The Other Side of Perfection

By Michael-Louis Ingram
Updated: December 6, 2007

PHILADELPHIA — After the New England Patriots squeaked by the Baltimore Ravens to go 12-0, word went out that New England’s path to 16-0 for the regular season would be unabated; a sheer inevitability.

Well, hold on thar’, pardner! As my man Slim Pickens said in “Blazing Saddles,” what in the wide world of sports is going on here?

What is going on should be providing fans of most NFL teams with an interesting dilemma; for what the Patriots have achieved thus far begs the question: Why isn’t every team playing like New England????????

With the league and its in-house cash cow (the NFL Network) doting on all things Patriot, I can only imagine the lack of foresight shown by all the other 31 teams in not cheating to gain an advantage shows that they’re not trying!

Seriously, though — you have all the athletes coming from basically the same talent pool; and all these cats lift the same iron and run the same drills.

So what made the Patriots the new ” America’s Team?” Let’s take a peek:

Good Drafts?

New England does have talent, and a lot was home-grown. Could it be dumb luck? Well, you do have to be lucky to be good — and who knows what would’ve happened had Drew Bledsoe not gotten injured.

Tom Brady has been great, and now with the nonpareil Randy Moss to expand the attack perimeter, Brady has looked more like Daryle “Mad Bomber” Lamonica than ever.

But let’s tip back to Moss, who right now is my choice for MVP. Why? Because just as Deion Sanders had the ability to shut off half the field with his speed and cover skills, Moss does the exact opposite in expanding the field and offering Brady more open targets, all matriculating into the wild green yonder.

Confidence on Steroids

Now before anyone gets any stupid notions, it’s a subheading, okay?

What I mean by that is out of the 70-plus receptions Moss has snagged thus far, at least a third of them are bail-out catches.

When a quarterback throws and his receiver turns a potential mistake or incompletion into a reception, that’s a bail-out. If a passer gets one or two of those a game, the announcers will say the quarterback is hot. If he gets four or five of those a game, the receivers, as a unit, are busting their ass for the quarterback.

And New England’s receivers are busting their ass because they know the one or two times the ball comes their way, they damn well better catch it, because they may not see it again.

Not because Moss is a ball-hog, but because he’s reliable. He has 17 touchdown catches, and it could easily be 21 without bullshit penalties and questionable camera reviews.

No doubt Wes Welker will likely name one of his kids “Randy” (if he ever has any) because of how much his presence has done for Welker’s being able to snag beaucoup balls from the slot. As a unit, the Patriot receivers’ confidence must be on steroids because their execution to date is so flawless.

Thanks to Moss, Brady is getting those four or five bail-outs a game, which answers one question about which the MVP should be predicated: does the player make everyone around him better?

In this case, the answer has to be a resounding yes. Would the Patriots be a good team without Moss? Sure they would; but would they be undefeated without Moss? No fucking way.

In every pressured situation when the so-called streak was on the line, Brady knew where to go, and he made no bones about it. In the game against the Indianapolis Colts, he went to Moss five times consecutively — including the bomb that set up the short touchdown.

Against Baltimore Monday night, Moss sopped up three defenders like gravy on a biscuit, freeing Jabar Gaffney to toe-dance the Pats to the victory.

The name of the game is match-up; and Moss provides Brady and the Pats with the ultimate match-up in the same manner Terrell Owens does for Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys.

But if I’m, say a season ticket holder for some other team, right now I’m mad as hell. The media spin to exalt New England to “greatest ever” proportions should only piss off most every other franchise.

I can look at teams like the Patriots, the Cowboys or the Indianapolis Colts and see that as a season ticket holder, I am getting my money’s worth because I know my hard-earned cash is well spent. I know my front office is putting in the time to find that missing piece each year because they expect to be at the Super Bowl.

You have teams like Green Bay, Pittsburgh, San Diego, Jacksonville and Seattle who have amassed talent, have had some modicum of recent post-season success and are trying to get over the hump into the elite class. As a season-ticket holder, hope springs eternal for me…

Then you have teams like Cleveland, Washington, Baltimore, the N.Y.Giants, Tennessee, Houston, Buffalo and San Francisco who are trying to pry open their window of opportunity. For teams like Buffalo and Cleveland, long-standing season ticket sufferers have an added incentive to scream from the Dawg Pound and Rich Stadium while they’re freezing their asses off…

But teams like Cincinnati and Philadelphia (and as an Iggles man, it pains me) are dogging out their season ticket holders by falsely advertising a professional football team.

In the case of the Cincinnati Bengals, the off-field arrests, suspensions and the attempts at attention by Chad Johnson to pump his ego when the results show the team is losing ball games is played out.

When you win, I don’t have a problem with you wanting to serve breakfast to Barbara Bush butt-nekkid in a bowtie.

But when you lose, put a lid on that bullshit. The fans don’t wanna see it either, especially after years of frustration with a front office that seemed to not know jack about putting a team together.

And in the Eagles’ case, they suck the life out of their best player (Donovan McNabb) for years and provide him with little help. Now the player who will be their best once McNabb leaves (don’t worry, he’s going) tailback Brian Westbrook, will have the life sucked out of him unless Kevin Kolb becomes the second coming of Peyton Manning.

If you think my logic is skewed, consider how Barry Sanders left the Detroit Lions — busting his ass for years — while a dead-roach quarterback like Scott Mitchell got the money, but couldn’t produce the desired results.

Sanders’ silence upon leaving and after spoke volumes because he knew the Lions weren’t trying to win ball games, and he wasn’t gonna get his ass racked because the front office wouldn’t give him the help needed to win a Super Bowl.

In that same vein, the Eagles have been making big bucks off of the faithful in Philly — and not providing a lot for the return. The 100 million or so Jeff Lurie scraped up to get to buy the team has morphed into almost a billion dollars and a 900% return on investment. Have they won consecutive NFC Championships? Sure — but most of that effort was contingent on a healthy McNabb and no credible depth to speak of.

So when you add up the four or five thousand for season tickets, and toss in say another $1000 to $1500 for seat licenses, you’ve dropped about seven grand; and that’s a lotta cheese steaks.

If you look at this as a consumer issue, and not as a sports fan, then the question has to be: what kind of a product or service is so valuable that no matter how good or bad the on-field performance is it does not depreciate in value?

And if nothing has that kind of value to you, then when do you ask for your money back?

Since the New England Patriots are showing everyone that excellence is worth striving for (whether you cheat or not) while the NFL is hyping these cats to be the best ever, they had better be concerned that some jaded fans may be asking out loud:

Why can’t my team do that?