Some further thoughts occurred to me last night as I struggled to sleep, a long work week ahead of me and the thought of the Pats' ill-fated final drive dancing in my head. I thought too about all the hifalutin language it would be sure to draw in this morning's press, and thought over last night's almost apologetic post, and it got me thinking a little further about underdog-dom.
In this the year 2007, with 3 Super bowls under the Patriots' belt and words like "dynasty" and "Yankees of the NFL" being thrown about, it's easy to forget that since the very beginning of this rivalry between New England and Indianapolis--including this year--the Colts have been the favored team, both by the bookies, and by the talking heads. In 2003--no way could the disheveled, one-hit-wonder Patriots ever face down the Colts' offensive juggernaut. In 2004--now the Colts had a built-up defense and the Patriots had no chance. The Colts had gotten a rule of the game changed, even, between those two seasons, the better to prevent at least one of the Pats' strategies from being used against them again. Expert after expert picked the Colts; the Peyton Manning lovefest continued unabated. Brady, at the time, was beginning to get more recognition from some quarters, but a number of the national pundits still argued he was simply an inferior quarterback to Manning. The heavily favored Colts then again faced the Patriots in 2004. And again, the underdog rose to the challenge--the underdog being the guys in red, white and blue, a fact that, after three Super Bowls and four postseason appearances, appears to have been lost in the shuffle.
And so, after five years of predicted Colts dominance, the Colts finally got a chance to face the Patriots indoors, at home, against a Patriots squad that some felt had no business even being in the game in the first place, and once again with the force of the national prediction-makers behind them, and finally, in the game's final minutes, they managed to beat us by four points.
Now, apparently, the Colts are America's Team and their defeat of the Patriots is an upset for the ages.
Guys. Pick a side.
I'm not going to sit here and act like the Pats weren't at fault. I absolutely refuse in this instance to blame the officiating, for example. And I mean, why did the Pats defense come out soft in the third quarter? Was it exhaustion of some sort on their part, or an ill-advised coaching adjustment? And yes, blasphemy though it is, I will even say that if Brady's last-second drives are the foundation of his legend, his last-second mistake in this game must also be taken into account. Seriously. This is not excuse-making for the Pats or the way they played.
But let's also be consistent and truthful about the Colts. Let's not cherry-pick from amongst our recollections and recast the Colts as a scrappy, plucky bunch of underdogs fighting the good fight against the Evil Empire. Let's call a spade a spade and call a repeatedly favored, talent-loaded team that finally managed to pull out their long-predicted win what they really are. Not the underdog, but chronic underachievers.
Let's also remember who the real underdogs have always been--the Patriots, so certain to suffer this loss for lo these last 36 months. You can say just about anything else you want to me about the Patriots' failure yesterday, and chances are I'll probably agree with you. But please, let's not call it an upset.