Archive for February, 2018

February 5, 2018

#138) The Patriots dynasty will be missed

Call it the sour grapes of a disappointed Boston sports fan but on this day after our loss to the Eagles in Super Bowl LII, I say to you: someday, America will miss the New England Patriots of the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick era.

Every sport needs a villain. Tom Dorsa of Baseball Essentials writes, “[A villain] draws you into games that mean little or nothing to you.” As author Vassilis Dalakas points out in this article, “[R]esearch has shown that [villains]…make us more likely to watch – and bask in the joy of seeing them fail.”

While early indications suggest that this year’s Super Bowl numbers were lower than last year’s, it doesn’t seem like a stretch to speculate that the numbers would have been equally low, or not lower, had the Patriots not been in the game. Yes, Patriots Fatigue is real, but  would it actually have been any fun to see the Eagles beat the Jacksonville Jaguars? (Or for that matter, the Pittsburgh Steelers? The storyline of an all Pennsylvania Super Bowl notwithstanding, “Roethlisberger is a rapist” no longer seems to galvanize haters the way “Patriots are cheaters” does.)

The lower numbers may also have more to do with the NFL’s general struggles of late than with Patriots Fatigue. While the short answer to lower viewership this past season was national anthem protests, the longer answer includes the disappointing seasons of the Oakland Raiders and Dallas Cowboys – two teams that are widely hated outside their home market and have often played the role of the villain in decades past but fell short of expected returns to former glory while Brady led his charges back to the Super Bowl for a record eighth time. Granted, the NFL has survived one embarrassment after another, but when will its luck run out? When Brady retires there will be one fewer reason to watch and how many reasons to watch can the NFL afford to lose?

It could also be, even outside of New England, that positive things about the Brady/Belichick era will be missed. Sports commentator Colin Cowherd says, “I’m a fan of the Patriots because I’m a fan of business…When you watch a Patriots game, there is a trust between the fans and the team. They’ll get it right.” One of Fox Sports’ “12 reasons why there will never be another NFL dynasty like the Patriots” is: “Many teams suffer from the disease of more (success gets to people’s heads, they want more money, more credit, more passes thrown their way, whatever). The Patriots have managed to take that success and channel it ruthlessly into more success.”

All good (at least for Patriots fans) things must come to an end and even the most die hard citizens of Patriots Nation must admit that yesterday felt like the end of an era. Tomorrow’s college stars might be willing to play for a cold-weather team and they might be willing to play for a no-nonsense organization, but they probably won’t want to play for a cold weather, no-nonsense organization. In twenty years, the Patriots will be the Notre Dame of the NFL: a team revered for its past, not its present; a team that will put together a great season every now and then that gets pundits waxing nostalgic about past glory. What it won’t be seen as is a villain and thanks to increasing parity in the NFL, no team will have taken its place. With future generations less likely to let their kids play the game due to safety concerns and with exponentially increasing entertainment options for tomorrow’s viewers, lack of a compelling villain will hurt the NFL. Say what you will about spying and deflated footballs: the best that a post-Brady/Belichick NFL can hope for is survival.