Super Bowl Sunday can be a stressful day for Patriots fans, but it’s a good problem to have.
We can’t fully enjoying the commercials because we’re often too busy worrying about the game. We face a difficult, seemingly perennial decision of whether to call out of work to join the duck boats for a championship parade. And with the repeated drama of painfully close games, our hearts and voices feel a little weaker on Monday morning.
Winning, it turns out, has its drawbacks. But we certainly can’t complain.
Sunday marked the ninth Super Bowl that the Patriots have played in during the past 18 seasons. The team has also lost four AFC Championship games during that span. So for 13 of the past 18 seasons, we’ve been through the joys — and stresses — of watching Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the boys go to work in the final two games of the NFL season.
It’s reached the point where reaching the Super Bowl almost feels like a given (knock on wood). Someone even hilariously, and not completely ridiculously, changed the AFC Championship Wikipedia page to describe it as a game “where one team gets to play the New England Patriots for a chance to play in the Super Bowl.” Others online have joked that the game has turned into the “New England Invitational.”
We rightfully revel in the Patriots’ success, but let’s not lose sight of just how lucky we are.
Look no further than the other team in this year’s Super Bowl. When the Patriots last played the Rams in the big game, they were from a different city. Fans of the then-St. Louis Rams cheered their team on to two Super Bowls in three years until the underdog Patriots slowed down the Rams’ high-powered “Greatest Show on Turf” offense.
Not only did it take 17 years for the Rams to get back to the Super Bowl, but for many St. Louis fans devastated by the team’s move to Los Angeles, they don’t even have a football team anymore. The point is, things can change.
Thus far, the 41-year-old Brady and the Patriots organization have largely been able to escape the trappings of time. Each season, pundits proclaim the dynasty to be on the decline. And each season, the Pats use those doubts to fuel the fire. This year, they rallied around a slogan of “still here” and ultimately made good on that mantra.
The truth is, however, that the dominant Patriots franchise we see today won’t always be here — at least in its current form. That’s not a sky is falling warning, just a reality. It’s reason to appreciate what we have now, not cause for alarm.
We’ve had front-row seats to one of, if not the greatest runs in sports history during the Belichick-Brady era: six Super Bowl titles, nine AFC Championships and 16 AFC East titles.
There is perhaps no more spoiled sports fan than a young New Englander. Ten-year-olds in Maine and across the region literally don’t know what it’s like for any other team to be AFC East conference champions. The last Boston-area championship win came just three months ago, when the Red Sox beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series. Throw in three other Red Sox World Series wins, a 2011 Stanley Cup for the Bruins and 2008 NBA Championship for the Celtics, and the grand total is two decades of unbelievable results for New England sports fans.
Patriots fans both young and old are also well acquainted with the pain of losing big games — having sat through three devastatingly close Super Bowl losses. And even the close wins, like this year’s Super Bowl, come with nail-biting and heart-pounding anxiety. It can be agony, for sure, but it’s undoubtedly a much better kind of agony than decades without a title or trudging through losing seasons.
Never being satisfied is part of what has propelled the Patriots to greatness. But as fans, we should be satisfied with what the team has accomplished thus far and reflect on how lucky we are to witness it. Now it’s on to next year.