If you ever get the chance to sit down with a New England sports fan for a serious conversation after they've had a drink or two, you might find out the truth about our experience as fans this last decade.
We rarely have the guts to admit it even to ourselves, but winning, it doesn't mean as much as it used to. The Patriots 2003-4 championships weren't as thrilling as the one of 2001. The 2007 Red Sox World Series win pales in comparison to the '04 one. For me and many others, nothing was as exciting as that one, and probably nothing ever will be.
The Celtics in '08 and Bruins in '11 were great in their way and made me happy, but I've become accustomed to winning. It didn't have the feel of breaking an 86 year old curse or upsetting the "greatest show on turf" on the last play of the game with (what was then) a backup QB.
On second thought, on some levels I'll never really get accustomed to winning. Not as an identity. I became a sports fan in the early 90's and I still think of myself as a fan of loser teams. The one that always comes so close only to drop the ball (sometimes literally) at the last second, or the one that is such a rotten ticket, that home games are regularly blacked out.
When fans of other teams say they hate mine because they always win, I feel confused. Honestly, I do.
But going back to my previous thought, how the latest victories didn't mean as much as the first ones – not when it comes to Super Bowl 46. Nope, this one, this one is for all the marbles. The Patriots players can talk all they want about "no revenge factor", but for us fans, HELL YEA, we want revenge. Four years ago it was supposed to be ours. On the way to watching the game at a local pub, I was so sure of it; playing the game was a formality, this was the best team ever.
David Tyree, then Manning to Burress, I felt like I got hit with a ton of bricks. It felt really, really bad. In my life time as a fan only 'bleeping Aaron Boone' felt as bad. Fans who remember earlier times likely would compare it to Buckner and Dent.
That's why this time, if the Pats win, it'll feel great again. It really really would.
So I'll be watching the same stage featuring the same teams, in the same pub, looking for a different outcome and a very different feeling.
Tom Brady says he isn't thinking about the last time around. Well, his fans certainly are.
Photo by Keith Allison (originally posted to Flickr as Tom Brady) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons