Can you have too much of a good thing?
Fans of the New England Patriots – including the roughly 35,000 people who turned out for a Super Bowl rally Sunday morning at Gillette Stadium – would likely respond with a resounding “No.”
Led by coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady, the Patriots will play in their fourth Super Bowl in five years on Feb. 3, taking on the Los Angeles Rams. Sports fans across the Ocean State will join tens of millions more across the globe in tuning in, and with good reason.
The Patriots have the closest ties to Rhode Island of any of the region’s major professional sports franchises, particularly now that the Pawtucket Red Sox have made plans to depart for Worcester. The Patriots’ team plane is a fixture at T.F. Green Airport, and it was from Warwick that the squad departed for the big game in Atlanta following Sunday’s rally.
Remember, too, that the franchise’s longtime base of operations in Foxboro sits just about as close to Providence as it does to Boston – and that Rhode Island’s capital city was not all that long ago in the running to become the site of a new stadium for the team.
New England’s dominance of the NFL over the past two decades cannot be understated. Since the 2001 season – which saw Brady take the reins from quarterback Drew Bledsoe before defeating the Rams, then residing in St. Louis, in Super Bowl XXXVI – the Patriots have appeared in nine Super Bowls, including this year. They have won five of those games.
Adding Super Bowl losses after the 1985 and 1996 seasons into the mix, the Patriots have appeared in 11 NFL championship games, the most of any franchise.
Brady’s story is already legendary. Largely unheralded as the 199th overall pick in the 2000 NFL draft, he is now almost universally regarded as the greatest quarterback to ever play the game. He has won the league’s MVP award three times, appeared in nine Super Bowls, won four Super Bowl MVP awards – the most of any player – and been named to 14 Pro Bowls.
Belichick, of course, has secured his own place as one of the greatest coaches in football history. He is the longest-tenured coach in the NFL and has the most playoff wins of any coach with 30. His five Super Bowl wins are also the most of any coach in history.
The Patriots’ sustained excellence is essentially unprecedented in the history of American professional sports. The team has accomplished all it has in a league that is both constantly evolving and known for its relative parity. Its success has also been the foundation of a “golden age” for Boston sports fans, which has included three World Series wins for the Boston Red Sox and championships for both the Boston Celtics and Boston Bruins.
At some point, the run will come to an end. Belichick and Brady will retire or move on. The Patriots, once a laughingstock of the league, will return to its lower tiers. Nothing lasts forever, particularly in a game as punishing as football.
For now, though, local fans can continue to bask in the local team’s glory.
“We’re still here!” Brady led Sunday’s crowd in chanting.
As the old saying goes, let the good times roll.