Monday, November 19, 2007

On the couch, week 11 (the Patriots)

At this point, Bill Simmons is deliberately trying to irritate every non-Boston sports fan, right? It has to be on purpose, right? That's the only explanation.

Consider this passage from Simmons on the possibility that the Colts could miss the AFC Championship Game:

"The Patriots fan in me is furious because a 19-0 season wouldn't feel quite the same if they didn't beat the Colts twice.

" You know what it's like, actually? When the '86 Celtics were slapping together the greatest NBA season ever, they avenged the '85 Finals in two regular-season wins over the Lakers, rolled through the East in the playoffs and were poised to destroy Showtime as we knew it. So what happened? The Lakers never showed up! They got smoked in the West finals by an underrated Houston team. To this day, every Celtics fan feels cheated by the fact we didn't get the Lakers."

Dear Mr. Simmons,

We're sorry that the last time your favorite basketball team won a championship, they didn't get to beat the Lakers to make the experience even more special for you. That must have been tough. We'll also be sorry if your favorite football team doesn't get to beat the Colts in the playoffs this season to make a fourth Super Bowl and an undefeated season even more special for you. I know that will be difficult.

Fans of teams that have never won a championship.

Randy Moss
Randy Moss is quite possibly my favorite athlete of all-time. When he was a Viking, I dreamed that Moss could break Jerry Rice's single-season touchdown reception record of 22. I had such joy watching his spectacular catches: I used to tape the games so that I could come back, again and again and again, to see the mind-boggling receptions. Little gave me more joy in life than a Randy Moss touchdown.

Now Randy Moss has 16 TD receptions in 11 games, threatening Jerry Rice's record. Now Moss is rejuvenated, making spectacular catches every game, continually topping himself.

But I can't enjoy it at all. I can barely watch the games he plays in (and I often choose not to). That Moss's spectacular play is helping Tom Brady, the Patriots, and the spoiled fans of Boston sports teams, just galls me. It's made this NFL season really difficult to follow. Randy Moss's brilliance for the Patriots is even harder for me to take than Brett Favre's brilliance for the 9-1 Packers. I basically want to follow the Vikings and ignore the rest of the league. I could be enjoying watching the brilliant offense that is the Randy Moss-Tom Brady Patriots. They are ruthlessly good. But I can't. I get no pleasure from it at all. The Patriots are the best team ever. They're 10-0 and have outscored their opponents 411-157. And it just makes me sad.

King Lear
King Lear questions the existence of divine justice. Some characters assert that there are gods in the heavens that punish the wicked and reward the good. Other characters suggest moral character and earthly reward are unrelated, and the events of the play suggest an amoral, indifferent, or perhaps even malevolent universe.

Though King Lear cannot offer us comfort, it can offer us a context in understanding sports. Sports fan pleasure is distributed unequally: fans of some teams get a lot of pleasure, while fans of other teams get very little pleasure. This unequal distribution is not tied to morality, for what, in essence, is the difference between a 49er fan, a Viking fan, a Patriot fan, a Browns fan, an Eagle fan, a Bills fan? Fans of a team don't do anything to deserve pleasure or misery. It just happens, with no sense of fairness or reason, no punishment or reward. Patriot fans currently get a lot of pleasure, while fans of all sorts of other teams get a lot of disappointment. There's no moral reason. There's no fault. Nothing is deserved. It just happens. Patriot fans don't deserve all sorts of pleasure, in the same way Bills fans don't deserve all sorts of misery.


  1. Anonymous2:52 PM

    moss has 16 tds in 10 games, not eleven. after last night all hope i had about brady not breaking the record are dead and now i can only hope he only breaks it by 1 or 2 and not 10. i give alot of the credit to moss who carried some sad sack qbs to great heights in his day--you have to give alot of the credit to moss and co--and i think moss deserves his 24 or 25 tds or whatever he ends up with. if not for tom brady's year i wouldn't even mind moss wasn't doing this for the packers, which he would be, had we traded for him.


