So many horrible things are happening these days. Intractable climate crisis. Implacable global pandemic. Violence in our nation’s capital. Bruni World threatening the Ipswich water supply.
Against the backdrop of such tribulations, it seems small to fret about anything else. But the truth is, I’m really, really disturbed watching the NFL playoffs without the Patriots.
It feels so weird, like I’m having a dream where I died and then came back to life on a parallel planet; everything looks identical to the previous world except for one mysterious aberration — but it doesn’t matter because you know it’s a dream and you’re going to wake up and the world will be the way it was before, and everything is going to be okay.
Except, uh, no.
The Pats have been in the playoffs every year but one for nearly a third of my life. The year they began their playoff run, my beard was still black, and my college-freshman daughter was naught but a glint in my eye.
One of the most uncomfortable aspects of this strange Pats-less playoff season is the tragic scarcity of hate speech. Over the course of the past two decades, I’ve luxuriated in the loathing of my friends from all across the country. I could always count on a steady stream of sneering, fans of the other 31 teams whining about how sick they were of looking at the Patriots at the end of the season. It was pitiful, and I loved it.
But this year, it’s like I don’t exist. No grumping from Grandpa in Green Bay. No clamoring from my client in Cleveland. What’s my Saints-fan stockbroker doing with his time, since he left off cussing at me about New England? I’m chopped liver.
It was disorienting enough, this season, seeing Cam Newton under center instead of Tom Brady. But since tuning in to the playoffs this year, I’ve found that the unfamiliarity now extends to entire teams. It turns out there are now things called Bills. What kind of a name is this for a football team? Are these duck bills? Or possibly invoices? Pieces of legislation under consideration by lawmakers? Paper money? Or maybe to play on this team, you have to be named Bill? This seems unreasonable. What if you’re an awesome football player, but your name is Ronnie?
Whatever their name means, they’re sad substitutes for the Patriots. Obvious wannabes. Just look at those uniforms. Red, white, and blue. Sound familiar? And then there are the helmets. Practically indistinguishable from the Patriots’ helmets. They’ve sneakily replaced our iconic symbol, “Elvis on speed,” with an essentially identical cartoon of a bison, or possibly a large wart hog, being stabbed in the head by a huge red dagger. At first glance, you could easily see the wart hog and think “Elvis.” And you know opposing teams are making this mistake all the time. In that split-second, they think they’re up against the Patriots, and they’re intimidated. Falsely, as it turns out, because in reality, they’re only up against the Not Ronnies.
Yes, I’m bitter. How can you blame me? The world is not as it should be. Earth is baking, Covid is raging, democracy is staggering, and a vast swatch of historic Ipswich, Massachusetts, is about to be paved for condos. We needed the Patriots this year. And where are they? Sitting at home, eating Doritos, watching the Fake News Wart Hog Not Ronnies with the rest of us.
Sigh. Maybe there’s not much I can do, as an individual — about climate, or coronavirus, or Congress under siege.
All that’s left is … well, let’s see, what’s left?
Uh, Bruni sucking Ipswich water? Paving over the town? Doing a Capitol-mob number on our town’s historic character?
Maybe I could do something about this? I mean, as an individual? As a lone human being?
Awesome. Regardless of the playoffs. Regardless of what the Not Patriots do.
Doug Brendel has thrived as an obnoxious New England Patriots fan on outer Linebrook Road in Ipswich, Massachusetts, for more than a decade. But now what? Follow him at DougBrendel.com.