“With history the final judge of our deeds . . . ”
John F. Kennedy
“I don’t know nothin’ about history and I don’t want to hear about choking or any of that crap . . . ”
John F. McNamara
Here’s what Bill Belichick said the day after his team got waxed by the Chiefs in Thursday night’s “Let’s-Pat-Ourselves-On-The-Back-A-Few-More-Times” season opener:
“Not really interested in living in the past, in 2014, 2015, 2003, 2004, which constantly keeps coming up. Everything’s about some other year but this year and this team. I really think all of that is irrelevant because we’re talking about another team . . . I’m not trying to live in the past like everybody else is.’’
Belichick honestly feels this way. Swell. But he works for a needy owner who craves constant reinforcement of his own greatness and generosity. Belichick also works in a market that is unusually obsessed with past successes and failures. It is acknowledgment of our sports history — and its context regarding present-day events — which makes ours the best sports market in America.
And oh, by the way . . . the Patriots were wearing commemorative “Super Bowl LI champion” patches on their uniforms when they got steamrolled Thursday night (The Denver Broncos felt no need to do this when they opened their 2016 season after winning Super Bowl 50). So who are the ones living in the past, Mr. Hoodie?
Sorry, Bill. I know you hate bringing up old stuff, but if you’re going to work for Bob Kraft and allow NFL Films unlimited access to celebrate the cerebral Patriots while underlying the stupidity of all other teams, you’re going to get asked about the old days when you lose at home after holding a halftime lead for the first time in 17 years.
We’re all about the past. At this moment I am wondering when was the last time the Patriots trailed the Buffalo Bills in the AFC East?
Yeesh. It’s true. The guys with the bragging patches on their uniforms are in last place in the Warhol Division. They share the basement with the 0-1 New York Jets. New England is a half-game behind Miami and a full game behind the Bills, who have not made the playoffs in this century.
While we’re on the subject of the past — where do you rank Thursday’s debacle in modern Patriots history? It represented the most points allowed by a Belichick-coached Patriots team. Was it as bad as the Trent Dilfer (“They’re not good anymore’’), 41-14 loss at Arrowhead Stadium in 2014? (No.) Was it as bad as the Lawyer Milloy opener in Buffalo in 2003 when the Bills drubbed the Patriots, 31-0, just hours after Belichick released the popular DB? (Maybe.) In both cases, the Patriots went on to win the Super Bowl so maybe the history is not so bad after all.
It’s always about the past with our local sports teams. The Red Sox have more history than any Massachusetts institution. Has any team been the subject of more history books and conversation? The Celtics are ever global because of what happened when Red Auerbach and Bill Russell created the championship brand in the 1950s and ’60s.
The Patriots, in a different way, are creations of history. I believe that Patriots fans’ disproportional insecurity and defensiveness comes from the bad old days of Billy Sullivan, Rod Rust, silly scandals, and abject ineptitude. The Patriots for most of the 20th century were a laughingstock. Fans who came of age during the Belichick-Tom Brady era are clueless about this, but Boston Baby Boomers carry the scars of being pigskin punching bags for multiple decades in the days before Bill and Tom made magic on Route 1.
So sorry, Bill. You forever will be asked to relate and equate the latest thing with something that happened before. In our eyes, Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy are related to Houston Antwine and Tom Yewcic.
Nineteen-and-oh is gone, but the Patriots are going to be OK. History tells us so. The Belichick Patriots are always better in December than they are in September. They have won the Warhol eight straight times and in 13 of the last 14 seasons and this is not threatened. We’re just trying to sort out where they will be at playoff time. We are no longer certain that the AFC Championship game will be played in Foxborough.
History tells us that the Patriots have trouble on the road in the playoffs. They have won only three road playoff games (two in Pittsburgh, one in San Diego) in the 17 seasons of Brady and Belichick. They don’t win on the road in January because they don’t have to win on the road in January. Now it looks like they might have to win a road playoff game to get where they want to go.
Bill is on to New Orleans. But pardon us if we are still studying history to get a grasp of what happened Thursday night in Foxborough.