“It is not enough that I should succeed. Others must fail.”
— Broadway producer David Merrick
When the Colts lost in excruciating fashion Sunday, I reacted like probably 95 percent of Patriots Planet did. With class and dignity and with the respect than any archrival deserves when it has just seen its greatest hope smashed on the rocks at the bottom of the Pit of Despair like it was registered to Charlie Sheen. Which is to say I wallowed in the Colts' misery with shameless, joyful abandon.
Admit it. If you’re any kind of a Patriots fan, you did the same. Sunday night we drank margaritas made with the Colts' figurative tears. Monday we bathed in their metaphorical blood. Tuesday we gnawed the last bits of meat from their proverbial bones. And by Wednesday, we’d taken those bones and arranged them to spell “COLTS SUCK” on their fictitious lawn.
And that’s really not such a bad thing, is it? I’ve heard some suggest that it’s beneath us. That Boston is the City of Champions and this business of reveling in some other team’s failures after our team got beat fair and square just makes us come off like a bunch of nitwits from some jerkwater, Podunk town.
But I don’t buy it. Granted, nothing compares to winning. The confetti cannons. The trophy presentations. Sideline reporters with their champagne-soaked dresses clinging to their gym-sculpted bodies. Calls from the White House. Duckboat parades. Championship DVDs. Nothing comes close.
But in lieu of all that, watching your hated rival stress-puke on itself like a 9-year-old National Spelling Bee nerd is the second-best option you have. It might not be much, but when you consider all a "Jeopardy!" runner-up gets is a year’s supply of Turtle Wax, feeding off your enemy’s pain isn’t the worst consolation prize one can have.
Besides, I think it’s human nature. It’s deep in the race to root for the failure of those who’ve gotten the better of you. From Greek tragedies to Shakespeare to Mr. McFly making Biff Tannen wash his car, we’ve always gotten entertainment from our rival’s failure. The first time homo sapiens started making bronze weapons, the neanderthals weren’t saying “Geez, you’ve got to hand it to them. They’ve really done a great job with that whole walking-upright offense of theirs and I hope they kill all the woolly mammoths they can eat.” Hell, no. They were rooting for the mastodons to run up the score on the pampered little cave-dwellers so they could come in and claim whatever carcass was left lying around.
It’s so common that the Germans have a word for it, which by now we’re all familiar. Schadenfreude. Literally, “shameful joy.” Why the Germans would need a word to describe enjoying other people’s misery is anyone’s guess. But like Vince the ShamWow guy says, the Germans always come up with good stuff.
But still there are those who just don’t get it, who think we’re wrong for taking so much pleasure in the Colts’ loss. In the days leading up to the Super Bowl, as it became clear that most of New England was rooting for the Saints, we got lectured by much of the Boston media, which said it made us sound like a bunch of provincial, small-town, self-absorbed yahoos. And that if we were as sophisticated and mature as the press is, we’d be appreciating the greatness of the Colts with the same degree of theydeservecredit-ism and you’vegottohandittothem-ness as the media does.
Well if this be yahooism, then I say let’s make the most of it. If reveling in the Colts' misery and relishing the look on Peyton Manning’s face when Terry Porter ran that pick-six on him is wrong, then I don’t want to be right.
And this doesn’t just go for the Colts. Through most of our lifetimes, Boston fans have been scolded by the local press about the Yankees. Personally, my deep-seeded abhorrence of them goes back to my childhood, which was the Thurman Munson/Reggie Jackson Yankees. And even then I was being told you had to respect them, they play the game right, they perform in the clutch, give 'em credit, blah, blah, blah. And in the Derek Jeter era, we’ve been told time and time again you can’t hate this edition of the pinstripes. Which comes as news to those of us who’ve never had any problems doing just that.
Take the 2001 World Series. I imagine there’s not a man, woman or child among us who’ve ever rooted for the Arizona Diamondbacks at any time other than those seven games. Or had reason to. But the ending of that series is somewhere in my top 10 all time non-Boston sports moments. And watching Arizona win had the added benefit of starting a lifelong love affair with the D-Backs' paunchy, overly talkative, right-wing crackpot with the obsessions for video games and winning big games against New York. But to most of the media in this town, admitting you were rooting against Yankees was like saying you keep Old Glory on a cardboard roll on the wall of your bathroom.
Last October, one writer went so far as to say we should be rooting for New York. His logic being that the Yankees hadn’t won a championship in a while, and if they did, it would make the Sox-Yankees rivalry even better. To which I responded by saying that’s like the Allies hoping the Axis powers won WWI because it would make WWII so much more interesting.
But getting back to the Colts, one of the claims I keep hearing is that Peyton Manning’s epic failure doesn’t improve Tom Brady’s legacy at all. And this coming from the same columnists who had been arguing for weeks that Manning’s inevitable second championship was going to propel him ahead of Brady as the best QB of his era. So did it? Did it add one victory to Brady’s win total or give him another MVP Cadillac? No. But sports is like school. We grade on the curve. You might do all right on a test, but if some guy in the class skips the drunken bubble hockey tournament to study and does better, your grade doesn’t look so hot. Coming into this year, Brady was the valedictorian of his QB class. And Manning’s ill-advised throw widened the gap even further. Ron Borges and Dan Shaughnessy might not be happy about it, but I sure am.
So does that make me a bad guy? Does enjoying the suffering of other teams and their fans make me a bad Christian? More so than a lifetime of swearing, drunken debauchery, surfing dirty websites and stealing office supplies? Does it make me no better than Homer Simpson, resenting Ned Flanders’ happy homelife and rooting for the Leftorium to go belly up? Honestly, I don’t know and I don’t care. All I know is it’s fun. Not as much fun as actual winning, but it’ll do. After all, even in Boston not every team wins every championship every year. And we’ve got to do something to pass the time in between titles. So if I have to wait another 12 months to see Brady and Belichick hoisting the Lombardi, then taking pleasure in Peyton Manning’s pain is as good a way as any.