The fall of 2007 was a great time to be a Massachusetts’ sports fan.
The Red Sox looked poised to make a run and capture their second championship title in four years.
The Celtics acquired All-Star guard Ray Allen during a draft-night trade, and later, shipped off half the team to acquire future Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett.
More importantly, the Patriots front office finally acknowledge Tom Brady’s request to provide the offense with more weapons that he could throw at for the first time in his illustrious career.
It was clearly a Boston sports’ heaven in the fall of 2007.
I was entering my junior year at Syracuse University during this period. To me, I could not ask for anything more. Not only were my three favorite teams arguably the best in their respective sports, but I was surrounded by New York fans that were constantly able to see my delight.
What could they say to put me down? The Bruins suck? Who cares?
Four weeks into the regular season, the Patriots were steamrolling opponents, putting up 148 points as their opponents managed just 48.
Game One of the Red Sox ALDS series against the Angels was going to start Wednesday. I could not have been happier.
The Patriots’ team seemed to be clicking on all cylinders. The addition of a potent receiver tandem–Randy Moss and Wes Welker–were paying big dividends, combining for eight touchdowns and 750 yards.
Comparably, at the same point in 2006, Tom Brady had only thrown for six touchdowns and 891 yards. I could tell this was going to be a fun year.
Week Six against the Cowboys was billed as being one of the biggest games of the regular season. Showcasing the two most prolific offenses in the NFL, the Patriots were able to coast by the Cowboys with Brady posting his first five-TD game of the year.
The Week Nine matchup was promoted as showcasing the likely AFC representative in Super Bowl XLII.
The game featured the modern day AFC debate: Colts or Patriots–Manning or Brady?
This Patriot victory was the first win of the year that made me particularly proud of them. I knew they could dominate teams, but this was the first game that illustrated the grit the squad possessed. It also helped that I despise the Colts more than any other team in the league.
Going into the bye week, I felt Boston teams could do no wrong.
The Red Sox had just won the World Series by sweeping the Colorado Rockies.
Up to this point, I had watched every Patriots game of the season at the bar I worked at with two of my best friends, who both actively supported the New York Giants.
I remember watching Brady to Moss, Brady to Welker, Brady to Watson, with glee pouring out my mouth, eyes, and ears. My friend, Brian, could only respond, “This is not fair. The Patriots are like a [expletive] video game when you’re playing with the worst team against the best team, at the hardest difficulty.” Every touchdown was almost laughable as you expected the receiver to catch the ball with one hand in triple coverage.
I went home for Thanksgiving break from school at this point, but not before making a bet with one of my other friends.
My friend, a Bills’ fan, was going to the November 18th Bills–Patriots game in Buffalo. The Patriots were 17 ½ point favorites on the road. He said he was unwilling to make this bet.
At this point in the season, similar to any other Patriots fan, I was confident, and maybe, a little cocky. I offered to give him 28 points on a $50 bet, which he reluctantly took. After the game, he refused to speak to me for the next few weeks, leaving the game halfway through the third quarter.
After barely escaping the Eagles in Week 12, I was almost certain that we could finish the season undefeated. The perfect season was also the subject for media outlets everywhere.
Leading up to the last game of the regular season against the Giants, the NFL was trying to televise the game only on their NFL Network, which meant it would not be shown on any major network.
There was no way that the NFL would be able to get away with this travesty as they heard hell from people all around the country. Even Massachusetts’ Senator, Ted Kennedy, pleaded with Congress to get this game nationally televised, and it eventually was.
I do not ever remember being more nervous watching a single football game which did not really have any serious implications, or did it?
For four quarters, the Giants and Patriots battled. The Giants wanted to win this game so badly that they did not rest their starters, which is a risk few coaches are willing to take, particularly when they had already clinched a playoff berth.
However, Bill Belichick and Tom Coughlin are not like most coaches in the NFL. They both had their own reasons to play their best players. In the end, although the Giants were on the losing end of this game, Coughlin proved to be the ultimate victor.
Although the Patriots had won the game, I had seen enough to conclude that the Giants were the only team that could stand in our way of hoisting the Lombardi trophy at Super Bowl XLII.
Even though I was wary of the Giants, I was proud and happy for Brady, Moss, and the Patriots.
On that December night, Brady and Moss were each able to write their own page in the NFL history books, setting the all-time marks for TD passes and TD receptions in a single season.
