As soon as the Red Sea parted and the Giants pounded the ball into the end zone to go up by four in the 2012 Super Bowl, I was happy.
This was how it was supposed to end. Tom Brady would prove that he is the most clutch quarterback in the NFL and lead the Patriots to another Super Bowl victory. With less than a minute remaining, Brady would march down the field and toss the game-winning touchdown to Gronkowski.
“The Giants must be awfully stupid to give the Patriots this much time,” I thought.
As it turns out the Patriots were stupid. Brady missed successive throws of 20 yards or less and the game became a Madden-like nightmare for me. I have seen this game unfold before, countless times on the Xbox. Except this wasn't for the King of the Bedroom. This was for King of the World.
Even when every sane person in America had all but crowned the New York Giants champions, I believed. I, like so many other Patriots fans, never stopped believing. I shut my eyes and just listened to the call on that fateful last play. I didn't want to see the outcome whether it was good or bad.
After the Giants fans in the room breathed a sigh of relief, I knew it was over. After my phone and Facebook blew up with far too many Giants fans and Giants bandwagon riders boasting to me about their victory, I knew it was over.
That final Hail Mary pass repeats itself in my head. Except in my version Gronkowski catches the ball and a whole legion of Patriots fans throw up their clam chowder in excitement.
That's how it was supposed to end.
But things never go according to scripts, and as I went to bed that Sunday night my mind fluttered with so many “what ifs?” What if the Patriots didn't have 12 men on the field? What if Wes Welker had made that catch? What if The Ankle Heard Round the World was A-Okay? What if New England was immune to Kryptonite?
I just can’t help thinking that this loss signals an end of an era. Tom Brady isn’t getting any younger and Bill Belichick might be losing his touch. Belichick has one of the greatest football minds ever. But he was given two weeks and a very potent offense and he still couldn't stop those pesky Giants. Would the old Belichick have won?
More importantly, would the old Brady have won? Tom Terrific looked lethargic in the AFC Championship and wasn't himself in the Super Bowl. Yes, receivers dropped passes but there were many instances where Brady could have thrown a better ball. It pains me to say this but Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett better get ready.
The old Tom Brady would have led his team down the field and won the game. That is exactly what Eli Manning did. Sure, the Brady poster will still adorn the walls in my room and I will proudly sport number 12 as I walk the streets of New York. He wasn’t bad on Sunday. He just wasn’t the Tom Brady we were used to.
There was no magic. If the old Tom Brady was a Disney movie, then the Tom Brady we saw in this Super Bowl was a shady knockoff film. Sure, it has the same characters and plot but the Disney movie magic just isn’t there.
In the biggest game of the year, the savior of New England was missing his pinpoint accuracy and looked shaky. Brady looked like he didn’t know what he was doing. There were times where he just launched balls in the air and hoped for a catch. He fired a strike down the field in the direction of Rob Gronkowski, but the ball was severely under-thrown and was intercepted by New York's Chase Blackburn.
I don’t like ripping on Brady. It’s not my thing. But I don’t know how to deal with losing.
The Patriots have always been my favorite team. I’m not some bandwagon jumper. This loss hurts the most. The New England Patriots have never lost in this fashion on such a big stage. The 2008 Super Bowl loss was hard, but after that game I had hope that New England would come out fighting in the next few years.
Now, I don’t have that hope. What is left is a feeling that the best years have passed. Like Rascal Flatts would say, “What hurts the most was being so close.”