Anyone who didn't think that Hank would be making an appearance this week clearly doesn't know me too well.
For those of you relatively new to the blog, Hank is what I have named the part of my Patriots fandom that I'm not too proud of. He's the little voice in my ear that never hesitates to point out when something goes wrong, loves to explore the worst-case scenario, and generally does everything in his power to convince me that I have nothing to live for and should just give up now, move to Delaware, and open up a used furniture store. Hank more or less took last season off; apparently a new Patriot getting injured every week and the team basically running on fumes for the second half of the season is enough to cause him to go into early hibernation and allow me to actually enjoy my Sundays. But after Monday night's game against the Kansas City Chiefs and an overall 2014 performance that has been very un-Patriots like, he's back, and he's back in a big way. Of course, it doesn't help matters that what he had to say to me has been echoed all over the sports media to the point where I haven't logged into any sports site that isn't Pats Pulpit since Tuesday morning, and so it's been harder than usual to silence my inner pessimist.
But silence him I will. Because honestly, he's completely full of it.
But Alec, the Patriots lost!
Shut up, Hank. Yes they did. And I'll even do you one better: they lost BAD. It wasn't pretty. A lot - okay, everything - went wrong. But you know what? The Patriots are 2-2 right now, and still very, very much alive. And to be honest, even if they were 0-4 right now, they would still be very, very much alive. You know why? Because there are 12 freaking games left to play, that's why. I could gladly list off all of the teams that have historically started out the year great and then finished horribly, just as gladly as I could list off all the teams that started horribly and finished strong - but there's no point in that. And you know what else? The Packers are 2-2. So are the Bears. So are the Colts. The Saints, everyone's favorite team in the world and many experts' Super Bowl pick, are 1-3. Is there the same kind of national, widespread, red-lights-flashing panic about those franchises? Of course not. These things are only a big deal because it's the Patriots - mainly because New England loses so rarely. And since they lose so rarely, maybe we should remind ourselves that they lose rarely for a reason, and historically, it's probably going to stay that way for the immediate future.
But Alec, the Dolphins, Vikings, Raiders, and Chiefs aren't that good, and the Patriots couldn't even handle them! Now they have to face a well-rested and undefeated Bengals team! It's going to be a massacre!
Shut up, Hank. There is no other professional sport on the planet quite like football in that every week is a completely new experience, and each and every game represents a clean slate, especially at this early point in the season. If you want to use what you have seen thus far as the benchmark for what you're going to be seeing until December, go ahead, but you and I both know that all the Patriots need to do is win one game and you're going to be singing a completely different tune. Rather than look at Sunday's matchup against Cincy as the final nail in the coffin - even though it's only Week 5 - maybe you should look at it as a prime opportunity to set things on track and get a bit of momentum back. Plus, how often does Bill Belchick lose back-to-back games? At home? In primetime? I know you're really more of a glass is half empty kind of guy, but I think it would do wonders for your personal life if you didn't view every single encounter as an opportunity for failure. Just a suggestion.
But Alec, Tom Brady has been terrible! He's over the hill! He's lost his swagger! We need to trade him and start fresh with Jimmy Garoppolo before Brady's trade stock plummets even more!
Shut up, Hank. This has to be the most ridiculous thing you have ever said in all my years knowing you - and that includes 2009 when you wanted to bench Tommy B in favor of Brian Hoyer. You were probably the kind of kid who begged for a pet hamster for months and then didn't want it anymore the first time it got out of its cage and pooped on your bed. You probably spent your allowance on Nintendo controllers to replace the ones you broke every time you couldn't beat a level on a new game immediately. Look...nobody is happy about the way that Brady is playing right now. The apologists are erroneously putting it all on the O-line, the haters are putting it all on him, the Boston media is putting it all on Belichick's arrogance (as usual), and the rest of us are putting it on the combination of a number of factors, all of which are very fixable. And while I don't know for certain exactly what the future holds for Tommy B this season, I do know this: no matter how upset you are about how things are transpiring right now, Brady is even more pissed that you are. He's going to do what he has to do to rectify this situation. He's too much of a competitor not to. But in order to let him do that, you have to...you know...let the man play some football. So excuse me if I'm not falling all over myself to suggest trading him and starting a rookie QB whose only NFL experience was a garbage time drive against a Chiefs team that didn't have their starters in.
But Alec, the Patriots are done! It's over! Abandon ship! You just don't come back from a performance like that and expe....
Shut up, Hank. I just slapped you right in your face and I'm not even remotely sorry about it. Talk like that is irrational, reactionary, unproductive, and completely off the wall. It's what you hear from Patriots haters that say it just to rile the rest of us up. It's nothing but trolling and jargon, and that you, as a Patriots fan, are buying into that, it makes me sick.
And just for a second, I'll entertain your asinine assumptions. Let's just say that the Patriots are done. Let's say that the ship won't be righted, this is what we're working with from here on out, and we're in for a rough season. Honestly, would that really be the end of the world? Would one off season be so incredibly unbearable that you just wouldn't be able to stomach it? Would you be so completely consumed with how one of the last few years that Tom Brady has left to get a ring didn't pan out the way that we were all hoping that you would spend the entire season dwelling on it? Are you simply incapable of enjoying this team and this game if the Patriots aren't good? If so, feel free to get the hell out of my face and never, ever come back. You aren't the type of fan I want associated with my boys. You aren't the type of fan that gives me any pride whatsoever in the New England Patriots. You aren't the type of fan I want to sit next to in the stands, interact with on the message boards, or share wings with at the bar. You don't have to be relentlessly positive, but you also don't have to hold this team to such ridiculous standards that you don't even want to watch football unless New England is winning. I'd rather see a completely empty Gillette Stadium than one full to the brim with people who think like that. If you follow this team, you follow them for life, no matter what, and you always look ahead. You criticize them when they deserve it and praise them when it's warranted, but you NEVER give up on them. If that's not the kind of fan you want to be, there are some guys who play in East Rutherford, New Jersey that would love to have you on board. And I won't even bat an eye when you go.