Like it or not Boston, the Patriots are the New York Yankees of the NFL. And it’s not just the simple fact that they are generally loathed across the country.
Sadly, there are many more disturbing similarities.
Both franchises, royalty in their respective sports, relied on bit players to win the brunt of their most recent championships. The Yanks had guys like Scott Brosius, Luis Sojo, Mike Stanton, Shane Spencer, Orlando Hernandez and Ramiro Mendoza.
The Pats had guys like Troy Brown, David Givens, David Patten, Roman Phifer, Joe Andruzzi and Jermaine Wiggins.
Ultimate glue guys all around. They were counted on, and for the most part, thrived in their roles under immense pressure.
It was when both franchises decided to go after the big, juicy, name guys that they started to get into trouble.
The Yankees became old and crusty in relatively short order, signing guys way past their prime over and over again. Sure, they were always in the October mix, but they couldn’t grab the ultimate prize at any time past the 2000 season.
The Patriots road since their last Super Bowl victory in 2004 is nearly a mirror image. Out with the glue guys, in with the washed up, Pro Bowl vets.
I will preface this by saying that the Yankees spent like drunken sailors to get their name guys. The Patriots, as always, spent within their means.
Whispy Mustache Division: Junior Seau/ Jason Giambi
Look at any file photo of Junior Seau from the Chargers 1995 Super Bowl run and voila, you have comedic gold. Same with Giambi for, well, the majority of his career. As always, pornstar ‘staches do not necessarily equal success in the workplace.
Both of these guys were transcendent figures on the West Coast in the prime of their careers. But Giambi was a complete disaster in New York and while Seau provided some shining moments in New England, he looked old and tired at the conclusion of both the 2007 and 2008 seasons.
Pri-MADONNA Division: Randy Moss/Alex Rodriguez
Both have put up sterling numbers since their arrivals, but neither has led their team to ultimate glory. Moss set the league on fire by breaking the touchdown reception record in his first year with New England. A-Rod won an MVP and continued his reign as the best player in the game. Both, however, have been suspect in the big spot. Moss dropped many a perfectly placed Matt Cassel ball in a huge Pittsburgh game at Gillette in 2008. As has been well-documented, A-Rod is a no-show come October.
Old Yeller Division: Tedy Bruschi/Bernie Williams
Two players that meant more to their franchises than any other during the championship years, but two players that should have known when to call it quits.
Williams was forced out of baseball by the Yankees brass, but honestly, it should have happened much earlier than it did. His last great year with the Yankees was 2002 and he hung on until 2006.
Meanwhile, it’s painfully hard to remember the last big play Bruschi has made in a Patriots uniform, which is just sad. In the infamous AFC Championship game collapse against the Colts, Bruschi looked somewhere in the neighborhood of 76-years-old.
Dirty Syringe Division: Rodney Harrison/Roger Clemens
While Harrison is no where near the abuser Clemens is, it should be stated that being suspended by the NFL for performance-enhancing drugs is outrageous. I mean, you gotta be blatantly taking some stuff for the NFL police to take notice. Shawne Merriman basically had to have horse tranquilizers sticking out of his girdle to get suspended.
Harrison must have left one blatantly obvious paper trail in his bust. And while it was once great fun to pile on Roger, it’s now becoming downright sad, so I’ll refrain.
The Cruel Joke Division: Deltha O’Neal/Kevin Brown
Put it this way: Opposing quarterbacks did not have time to pick on Ellis Hobbs in 2008 with O’Neal roaming the other side of the field. Meanwhile, Kevin Brown’s most memorable moment in pinstripes was the time he punched the wall outside of Joe Torre’s office and broke his hand.
While we could go on all day about the pu-pu platter (emphasis on pu-pu) of defensive backs the Patriots have used over the years and the laughable amount of geriatric hurlers the Yankees have trotted out to the mound, there is one more glaring similarity that is still playing out before our eyes.
The Untimely Death of Home Field Advantage
Both franchises have moved into cushy, “fan-friendly” digs. Unfortunately, “fan-friendly” doesn’t equate into any sort of “home field advantage.”
One could make the case that the Patriots have the worst home field advantage in the NFL. In fact, I will.
In 2007, when the Patriots were tearing through the league, the place was as lively as your everyday morgue after halftime of nearly every game. The pimp seats were virtually empty.
Sure, complacency can certainly set in when your team is beating people 52-10 week-in and week-out, but this was a historically great team—could have been the best ever. Fans should have recognized that and in turn, given a historically great team, a historically great home field advantage. Didn’t happen.
In 1986, the Celtics had the greatest NBA team ever assembled. The team went 40-1 at home that season. That Garden crowd was admittedly a little watered down when compared to the rowdy early ‘80s fan base, most likely due to the pink hat/wine & cheese bandwagoners that effect all teams that go through an extended amount of success.
But look no closer than last game of the 1986 NBA Finals, when the crowd “wanted the blood of the Houston Rockets,” said Bill Walton. Sure, Bill Walton has a PHD in hyperbole, but the tape shows that he was telling the truth. That crowd was absolutely, positively insane.
The playoff crowds for the Patriots in 2007-08 were downright pathetic. That team was showing obvious signs of fatigue and could have used that extra boost that home crowds provide. Foxboro Stadium would have crucified “Flopping” Philip Rivers and Darth Tomlinson in the AFC Championship game. They would have buried a Jacksonville team that hung around for a bit too long. Not in Gillette.
As for the new Yankee Stadium, the early returns are utterly hilarious. During a Sox-Yanks series two weeks ago, the box seats looked like the upper deck at a Padres-Nats game.
Where They Part Ways
Breathe a heavy sigh of relief Patriots fans, the most glaring difference here is that the guys running the Patriots actually get “it.”
Bill Belichick is right far more times than he’s wrong and he is hands-down, the best mind in all of professional sports.
He knows the Patriots have gotten old in recent years and has already taken the right measures to fix the issue. They are suddenly deep in the secondary and at linebacker with an influx of youth from the past two drafts.
The Yankees? Look no farther than Mark Teixera’s batting average right now.
The Pats are favored by Vegas to win the Super Bowl this year and are set up to win rings for the next four or five years.
The Yankees are more likely to find themselves in the AL East basement before they raise a new banner in The House That ‘Roids Build.