Saturday, February 2, 2008

Super Craze

It's the day before the Super Bowl, and our nook of New England is in a super frenzy.

People are walking around decked in their New England Patriots gear. They're wearing Patriots winter jackets, Patriots sweatshirts, Patriots ball caps. Pickups drive by with Patriots bumper stickers. A local bar has a huge blowup figure of a Patriots offensive lineman straddling one of its entrances. I saw a woman this morning in the post office with a Patriots Santa hat. A diner has a poster in the front window that reads "G-Men + Pats Wow!" Across the street, a pizza and bakery was alerting customers to beat the rush with a handmade placard that says, "Order your Super Bowl Pizza's Now!" I guess punctuation can be sacrificed during such times.

Our town even painted the center stripe on the main street red, white and blue – the Patriots colors. Then again, that's left over from the Fourth of July parade, but, hey, it works, right?

While people are excited, it doesn't feel the same as when the Patriots played in their first Super Bowl (of the current streak) in 2002. I remember that one vividly. I had been living in Rhode Island just a year and knew only a handful of people. None of them were really sports fans, so come Super Bowl, I walked from my apartment to a bar in downtown Providence to watch the game. I was nervous I would be able to get a seat for the game, so I arrived at a place called Blake's a couple of hours early. There were maybe five people there. As the game drew closer, though, more began arriving. Even better, many of them had come alone, and soon enough our corner of the bar became one happy, celebratory group of strangers who were looking for an evening of camaraderie, with the underdog Patriots providing the kindling. We cheered each defensive stand, each time Tedy Bruschi stuck it to one of the Rams receivers. We erupted when Adam Vinatieri nailed the game-winning field goal, hopping around the bar and hugging each other. We fired up the jukebox and danced the night away. It was a spontaneously combustible night of joy with strangers who I never saw again and with whom I could never recreate the same electricity.

It was a night to remember.

This year, I don't feel the raw, "Can you believe it?" buzz that I felt in 2002. I get the sense that fans feel more entitled; they expect the Patriots to win, to cap their perfect season and to earn their fourth Super Bowl in seven years. I even would imagine that some may turn off their televisions and turn it in for the night if the score gets out of hand. I can't blame them. The uniqueness appears to be gone. Perhaps that's to be expected from such a run of success.

I'm not going to Blake's this time. It just wouldn't be the same, and besides I can no longer walk there. Instead, I'm hopping a bus to Amherst to watch the game with a good friend of mine. We'll cheer lustily for the Patriots, but that sense of romance with the first Super Bowl run won't be there. There won't be that same sense of awe and wonderment.

Some things simply can't be recreated. That's why those moments are so special, and, I guess, that's why we remember them. If they happened regularly, they wouldn't be so special.

Not every Super Bowl has to be super.

But I sure hope the Patriots win.

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