Patriots, perfection, and provincialism

November 15, 2007 at 5:03 pm Leave a comment

The New England Patriots are the only undefeated team left in the National Football League this season. The Boston Celtics are similarly sizzling, having won their first seven games in the National Basketball Association. What does this perfection mean for New England and its crazed sports fans?

Everything and nothing.

Once, New Englanders had a sense of history. Boston Globe sports columnist Dan Shaughnessy chronicled this sense in his Red Sox skald “The Curse of the Bambino,” when he wrote that Sox fans who remember the Impossible Dream season of 1967 could recite what happened in a decisive inning against the Minnesota Twins faster than they could with their own phone numbers. The hegemony of history permeating New England soil has informed its sports fans, so that in this area, at least, Boston arguably remains the Athens of America.

Unfortunately, New England is losing this historical awareness. The recent successes of both the Patriots and Celtics have led fans to display an embarrassing amnesia. Patriots fans are ready to award a fourth Super Bowl title to head coach Bill Belichick, while Celtics fans think that seven regular-season games are enough evidence to confer a championship.

The Patriots’ performance thus far is impressive, but other teams have matched and bettered it in recent years. The Indianapolis Colts went 9-0 in 2005 and 2006, while the Denver Broncos went 13-0 in 1998. The Celtics look equally formidable, but they need to maintain this level over an 82-game season. Final records do not necessarily mirror early returns; the 1993-94 squad began with a 6-2 record and ended with a 32-50 mark.

Nor does a strong regular season guarantee postseason success. The Minnesota Vikings and Pittsburgh Steelers both took 15-1 regular-season records into the NFL playoffs and failed to reach a Super Bowl. The Dallas Mavericks had the best record in the NBA last season, but still lost to the Golden State Warriors in the playoffs. In a time when the playoffs consist of many teams and many rounds, it is easier for regular-season royalty to miss a championship coronation.

This should not detract from the accomplishments of both this season’s Patriots and Celtics. Patriots fans may wonder whether the hardly-halcyon days of unfortunate first-round draft picks and last-place seasons really happened, while Celtics fans have a talented trio to celebrate in Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. The successes of both teams are welcome. But New Englanders need to remember what Garnett said after the Celtics defeated the Indiana Pacers, 91-69, on Wednesday to stay perfect. “We don’t want to disrespect the history of this great franchise,” he said. “I think we’re a lot more in tune to what we’re not doing well versus the things we are doing well.” Wise words for fans as well as players.

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Entry filed under: Basketball, Boston Celtics, Football, New England Patriots, sports. Tags: , , , , , , , , , .

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