They Were a Quiet Team, Kind of Kept to ThemselvesFor once, I feel sorry for my former colleagues in the sports commentary racket, er, honored trade. Trying to find something different, let alone new, to say about the 2012 New England Patriots leaves one out in the rain one bus stop short of impossible.
Seldom has any team validated conventional wisdom as have these Pats. They were among the preseason favorites to win the Super Bowl. As of now in Vegas, they're THE favorite. They were prohibitive favorites to win the AFC East. They've already done that. They were supposed to have one of the league's best offenses. Take away the words "one of" and there's another trite forecast come true. The seekers of the obvious said in August that New England was integrating a goodly number of newcomers into its defense, which would result in some struggles but also in eventual improvement. If you're scoring at home, Obvious now leads by three touchdowns.
The Pats, in short, have had about as placid a season as their chaotic sport allows. Such is the power of their bland that even Monday night's game with the Texans cannot disturb it. It'll be damn near value-free entertainment. Win, and New England will be even more of a Super Bowl favorite. Whoopee. Lose, and the Pats will really lose nothing but prestige, an asset where they carry a large surplus on the books.
The New England franchise, particularly leaders Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, is famous for presenting a public front insisting that little of public interest is transpiring in its existence except on game days. Doubtless all Patriots are happy that this fall they're actually telling gospel truth, and they should be. There are only two ways to achieve tranquility in the NFL. Either win a lot, or be Jacksonville.
So what's a commentator to do? I dunno. No city is ever short of commentators eager to shout "Rah!"
for the home team, and Boston has its share. That's demeaning as well as dull. Were I still professionally employed, I'd probably have focused on the new guys. Becoming part of an already successful football team is not an easy chore, and their stories might be of some interest to fans or even just plain folks.
I know what I wouldn't do, though. I wouldn't take what is a depressingly popular role among the commentariat -- the pigskin concern troll. I would neither pick nits nor spend any time fretting over possible negative future events for the Pats as if I was one of those anonymous "senior Democratic aides/officials/legislators" who're always being quoted in "Politico." That would be demeaning, dull AND ridiculous.
Every sports team on earth has a significant percentage of fans who live to worry. Those Bud Light commercials capture them quite well. Just like the theme music, they believe in things they can't understand, and what they believe is that doom is nigh. Their season, whatever the sport, always ends on December 21, 2012. Hey, I'm from Philadelphia, which has the highest percentage of such fans of anyplace. It took me almost 30 years of fandom to realize that's no way to root. Or live.
The paid concern trolls are catering to those poor devils. It's easy work, and can be quite lucrative. Right, Glenn Beck? But when commenting on a winning team, it requires ever more contorted intellectual gymnastics, maneuvers which leave the commentator looking as foolish as a rhythmic gymnast.
Here's a laughable notion that gained some currency this week due to ignorance, intellectual dishonesty, or both. The Pats haven't "played anybody." I'm tempted to respond "If so, how'd Gronkowski get hurt?" because that's the junior high level of retort it deserves. In sober truth, and by NFL rule, since the Pats and Texans both won their divisions last year, they were given pretty much the same damn schedule for 2012. Given that the NFC West has proven much stronger than was predicted, the Pats have had a more difficult road to hoe than conventional summer wisdom believed. It's one of their few surprises.
The whole idea is stupid anyway. Nobody gets to schedule Florida International or Wofford in the NFL. The Jets and Raiders are about as far as one can go in that direction. Know who didn't "play anybody", and caught enormous flak for it all season long? The 1972 Dolphins. History has taken a different view.
Being occasionally provocative is one of a commentator's duties. But a constant search for provocation is as tiresome as any other schtick. In my experience, readers, listeners and viewers are fond of good news. If you can't make good news interesting to others, perhaps commentary was not meant to be your life's work.
The news today is the Pats are good. It's not much news, but it's all we've got.