  2. Anonymous3:43 PM


    Are you implying that Tom Brady is some sad sack qb also. Let us remember that Moss did not carry the sad sack QBs that were in Oakland. Yes he made Jeff George, Randall Cunningham, and Daunte Culpepper great QBs, but they were good QBs also.

    It is true that Brady would not be having the year he is having if he didn't have Randy Moss, but its not like Brady is some stiff that Randy Moss all of the sudden turned into a great QB.

    Tom Brady has won more Super Bowls than your beloved Brett Favre (who is one of the all-time great QBs), but why does everyone hate on Tom Brady. The guy works hard to do what he does on the field.

    Do I hate the fact that Boston fans get to enjoy so much athletic success? Yes. Does this stop me from admiring the greatness of the Patriots? No. Just like I give respect to Brett Favre as being one of the best QBs all-time and being a guy who could lead his team to victory, I would say the same for Tom Brady.

    Insert Matt Cassell into the starting QB slot and New England becomes a far less dominant team and dare I say possibly a .500 team.

  3. Anonymous3:48 PM


    You should be able to admire and enjoy watching greatness like Randy Moss even if it means that Boston fans are getting all the enjoyment. It sucks for us as fans of Minnesota sports teams, but sometimes you just have to enjoy watching the greatness of some players.

    I would watch every Patriot game if I had the chance because I cannot help but admire the greatness of that team.

    What I am sick of more than anything is the whole outrage/debate over the Patriots running up the score (something you touched on earlier). These are grown men doing their job. In the business world you are rewarded and applauded for excelling against your competition and if you are beating them you don't let of the trigger, you continue to excel. The Patriots are proving that defenses just don't have an answer for their weapons and if a team cannot figure out how to stop them well then they should just face the fact that they are inferior and either rise to the occasion to stop them or hang their heads in disgust.

  4. Jim Caple wrote an interesting article about the Boston sports scene on Page 2.

  5. Anonymous4:46 PM

    Jim Caple's article was hilarious. I couldn't help but laugh.

  6. Anonymous7:29 AM

    tom brady's no stiff. never implied it. the caliber of the quarterback though is not matched by the caliber of the numbers in this case nor those other cases. at least i'm saying its impossible to say tom brady's best is twice as good as joe montana's even though montana often had comparable talent around him and a comparable genius for a coach.


  7. Anonymous7:32 AM

    i think patriots are talented enough to be 6-3 or 7-2 with just about any nfl qb. no way does tom brady make pats 30 points better than every other team. they are probably the greatest team ever. if they win a title obviously you have to say they are the greatest.


  8. It's true: something has to happen for a QB with a career high of 28 TD passes to have 38 or something in 10 games. That something is largely Randy Moss, Donte Stallworth, and Wes Welker (though do we hold it against Brady that his success is reliant on these WRs, or admire how well he performed with stiffs last season?).

    But another consideration. Brady led the league in TD passes in 2002, and passing yards in 2005. He is a QB who is capable of being statistically the best in the league. Combine that with this wacky season in which rules/talent/scheme seem to be all adding up to a crazy statistical year for passing. Brady might throw 50+, but Romo is looking ready to throw 40+, and Roethlisberger, who has never thrown 20 TDs, had 20 TDs through 8 games this year. We're seeing a lot of great numbers this year: a whole bunch of QBs could end up with 30+ TDs. Everything is colliding to make Brady a great season--and Brady's superiority to history is still superiority within a context of a pass-happy league.

  9. Anonymous11:28 AM

    Ron Jaworski had some interesting comments on PTI yesterday about how the Cover-2 can be exploited by schemes especially with talented WRs like Moss, Owens, etc that can stretch the field. He suggested that the Cover-2 should be adjusted by putting the more athletic CB back at the Safety position to man the half fields and let the more physical safeties jam the receivers at the line.

    It is interesting, but I wonder if offensive schemes would just then take advantage of short slant routes, etc. to take advantage of the Safeties.

    Who knows, but yes the context of Brady's year must be acknowledged. Of course Manning's year there were successes of other QBs that threw for their best seasons (ala Daunte Culpepper).

    Fact is this year is a pass happy year as PV mentioned.