the favorites) in Sunday’s showdown at the Meadowlands, New England’s first trip there since wrapping up its 16-0 season last December; its first trip there to play the Jets since Eric Mangini busted Spygate open into our midst. All of a sudden, Jets fans are looking at Brett Favre as their QB and Matt Cassel as the Patriots’ starter and thinking, “Why not?”
Are they now the favorites in the AFC East? If we have to kick the Pats out of the equation (which frankly I refuse to do in a league that has given us backups you might remember like Brady, Kurt Warner, Jeff Hostetler, etc.) I’d be more apt to look at the Bills as possible contenders for a crown that normally resides in New England. But there is now hope in three more cities, perhaps in a few more if you want to include the likes of Indianapolis and San Diego.
So, if promising prospects are good for more teams, isn’t that good for the game?
That’s a fine line, and when it comes to season-ending ACL/MCL injuries to the MVP, the answer has to be no. More teams have a shot now, but at the expense of losing the best quarterback in the game (on a clean hit, by the way). At least the Giants raised Lombardi by busting through the front door, tossing the keg down a flight of stairs, and announcing that the party was over.
Everybody else now gets to hope the Pats are weaker without Tom Brady, which, let’s face it, they are. But what are we talking here? They were 16-0 a season ago, yet looked like a 9-7 team yesterday against Kansas City. The 2001 Patriots were 1-3 to kick off their Super Bowl campaign. Does 10-6 win the division, and if so, does Cassel have enough in him for a 10-6 season?
So much for the Chiefs denying us any intrigue in the season-opener. Unlike 2007, when week-to-week almost simmered to boring blowouts, there is now fascination every seven days with these Patriots, who have the opportunity to prove just how deep and talented they are without the most talented signal-caller in the game.
And the guess here, at least, is that they won’t be celebrating for long in New York.