Superman had it right. Sometimes you just need a Fortress of Solitude.
There is a fairly large group of people that hasn't heard a word from me since I turned my phone off before the game last Sunday. While a fair number of them are probably rejoicing in this welcome break from any and all contact with me, I'm sure there are a few others who are wondering whether or not I'm still alive. Well to all those who haven't heard from me - I'm fine. I won't be speaking to any of you anytime soon, but you can rest assured that I'm going to be OK.
I've experienced all five stages of grief over the past few weeks. Denial was definitely the hardest step to get over, as I just kept replaying scenarios in my head where Wes Welker makes that catch or Rob Gronkowski comes down with that Hail Mary. I actually allowed myself to get excited for a split second before realizing it was all in my head and I just ended up mad. Luckily for me, Stage 2 in the grieving process is anger. I wasn't so much angry at the Patriots as I was angry at myself; mad for caring so much, mad for investing myself emotionally in this team, and mad for not doing enough touchdown dances or wearing enough pairs of lucky drawers or any other anti-jinx activity that may have made things turn out differently. Stages 3 and 4, Bargaining and Depression, are stages that I realized some time ago that we as sports fans can never truly move past, so the best we can hope for is come to grips with them. I know that I'm NEVER going to stop saying "if only Welker had caught that pass" or "if only Asante had come up with that pick," and so there is no point trying to move on from that. While I will get less and less depressed over it with time, it will never be gone completely, so all I can really do is acknowledge my mania and move on.
Which brings me to the final stage: acceptance. I've accepted the 2011 season. It didn't go the way I wanted it to, but it didn't go the way 30 other teams wanted it to either. As of today, the Patriots have still gone a whopping 7 whole years without a title (which the Boston media seems to have forgotten isn't really a very long time), and that's just the way it is. The doubters will continue to doubt, the haters will continue to hate, lips will continue to flap in the New York/New Jersey area, and the Patriot Way will march on, undeterred.
And you know what? I can live with that.
Sure, there were some moments over the past few weeks I'm not overly proud of. There may have been a lot of sitting at home in the dark. I may have taken more than a few long, hot showers while fully clothed and rocking back and forth with my knees drawn up to my chest. I might have dug my old teddy bear out of the attic and slept with it for a few nights. But that's neither here nor there. The bottom line is that while I'm never going to be over this loss, I'm not about to dwell on it. I'm proud as hell of the 2011 Patriots and am once again blown away by Bill Belichick's ability to get the absolute best out of everyone and Tom Brady's ability to make those around him look like superstars. I'm ready and excited to ride with Tommy B on this last stretch of his career, a career that is NOT tainted in any way by this loss, no matter what anyone else says. I know that New England is going to be right back after it in September, and between now and then we have the combine, free agency, the draft, mini-camps, trading, and pre-season to keep us sane. Once again, the Pats are well-positioned for all facets of the NFL league year, and I for one am very excited to see what this offense will be able to do with a full offseason to gel and Josh McDaniels back at the helm.
One thing you aren't going to see much from me going forward is a whole lot of draft coverage. Unlike Mel Kiper, I'm willing to admit that I have no idea what I'm talking about in regards to the NFL Draft. I don't follow college football as closely as I should, there are people on Pats Pulpit way more knowledgeable about the matter than me, and at the end of the day we all know that Bill Belichick is going to be trading up and down the board like a madman on draft day and will likely select players I have never even heard of anyway. The only thing I can say for sure is that the odds are good the Patriots will come away from this draft with a fair number of "value" picks and a bunch of selections for the following year. I'd love to sit here and speculate on whether this will FINALLY be the year the Patriots move up in the draft, are aggressive in free agency, and surround Tommy B with some serious talent as he gears up for one last push for a ring - but doing that will only get my hopes up and will may cause that first trade down for a cornerback I've never heard of to send me right back to Stage 1.
What I am excited about, however, is this 2012 Free Agent class. There are several big names on the market this year, many of whom would be a great fit for the Patriots, and I can see coach Belichick going after players on both sides of the ball to supplement his draft strategy. I'm currently compiling a wish list of sorts of free agents that I would love to see the Patriots pursue, which I will be sharing with you all over the coming weeks. We are almost exactly a month away from the start of free agency, so there is a lot to cover. And I'm excited to start covering it.
I know it was bad, but it could definitely be worse. It's time for us all to move on.
The Pats are going to be fine. And so are we.