Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Watching the Patriots lose is still the best play in all of sport

For almost a decade now, I've been watching the Chargers lose and hoping that the Patriots lose. For a long time, the Chargers lost and the Patriots won. Now, the Patriots are losing, but so are the Chargers. It used to be that the Chargers were a phenomenally talented team that just couldn't get over the hump in the playoffs. Now they're a phenomenally talented team that can't get over the hump in any single game. That's how you have the best defense and the best offense in the league, as they did last year, but finish 8-8 and out of the playoffs.

This year, it's the 6th-best offense in the league and the 7th-best defense (both based on yards), and a middling 4-4 record to show for it, not to mention three straight losses. Last week, of course, was the snap debacle, the first time I've seen anything like it. This week, the Chargers made a game of it against the Packers after being down 45-24 in the fourth quarter, actually getting two chances to tie the game and getting as close as midfield.

Still, it's as frustrating as it ever was to watch the Chargers, who probably should have won a Super Bowl by now. After letting Marty Schottenheimer go all those years ago, Norv Turner's teams have had some amazing feats, which mostly centre around taking a supremely talented team, giving it a 1-4 record, and then seeing what it can do. Ladainian Tomlinson may have missed his chance for a ring, certainly his chance to do it as a star rather than a role player, but the Chargers' window probably isn't quite closed yet. But it will close, and I have a bad feeling that it will likely not include a Super Bowl.

On the other side of the United States, there were the Patriots playing the Giants in what was one of the worst-played games I've seen. Really, it belonged with last week's clinic on how to screw up a football game, because it featured so many dropped or bobbled snaps, dropped kicks and general incompetence, that I often thought I was watching replays.

As the Patriots dynasty fades, it's important for those of us who despise this team to remember that Super Bowl championships don't come from your record in a 16-game season, but how and who you play in three or four playoff games. Still, at 5-3, with consecutive years of home playoff losses that really weren't all that close, I'm starting to breathe easier and easier. The hurricane of fawning adulation, which I feel is controlled by Peter King, is already starting to centre on Aaron Rodgers, though I feel like it could change.

Both the Patriots-Giants and Packers-Chargers games were exciting, as was the Ravens-Steelers game, where I thought the Ravens were going to cruise to an easy win with a 16-6 lead, but had to overcome a Steelers comeback to win 23-20. That last drive led by Joe Flacco might have been the strongest moment for the Ravens offense in 11 years, and it could make them a more legitimate playoff threat.

As amazing of a game as it was, what was mystifying was this comment that Peter King featured in his weekly column from somebody he calls a friend, and what he unflinchingly called his Text Message of the Week:

"I want to die. This feeling feels like death. Nothing else can describe this. The pain is that bad.''
-- Pittsburgh Phil, Phil Gennaro, a friend of mine and a 41-year-old claims adjuster from Monroeville, east of Pittsburgh, leaving Heinz Field early this morning. He went on to text that today "will be miserable. I will have to deal with angry people, all because of this game.''

It's disturbing that a gainfully employed adult could feel this way about a football game. It's one thing to take sports seriously, even too seriously, and another to say this. For a city to have its mood change so drastically after a loss, as Gennaro claims, is almost equally disturbing. It's enough to make me think about no longer watching sports.

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