At that moment, I made a silent prayer to the football gods to please guide my beloved team all the way. Anything less than perfection, would be failure. More importantly, mentally, I felt that anything less than perfection for the Patriots would constitute failure in my own life, like if I personally committed some wrong.
The day before our second-round game against the Jaguars, I took out a piece of paper and wrote down every memory I could recollect from the memorable season I was witnessing.
As I rounded home on my third page, I stopped and wondered why I was doing this. I had never done anything like this in my life before, especially with a sports team and game. I think I was nervous, even though I would never admit it.
Sure enough, we were able to handle the Jags without too much difficulty. Our West Coast rivals, the San Diego Chargers, would be next.
This time around I did not scribble down all my feelings on paper because, after referring back to my previous entries, following a couple missed blocks and dropped pass, I felt there was nothing else left to add. This season had meant more to me than any other season any sport team had engaged in before.
The Super Bowl was our destiny. We cannot lose.
The Chargers were able to keep it close in the AFC Conference Championship Game, but, in the end, they could not produce any offense. I was extremely proud, almost honored, the way that our defense showed up that Sunday.
It had been our superb offense who had carried us all season and not given any other team an opportunity to take over. But on this day, when it mattered the most, our defense did not allow San Diego a single touchdown.
Nonetheless, my mind was a wreck. I was high-fiving Patriots fans and acting happy, but my head was somewhere else.
At 6:30PM that afternoon, the Packers would be hosting the rejuvenated Giants. Since that deciding last game of the regular season where the Patriots had just barely slipped by them, the Giants were playing like a completely new team.
Maybe, it was because they had come so close to dismantling the dream of perfection. Maybe, they believed in their team all along, and the Patriot game showed them that they were contenders. But, in my opinion, it was because they knew that they had played against the best, and, given one more chance, they could win.
The two weeks between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl always seems like an eternity.
Every media outlet, all day, simply dissects the two Super Bowl bound teams and offers their predictions on what will occur. The Patriots were established at a 13.5 point favorite to win this game. I do my best to avoid the Super Bowl interviews and analyses when my team is there, but unfortunately, I did happen to catch a few.
“We’re only going to score 17 points?” Why Tom, why? That rebuttal statement to Plaxico Burress’ comments killed me inside.
To me, this simply told the world that the Patriots were overconfident. Not only were the Giants playing with a chip on their shoulder, being a NFC wild card team running the table, but Brady, the leader, the hero, the face of the Patriot franchise, was letting it be known that the team had become so confident that they felt that they were almost guaranteed a win. I tend to overreact, so don’t completely antagonize me for believing in Brady’s overconfidence.
The night before the Super Bowl, I could not sleep. I was not surprised with this, as I really did not have faith in winning the big game even though every Patriot fan in the world was confident, and the media was picking the Patriots to be the landslide victors.
As always, I put on my home authentic Laurence Maroney jersey and headed down to my favorite bar. I always, always watch important games in solitude because I tend to throw things and scream obscenities for the most miniscule botched block.
I am not a superstitious person, but we had gone 18-0 at this point, and, with the exception of the Bills game over Thanksgiving break, I had been at the same bar in Syracuse for every other game on our march to perfection.
Before the game, I shook every Giants fan’s hand in the bar, with a cautious smile on my face.
After the game, I shook every Giants fan’s hand in the bar, with tears pouring out of my eyes.
That night, I did not get a wink of sleep.
One year later, to the day, I borrowed my friend’s video copy of Super Bowl XLII and took out my pad of notes.
I once again read all the great memories that I and the rest of Patriots’ nation got to share with the team in 2007. I then turned the page and pressed play on the DVD player.
Two hours and twenty three minutes later, I had double the number of pages I had written about the good times. I scribbled down every missed block, tackle, and mistake the Patriots had committed during that game. It felt good. It was like taking a load off my chest.
The 2007 Patriots were a team that I had never experienced in my life before.
I felt as though I was a part of the team. I felt that I had personally experienced the success, hatred, and envy which the franchise surely felt during their campaign to near perfection.
Likewise, I experienced their Super Bowl defeat, like I, myself, had been defeated. I have never felt such an emotional attachment to a team, nor do I ever expect to feel such an emotional attachment again.
The personal emotional toll is simply too much.
The Red Sox are champions. The Celtics don’t look half bad. The Patriots? Next year maybe.