We’re only a few days away from the Super Bowl, and I haven’t heard anyone talking about the game. I had lunch a few days ago with four male friends, and literally not one word was spoken about Super Bowl LI. Donald Trump and his antics were discussed ad nauseum, but football didn’t come up once.
It’s not just because of Trump, of course. It’s also because nobody is particularly excited about this Super Bowl match-up. This has to be the least buzzworthy Super Bowl since — well, maybe ever. Who cares about the Atlanta Falcons, and how many times can a person watch the New England Patriots, anyway?
But let’s pause for a moment to at least give a nod to the Patriots, their grumpy and rumpled head coach Bill Belichick, and their quarterback, Tom Brady. Since Belichick has become the Patriots’ top dog in 2000, they’ve made the NFL playoffs in all but three years. They haven’t missed the playoffs since the 2008 season. And, even more impressive, the Patriots, Belichick, and Brady have made it to six Super Bowls during that run, winning four of them. That’s why it seems like the Patriots are in every Super Bowl as a matter of federal law.
What’s remarkable about all of this is that the NFL is specifically designed to crush any possibility of the kind of dynasty the Patriots have become. The NFL seeks parity above all else. Regular-season schedules are set up so the strong play the strong and the weak play the weak, with the league hoping that everybody ends up with an 8-8 record and fans who are hoping for a playoff spot up until the very last game of the season. And, of course, after every year players who have done well who have become free agents can go to other teams, and assistant coaches can be hired to be head coaches elsewhere, and the playing and coaching talent gets redistributed.
The Patriots, however, refuse to participate in the NFL’s regime of enforced mediocrity. They lose players and coaches, but under Belichick and Brady they always fill the holes and just keep rolling along. In a world where everything conspires against them — thereby feeding Belichick’s innate sense of paranoia — the Patriots somehow rise above and just keep winning. Their run is as remarkable, in a positive way, as the Browns’ record of consistent and crushing futility is on the negative side.
So we’ve got to tip our cap to the New Englanders. Of course, that doesn’t mean we have to actually watch them, again, in this Super Bowl.