Last autumn, as football fans around the country spoke of suffering from a syndrome called “Alabama fatigue,” one had to wonder what the more virulent form of the malady might be.
Simply referring to it as “Patriot fatigue” somehow seems to fall short. “Patriot coma” might come closer. If Alabama fatigue meant that seeing the Crimson Tide win the SEC championship and advance to play the same team it has played for four years — the virus may be morphing into “Alabama-Clemson fatigue,” although most people in Tuscaloosa (and many in South Carolina) are immune. In fact, having been on the losing side of the college championship game in Santa Clara, many Crimson Tide fans now eagerly hope to catch Alabama-Clemson V (we might as well start numbering them like Super Bowls now).
But the Patriots? That’s not fatigue. Fatigue is something that happens after a hard day of mowing the lawn. Take a shower, take a nap, you feel better. The Patriots, making their ninth appearance since 2002, don’t just leave you fatigued. You feel more like the Mummy, trapped in his Egyptian tomb for years, hoping against hope that some hapless explorer from the British Museum will break the curse and set you free.
It’s not just that the Patriots keep winning. It’s that they keep winning with the same players. Imagine if the entire dynasty Alabama has built had Greg McElroy at quarterback, Julio Jones at wide receiver and Mark Ingram at running back. Now, stretch your imagination even further and imagine they had arrived before Brodie Croyle. That’s how long Tom Brady has been quarterbacking the Patriots.
The comparison isn’t about talent — Brady is clearly the greatest NFL quarterback ever — but about longevity. Alabama turns over the star players on its roster every three years and the entire roster turns over in four. There is plenty of movement on the Patriot roster as well but the familiar names — Brady, Gronkowski, Edelman — just keep rolling along.
Then there is the coach. History will weigh Bill Belichick against Lombardi and Paul Brown eventually. Saban will be measured against Bryant and Rockne. No one disputes the greatness of either. But while Saban can be snippy or sarcastic sometimes, he’s not a curmudgeon. Belichick is surly, not snappy. No one expects him to be as entertaining as Justin Timberlake on stage but occasional civility might help alleviate the Patriot funk.
So, with that said, how does one generate enthusiasm for the Super Bowl pick I am about to make? Turning to the opponent might help. The Rams aren’t terrible. They are exciting on offense. Sean McVay is a bright young coach.
Saints fans don’t think the Ram presence in Atlanta is legitimate but they earned their spot, even though the Saints would have been a far more interesting alternative. It’s less certain what Rams fans think about the whole thing, given the difficulty of finding Rams fans.
There is no national base. The fans in their old city (which was once their new city) of St. Louis hate the franchise, or at least the owner. The Rams generate nowhere near the buzz in Los Angeles that the Lakers and the Dodgers spur.
The vote here is for the Patriots — again. Brady is playing at a high level. Lord knows the Patriots have experience. They will find a way. We know this — having seen it over and over and over again.
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0225.