In his dying moments, Darth Vader, limp in the arms of his son Luke Skywalker, says, “Luke, you were right.” He is of course speaking to Luke’s long-held belief that Darth, né Anakin Skywalker, could be redeemed, that there was good in him and hope for his soul despite, you know, being the biggest bad guy in the galaxy.
Well, I’m no intergalactic supervillain. Nor do I think I’m on my deathbed, (though this wild football season and traumatic year aren’t over yet). But I am always looking for a reason to draw a life parallel from the Star Wars universe in my life and work. And I’m here now to tell you that you were right. You were right ... about the 2020 Patriots.
Are you happy now?
I’m not, obviously. And it’s disappointing. Not my displeasure, rather the fact that the 2020 Patriots just aren’t good enough. Not good enough to play with consistency. Not good enough to win when they’re not at their best. Not good enough to make the playoffs.
You told me these Patriots weren’t very good. That with opt-outs and free agency and bad drafts that the lump sum meant they weren’t playoff caliber. That they’d be better off losing more often than winning, which they’ve done to date this season. I told you they were better than you thought (and I still believe that, despite their record and inconsistent showings). That they could find a way with effort, heart, development and great coaching to win enough games to be in the postseason hunt. That there is no way a team led by Bill Belichick would ever lose multiple games on purpose (now’s not the time to bring up the last game of the 2005 season).
I affirmed my belief in this team time and again, with passion and defiance, on the radio, in articles, social media, wherever possible. Not just because that’s what Superfans do. (Well, actually it is.) But also I’ve seen a lot of football in my day, 40-plus years of the Patriots no less. You replied, just as passionately, on the phone, in the comment sections, in-person (from an acceptable social distance), with just as much belief and vigor. And it turns out the Patriots are who you thought they were. OK, they are who WE thought they were. I just didn’t want to admit it. But that’s because I’m a diehard and sometimes we don’t like the truth to getting in the way of our joy.
Realizing if not accepting the fate of the 2020 Patriots is a tough pill to swallow. Given the challenges of the year for the team, and all of us, each and every win has been extra satisfying. Holding out hope, which is something we’ve had in apocalypse-pantry level supplies around here the past twenty years, is second-nature. Just as waking up each day believing the postseason was a given, an AFC Championship appearance likely. That’s all changed now. Things are very different in Foxboro, everywhere really. Yet some us felt like there was enough holdover talent, newfound skill, gridiron knowledge and luck, maybe a little magic to get someplace special. Doesn’t seem to be the case.
Turns out it’s a different medley of issues that have led to the 2020 Patriots’ lackluster record. We’re not here to itemize them to our displeasure, or harangue a team that already is disappointed enough in where they find themselves. They’ll be what they’ll be (tried to put a spin on the is what it is thing there for you). Their inability to close out games, to do the little things they did so well for so long to win is only part of what I’m addressing. It’s super awkward, like going through some sort of puberty that robs you of your superpowers, seeing the Patriots become the other team that they beat for 20 years. They’ve morphed into the team that was really close but came up short against the Pats, and then said we were just a player or just a play or two away from ... you get it. Oh but the cruel irony!
Wow, this is a lot of reality for someone who was not a huge fan of accepting it or having to digest in one article. No topping that makes the humble pie go down any easier.
Owning up to their shortcomings and realizing that the season likely ends just after the start of 2021 is something I need to do. It doesn’t make me feel any better. It will just make every victory along the way more enjoyable, despite your belief that they should lose more for a better draft pick. My expectations have been tempered, yet my passion remains the same. And should they pull out a miracle it will return that feeling of what miracles are supposed to be like as opposed to expecting them, which became the norm in the region. Just not this year.
So yes, in closing, to help me and many others move on, recalibrate and show that I have something resembling a grasp on reality I am owning up to the gross reality that the season is likely over at about the same time that, for about two decades, we believed it was just beginning. Things may change again soon. The coaches are still great. There are some good players to build around. Draft, free agency, blah blah...For now, this is the new normal for Pats fans. And it sucks. Drink.
I’m not happy about it, because I love this team, and they so desperately wanted to prove me right, and you wrong. But you were right. Are you happy now?