I Hate The Patriots...
But dammit... I respect 'em.
And it hurts to say that. Because I really, really, really, REALLY... DO NOT like them. What they pulled off during Super Bowl 51 was remarkable, and one of the most impressive feats that has ever occurred in professional sports. The fact that it happened in the Super Bowl in front of 111 million US viewers, just adds to the legend.
My hatred goes back a long way. More than 13 years ago, I had the opportunity to go to a Super Bowl. Being from Philadelphia, it was the first and only time, in my lifetime, the Eagles had ever made it to the ultimate championship in sports (they made it in 1980 but I was too young to remember, so it doesn't count ;-). I remember walking to the stadium in Jacksonville, Florida thinking, "Is this what heaven is like...?" Fans lined both sides of the streets. Philadelphians proudly and boisterously sung the Eagles fight song. In a frenzy of epic proportions, I walked with my friend, Joe, toward the stadium. As we looked down at the field and took our seats, I remember thinking... "This is it. This is where the Eagles dynasty will begin. Today we will be victorious. And I will be here to witness it."
And it was one of the best days of my life!
...Until it wasn't. The day turned out to not go our way. We lost to Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the Patriots 24-21, and I left the stadium feeling the exact opposite of the way I felt coming in. The hope turned to anguish, the excitement turned to pain, and the day that was supposed to be the best day of my life, ended up being just one of the best days of my life. Don't get me wrong, it was a great experience and one I will never forget. But to be so close to that sweet prize of winning the Super Bowl..?!?! Ugh. We decided to leave town that night, and drive back to Philly. And personally, if I never go to Jacksonville ever again, that is okay with me.
But I have to say something about their team. As I watch the last 16 years unfold, I can't help but be impressed of what this team, The New England Patriots, have been able to accomplish. Under Coach Belichick, who was hired in 2000, the Patriots have won their division 14 times, had 16 winning seasons, and now won the Super Bowl 5 times. The results they have created have been incredible. So what is it about this team that makes them SO DAMN GOOD??
It's the SYSTEM. And the coach that put this system in place, is about one thing. Not just winning. THE SYSTEM. Belichick coaches a team first mentality, over individual accomplishments. When a player strays from this, they are cut from the team or shipped elsewehere. He drafts players who are anchored to one goal... helping the TEAM win the Super Bowl. He is not flashy, friendly, charming, or overly-popular. He just puts his head down, goes to work, and gets the job done. Every minute of every day, year after year. He has a work ethic that is unmatched. And so the team takes on the face of their leader. They just put their heads down and go to work, every minute of every day, year after year.
So what's the lesson in all this? To me, it's not just about an exciting sporting event. All this Super Bowl madness led me to think about where in my life I can improve MY SYSTEM. Who am I listening to? Who do I care about impressing? And what am I willing to do to be better in every area of my life? How can I be the best husband & dad? How can I be more accountable to my friends, family and team? Am I willing to be a "Belichick"? I don't know yet, but I sure hope so.
Why do I hate the Patriots?
Because they're great. And i'm jealous. Extremely jealous. I want my team - the team I grew up watching every Sunday with my dad - the Philadelphia Eagles, to demonstrate that type of leadership, and that kind of commitment to a goal. To a system.
I may not like the Patriots. But dammit, I respect 'em.