I know that showing sympathy for the 2007 New England Patriots is about as popular as showing sympathy for the 2010-2011 Miami Heat, but bare with me and let's pretend for a second that this isn't a team that you hate, but instead your favorite team.
That means ignore SpyGate, Randy Moss, and all of the other "undesirable" elements of this team that made their loss to the Giants in Super Bowl XLII so great to watch for many and just imagine this as your team.
You have the chance to become the greatest team in NFL history. You have an offensive juggernaut, a coach that with a Super Bowl victory likely jumps past Noll, Walsh, Shula and Landry, and a quarterback that also has the chance to pass the likes of Montana, Elway, Staubach and Bradshaw.
Losing the game for New England would feel a million times worse than winning the game. Hell if they lose they go down forever as choke artists (despite the fact that the same team just went through a stretch of winning three out of four Super Bowls) but if they win it will only be because they were supposed to.
On top of that, 19-0 hangs in the balance, the first team to accomplish that feat.
And just like that, it's gone.
Despite their regular season success, I still don't think the Patriots have fully recovered from this game. Their last playoff victory came two weeks prior to this Super Bowl in the AFC Championship game against San Diego. They not only lost their last two playoff games, but were embarrassed both times, with both games coming at home.
I could easily say that their 2009 Wild Card game against the Ravens or even more likely their 2010 divisional playoff game against the Jets was more heart breaking, but sit down and really think about it: do any of those games happen the way they did if the Patriots don't lose to the Giants in Super Bowl XLII?
If Super Bowl XLII doesn't happen the way it does, wouldn't the 2011 Patriots, currently at 8-3 and holding a vice grip over the AFC East, be taken more seriously as AFC contenders? (I say that because they're never mentioned as the best in the AFC anymore, all you hear about now is Pittsburgh or Baltimore).
Would their defense right now be any better (OK that one's a no but still).
Until the Patriots get back to the Super Bowl and win it, this loss will continue to haunt them for years to come.
In fact it's likely only because of this loss that Belichick is still coaching. Had New England won the game, I could definitely see Belichick retiring in 2009 or 2010.