I bleed orange as a Denver Broncos fan, but I spent my 20’s in Massachusetts. Pats fans have become de facto members of my family. That doesn’t mean I have to like them this week.
I grew up in Colorado, moving to Massachusetts to attend UMass Amherst in 2005. For those of you who need a refresher course on something that happened over a decade ago, here is the football context we were operating within.
10 – 1
The Patriots entered that fateful Divisional Round game in Denver 10-0 in the playoffs under Belichick and Brady. ESPN ran segments all week asking if it was even possible for the NFL’s newest demigods to lose with all the chips on the line.
It was reminiscent of their series on USC as to where they fit in the all-time great teams prior to Vince Young shocking the world in the Rose Bowl. Journalism dies when the narrative precedes the facts.
My dad gave me two tickets to that divisional round game, and I went with a friend I have known since I was 18 months old. Neither of us ever saw Ben Watson catch up to Champ because we were too busy hugging and high-fiving everyone within reach once he beat what we thought was the last guy.
This was just before smartphones, so we were relying on texts from friends, and the next two minutes or so were one of the most confusing of my adolescence. What the heck happened? How could Champ not have scored? What are the refs talking about????? There was no one within 30 yards of him when he was at the 20. HELP!!!!!!
The stadium was an emotional wreck prior to Bailey’s heroics. As Brady marched down the field late in the third quarter, it seemed inevitable that he would punch it in to give the Pats a 13-10 lead they would never relinquish. All the nonsense we heard on ESPN was being prophesized right in front of our faces. You could feel the tension in the air. Then Champ reminded everyone that all-time greats play on other teams too.
I can report that play sent Pats Nation into a furious state of denial. When I got back to school for my 2nd semester, the entire region had collectively decided that the ball clearly went out the back of the endzone after Champ fumbled it (it might have, the world will never know), and the Pats should have had it on the Broncos 20 – as opposed to the 1 yard gimme that Mike Anderson punched in on the next play to put Denver up for good.