Right to the very end, the Patriots played the role of the villain in a way we haven’t seen in sports since Isiah Thomas was playing for the Detroit Pistons. Perfectly one might say.
There was Bill Belichick, the ultimate heel, running off the field with time still on the clock, unwilling to watch the end of his team’s unbeaten season. To borrow the oft-used phrase about another one of the New England region’s heroes, it was just Bill being Bill. A classless move to complete a classless season, filled with ran-up scores and a scandal that now appears to go back as far as the Patriots’ first Super Bowl victory.
In a lot of ways, the Patriots, starting with Belichick, were a microcosm of everything wrong with sports in recent years. They employed an immensely gifted player who completely threw in the towel on his previous team. One of their safeties, considered the dirtiest player in the league, was suspended for using performance enhancing drugs. And of course, they were caught videotaping another team’s signals.
They were not loveable, not like baseball’s World Champions. They brought in the epitome of the me-first player and they had a steroid user and they cheated for god sakes. But still, they hadn’t lost heading into the final game, one they were favored to win by 12 points. Evil was sure to prevail this time.
But there was Eli Manning, Peyton’s brother, the goofy kid from Mississippi, someone who couldn’t deliver Tom Brady’s flowers, leading a drive it seemed like only Brady was capable of constructing. And just like that, good stopped evil right in its tracks.
And all was right in the world.