Sunday, January 27, 2008

Why it's more American to cheer against the Patriots

18-0. The sure bet. The favorite. The quarterback makes girls swoon, the wide receiver plucks footballs from the air in a seemingly impossible fashion and they're called the Patriots, of all things. So why is it more American to cheer against this All-American team? Simple: we want to be entertained. What's entertaining about seeing a game go down just like everyone expected, watching the Yankees beat the Orioles every time they meet, predicting the Mavericks to sweep the Warriors in the first round of the playoffs, or witnessing the Patriots roll over the Giants 54-7 in the Super Bowl? Those scenarios are only entertaining if you're a Yankees fan, if you follow the Mavericks, or if you grew up cheering for the Patriots.

Great American sports moments are defined by the same set of standards. Like the patriots of the Revolutionary War fighting off the great British Empire for independence, we look forward to the underdog pulling off an upset. We like the Cinderella stories of March Madness and we love buzzer-beating game-winning shots from beyond half-court.

A collection of not even the best American college hockey players went up against the Red Machine in the 1980 Winter Olympics and won. The Boston Red Sox were facing elimination after the third game of the 2004 ALCS and won four straight against the arch-rival New York Yankees to earn a berth in the World Series. How many Michigan fans cringe when they hear the words "Appalachian State"? Had the Soviets won, had the Yankees swept the Red Sox, had Michigan's field goal attempt not been blocked in the last seconds of the game, these events would be side notes and not full-color glossy pages in the books of sports history.

Super Bowl XLII has the makings for one of the greatest moments in NFL history – if Eli Manning can lead his team to victory. Sure, a 19-0 season would be neat, but in five years will you remember any of the games? Will you feel a rush of excitement when someone mentions it? Will you look back and say, "I still can't believe it!" with a smile? No, you'll file it away with the dusty memories of the 2007 Boston Red Sox, the 1992 Dream Team, and the 2006-2007 San Antonio Spurs.