I know that if lived in some other city, one where they hate Boston teams and Boston fans — which is to say, every other sports town in America — I know what I’d be doing this week. In the wake of the Patriots’ epic failure. I’d be perusing sites like this one. I’d be combing through the major sports outlets and every blog I could find looking for Bostonians who are wallowing in misery and licking their wounds so I could make festive cocktails out of their salty tears.
I know I’d do it because I’ve done it. I can’t count how many times a Boston team has won a huge game or a postseason series and I’ve spent the days following going through the other town’s web sites spelunking for all the finger-pointing, name-calling and blame-gaming and basking in the warm, glowing, Schadenfreudey goodness of it all.
Well if that’s what you’re after, then you’ve come to the wrong city. And the wrong column. If you think the loss to the Jets was more than we can handle, then you obviously haven’t been paying attention all these years.
Make no mistake, this was a terrible loss. One, because the Patriots were heavy favorites. Two, because things set up perfectly for legitimate shot at another championship. Third, and most significantly, because of all the smack talk that had gone on in the days and weeks leading up to it.
The Jets players were F-bombing Tom Brady. Wes “Mr. Subliminal” Welker fired back so he got threatened with physical harm. I was in the Gillette parking lot shooting a Fanthropology video for WEEI.com before the game, and the Jets fans were cocky to the point of arrogance. Pats fans were arrogant to the point of cockiness. Nothing but drunken bravado and booze-fueled swagger all around.
And to lose a game with all that riding on it after all that trash talk is a miserable experience. The most insufferable kid in school pulled our undies over our head in front of everyone and for now, there’s not a damned thing we can do but take it.
But as bad losses go, this one is nothing. We’ve had far, far worse. In Boston, we don’t lick a wound like this. We squeeze the pus onto our pancakes like syrup because we eat losses like this for breakfast. The rest of the country might think the Jets cut our legs off with this one, but as the Black Knight said to King Arthur, ’tis but a scratch.
It’s way too soon for Big Picture time or for putting the season in perspective and all that. I’m not ready to talk about the Pats’ expectations going into the year or how many draft picks they have or that the future is so bright we gotta wear welder’s helmets. As for right now, this sucks. I’m just saying that I refuse to give any fans in any other town the satisfaction of a pity party.
Bostonians are too tough for that. We’re descended from the people who risked their lives to come over on the Mayflower and carve a civilization out of the wilderness. (Actually they all live on Beacon Hill and down the Cape now.) But the rest of us are descended from the people who cleaned their gutters, collected their trash, filled their jails and kept them rich by doing it for crap money. It takes a lot more than a humiliating loss in front of a record TV audience to make us feel sorry for ourselves.
We’re Will Hunting without the math/floor buffer skills. “My father was an alcoholic. Mean F-in' drunk. Used to come home hammered, looking to whale on someone. ... He used to just put a belt, a stick, and a wrench on the kitchen table and say, ‘Choose.’ I used to go with the wrench. 'Cause F- him, that's why.”
Again, we’ve had lots worse. The kinds of losses that change your life. Or worse, sell Dan Shaughnessy books. At this point, do I need to rattle them off? Just in the last generation alone we’ve got the Red Sox in ’78, ’86 and ’03. The Patriots in ’76 and ’07. Hell, there’s no need for a history lesson. Last year alone the Bruins blew a 3-0 lead and the Celtics were leading by 13 with six minutes to go in Game 7. So in the grand scheme of things, losing to a rabble of mouthy cartoon characters like the 2010 NYJs will barely register a mention five years from now.
So if you’re one of those poor, soulless creatures from some other godforsaken part of the country and came here looking to bathe in our blood, I’m happy to disappoint you. Instead, though, let me offer you a little lesson in how we roll in the City of Auerbach. Here’s a look inside our heads you’re not going to get anywhere else from a lifelong Bostonian who’s seen more unsurvivable losses than 10 generations of Clevelanders, Seattlites and San Diego-ans … San Diegons … San Diegans ever have:
The 5 Stages of Boston Sports Grief
1. Dismay: This is the immediate aftermath of a loss like Sunday’s. It’s the one everyone felt walking out of Gillette to their cars, settling up their bar tabs, leaving their friend’s houses, or in my case walking out of Big O, Fred Smerlas and Steve DeOssie’s tent for the long ride home. Symptoms include confusion, bewilderment and disbelief. But it’s not just limited to the postgame. The onset can occur much earlier, such as when the Lakers started chipping away at the Celtics’ lead or around the time the Patriots couldn’t sustain a drive at the end of the half. Generally this is the shortest-lived stage as it quickly degenerates into:
2. Pissed Offedness: This stage is the life blood of sports talk radio. It often first appears on the car ride home and has been known to last for several weeks. In extreme cases it can result in calls for coaches to be fired (see Claude Julien all last spring). But with the Patriots this week, most reported cases involved second-guessing of the fake punt, the Welker benching and the usual talk about Belichick’s arrogance and Brady’s hair. I more or less skipped this stage and went straight to:
3. Isolation and Amnesia: With apologies to all my friends and family who kept sending me “WTF?” texts in the fourth quarter or all the readers of Barstool who assumed I killed myself, I prefer to deal with a loss like this with total denial. No phone, no NFL Network, the least amount of WEEI I can stand. After the Pats lost in the Super Bowl That Shall Not Be Named, My Irish Rose and I went to the movies to get away from it all. I even remember we decided to see “Cloverfield,” because I was in the mood to see New York get eaten. I’m sure a doctor would tell me it’s not healthy to skip the anger stage, but for now I’d rather just repress it. Let the rage grow and fester and come out months from now, maybe directed at Yankees fans on Opening Day or something. Anyway, I’m in the Amnesia stage for the time being, until I move onto:
4. Hope and Optimism: Believe it or not, in spite of everything you’ve always heard about that idiotic stereotype of the negative, defeatist New Englander, chasing curses and always thinking the worst is about to happen (thanks again, Shaughnessy), we’re not like that at all and never have been. Prior to the loss on Sunday, we even had the audaciousness of hope enough to believe that FOUR championships in 2011 were within our reach. That the city would be one continuous loop of duck boats; one championship parade leading right into the next. OK, now we have to settle for the Tiger Slam. Four titles at once, just not all in the same calendar year. It still takes balls to believe it could happen. But once the shock of this last defeat wears off, it won’t be unthinkable. Especially since our normal state of being is:
5. Arrogant Masshole: We’re not at this stage yet. And it may take a while. But this is our default setting. The one the rest of the country has come to know and hate. This most recent loss was a tough one to swallow, no doubt. But we’re used to these and they make the championships that much better. Last Sunday, we got the wrench, and once we get through the usual stages, we’ll be back for more. How you like them apples, New York?