The Indianapolis Colts v. History (i.e. the New England Patriots)
All of America – including our team here at Venuist – has been cracking jokes at poor Jim Caldwell’s expense these past few days. We even ran a fake story comparing the Colts’ organizational caution (some would and have called it err, cowardice) against the Patriots batshit crazy play calling back in Indy in November (fourth and 2, anyone?); that is, a call which likely cost Patriots the game and maybe even momentum enough to carry them to one of the top postseason seeds.
When comparing Belichick and Co’s balls-be-damned attempt at ending the Colts unbeaten games streak on that fateful fourth down with the manner in which the Colts finally put the same streak to an end on what were evidently their own, chosen terms, the meaning seems to be lost on many of the commentators who have since chimed in.
The Colts shrank against greatness.
Ask a random sample of 10-20 New England Patriots fans today if they would rather have woken up with the double-indemnified hangover of 3 or 4 too many Sunday night beers and a last-second defeat to the Colts this November than see their team tank a game to a .500 Jets team with a perfect season on the line and I guarantee you’ll get 10-20 “hell-no’s” in response. No, in fact, Pats fans will tell you, once the hot sting of defeat has passed into the satisfaction of historical reflection that the overwhelming feeling which remains is pride.
Pats fans have pride that they have a head coach who consistently shows that he would rather try to step on an opponents throat than call a game “not to lose.” And yeah, they are very prideful that their 2007 squad played their asses off – and nearly lost, people forget this – to the Giants in a regular season match-up which had no impact on the playoff seeding in the AFC. Most of all, they are damn proud to know that their chief rivals in Indianapolis have often shown the opposite virtues in both victory and defeat.
On Sunday evening, the cold realization of this same fact evidently struck many Colts fans with terrific ferocity, “we don’t have, have not had, don’t know where to get, that killer instinct.” In the past 10 years, the Colts have fielded some of the best teams ever assembled in the history of the NFL. They have one title banner to show for it. They have the most regular season wins, the greatest athlete in the league, and one championship earned in a hurricane one Miami night.
Colts fans know this, just like they know that the Pats pissed away that AFC Championship game and that the Bears failed to show up for that Super Bowl. And don’t get me wrong they’ll take it. No sweat. It’s just that up until Sunday night they had the ace of all ace cards waiting to be played. With the 2000s coming to an abrupt close (anyone else feel that way, or is that just The Venuist?) the Colts had the opportunity to win out with a perfect season and steal the mantle of “team of the decade” away from the Patriots like a thief in the February night.
Now that card is gone.
In related news, your team of the decade, America: the New England Patriots.
And somewhere, somewhere in cyberspace, right now, right his very second, is a Colts fan beating his head against a keyboard and his fist against the wall. That fan knows what this meant to his/her city, state, and fellow fans.
And far be it for you, the Peter Kings, Merril Hodges, Michael Silver and well, Bill Polians of this world to tell them that the pursuit of 19-0 was a fantasy, that it didn’t mean anything. Fuck you. It meant something. Again, in contrast, the 3 Super Bowls made the Pats the team of the decade. But playing like a demoniacally possessed terra cotta army awoken from a millenia of slumber to go perfect up until the 2008 Super Bowl will define the Patriots franchise forever. Forever when people think of Belichick and Brady and all of the rest, a chill will run down the spine. Forever will people say of Bill and Tom, “that is one bad, bad, bad dude.” And then they will tell the tales of how without David Tyree and his velcro helmet and a direct intervention by the football gods themselves, the 2007 Patriots would have defeated every force known to man and assimilated the entire world – not unlike the Borg – in 15 months time.
And yet, had Peyton Manning and his band of merry men gone in to the NFL title game this year 18-0 and favored to win it all, that Colts fan – who’s hopefully done mutilatin his/herself by now – would have known that no matter what happened, at least they could have made a case against New England fans for all of eternity. And even at that, it would have meant something. And if they had won…well, let’s not go there out of deference for our recovering friend in Indianapolis with the swollen forehead and hand.
Now, thanks to Caldwell and staff, anything short of a Super Bowl victory in 2010 will smart. It will hurt. It will bark like a war wound or an ugly divorce: forever. Anything less than a title will be, suffice it to say, a colossal dissapointment.
So don’t tell that fan that the pursuit of perfection was never the point.
And to that fan, Jim Caldwell’s name might as well be “Grady Little.”
[[Aside: only in American sports do we disregard "regular" season stats so speciously. When a European Football team goes undefeated - Arsenal had a stretch like this a few years back in the EPL - people sit back and say "what a shame" if they don't win the Champions League. What they DON'T say is that the perfect regular season was meaningless without a title earned from a extraneous tournament of champions. And fuck, should your team win both, you are absolutely GOLD, no doubt. But the import of winning out over the course of a demanding professional sports season, regardless of the sport, is sensational. This is why Celtics and Lakers fans across America would love to see their team win the magic 73 games to knock off Jordan's, I mean the Bulls', record of 72 games won. It's no joke. Point is, pick your favorite sport, you remember the undefeated teams. In fact, sometimes more so because every year yields a playoff/tournament champion. Your lucky if a century produces an undefeated season. Anyways. Just sayin'.]]