2020 has taken so much from all of us, as people and sports fans. Our lives have been changed, in some cases, forever. It’s been hard to find any positives in this year at all. There are two things that 2020 has given me, though, and, while it may not count as a bright side, I think it’s important to talk about anyway.
Those two things are perspective and appreciation.
For 27 seasons, New England Patriots fans haven’t had to worry about the quarterback position. In 1993, the team drafted Drew Bledsoe first overall, and from 1993 to 2019 they entered the season with either Bledsoe or Tom Brady as the starter. We haven’t been in QB limbo since the 1992 season when Hugh Millen, Tom Hodson, Jeff Carlson, and Scott Zolak all started at least two games en route to a 2-14 season. Of course, New England able to then select Bledsoe first overall following that season.
The 2020 Patriots won’t have that luxury, so the answer to their current questions at the position is going to have to come from somewhere else. This is where the perspective comes into play.
From 2001 to 2019, the Patriots had only two quarterbacks start more than two games, Tom Brady and Matt Cassel. The AFC East, however, was not as lucky. The Buffalo Bills and New York Jets both had 13 quarterbacks start at least three games, and the Miami Dolphins had a whooping 18.
There’s also the fact that the Patriots have been to nine Super Bowls since 2001, and there are teams that never even played in one. Furthermore, the Dolphins, Bills, Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals, and Detroit Lions all haven’t even won a playoff game since 2001.
Does that make you feel better about this season? I don’t know, but it does help to understand that there are fan bases that have suffered far worse, and for much longer, than Patriots fans have in 2020.
This brings me to appreciation. Look, for years we as Patriots fans have all been talking about how lucky we were to be able to have Tom Brady, and how unprecedented the team’s run was. We all said that we appreciated everything, and tried not to take anything for granted. But we did, of course. It’s impossible not to. You can never truly appreciate something when you’re living with it. It’s only after it is gone that you truly understand what you had, by feeling the weight of its loss.
The Patriots played in the eight straight AFC Championship games, making five Super Bowls and winning three of them just between the 2011 and 2018 seasons. It was a given that they would be playing deep into January every year. The season didn’t start until the playoffs for most Patriots fans, so a year like this is almost unfathomable.
2020 is therefore a harsh reminder that you need to try to enjoy the good things more when they are here — in football and in life.
It seems as though, as fans, we’re always wishing for something more, waiting for the next great player, or the next great game; at times completely unable to enjoy the greatness that we are seeing at the time, because we are always looking towards what is coming next. My hope is that after this year, we all enjoy it a little bit more as it’s happening. Winning in the NFL is hard to do.
There’s a reason why only seven other teams went to multiple Super Bowls since 2001, with only two — the Pittsburgh Steelers and Seattle Seahawks — going more than twice. You can’t play in the big game every year, you can’t even make the playoffs every year. Welcome to life as a fan of a regular NFL team. There will be hard times, but there will also be good moments too. Try to enjoy them.
What has made this year even more difficult for Patriots fans is that it hasn’t just been a challenging year for the team, it’s been a challenging year in all of our personal lives too. The Covid-19 pandemic has changed our lives significantly, made us more isolated, and, in some cases, cost us our jobs or worse. I, personally, am using the two things I talked about before to get through it. Perspective and appreciation.
This year has been challenging for me because I’ve been forced to work my day job as a teacher remotely, which has made this, by far, the most difficult year in my 10-year career. I’ve been quarantined at home with my wife and three small kids, two of which are school aged, and so we’ve had to help home school them. It’s also the first year since 1992 that I haven’t attended at least one Patriots game.
With perspective, however, I remember that I have not missed a paycheck, and so many others have lost their jobs. I remember that, although it may be hard with three kids stuck inside, I’m with my family, and there are plenty of essential workers who have been forced to quarantine away from their families for days, weeks, or even months at a time. Lastly, I take solace in the fact that we are all healthy, and so many people have gotten sick, and lost loved ones during this time, and we have been lucky enough to not have that happen to us.
I am confident that I am going to try to appreciate things more. I’ve been to almost every Patriots home game since 2000. It’s something that I looked forward to every Sunday. With it taken away this year, I have gotten a new appreciation for how lucky I truly have been being able to go so consistently. Appreciation goes beyond just going to Patriots games. I have tried to be more appreciative of the time I have with my family and understand that we are lucky to be close to each other, and all have our health.
That is my focus as we move into 2021. Continue to be appreciative of the things that I have. My family, my health, my friends, my job, and so much more. Sometimes you forget how much you have to be thankful for until you stop and add it all up. If we all did that this year, I bet we’d all be a little happier. So tell your family you love them. Hug your kids, your spouse, and your parents (even if it has to be a virtual hug). Look around and, instead of looking for things that you’re missing or you need, look for the things you have.
It may not be easy. Life isn’t perfect, and many times it can be hard. But try your best to find and enjoy the good parts of your day, and I promise your year, and your life, will be happier.
So enjoy the new year, and please start off your resolution of being more appreciative by not calling for Bill Belichick’s firing. Thanks. Here’s to a great year!
Pat is a host of The Patriot Nation Podcast. Interact with him on Twitter @plane_pats.