By Ronald N. Guy Jr.
I don’t watch network television. I couldn’t name the most popular shows, much less their broadcast network. The last episode of “Survivor” that I watched was the finale…of season one. The next time I watch “Dancing With The Stars”, “The Voice” or “American Idol” will be the first time.
This unintended phenomenon started in the early 2000s, about the time “Taps” played for sitcoms and reality T.V. went viral. The reason for my network television divorce is, as of yet, undiagnosed. My wife gets a hoot out of it; her dismissive chuckles scream “weirdo.” It confounds and frustrates my daughter; I sense a growing concern that her decidedly un-cool father will inevitably cause horrific social embarrassment. Am I wrong to proudly anticipate that moment?
What I do enjoy watching (besides sports, of course) are shows such as “American Pickers”, “American Restoration” and “Down East Dickering” on The History Channel and “Deadliest Catch” and “Moonshiners” on Discovery Channel. Why? Well, I like antiques, resurrecting battered classics, bartering, fishing and homemade adult beverages. I guess one could interpret it as an ode to my Southern Maryland roots.
There’s something else about these programs, though, something more appealing than just an alignment with my interests. They have an element of unpredictable chaos that the cast always overcomes. The pickers sometimes stumble on dud leads and have to wing it. The dickerers live week-to-week and creatively manufacture value and cash out of little to nothing. The guys on American Restoration fix old, dilapidated stuff…enough said. The “Deadliest Catch’s” crabbers manage unpredictable weather and finicky crustaceans. And the moonshiners produce product in homemade stills deep in the Appalachian Mountains while evading the law. Nothing is neat or as it should be - but they all make it work. They expect the unexpected, adapt and press forward.
I love that about those shows – the human resolve. Which is to say I love the New England Patriots.
Wait. What? I hate the Patriots: smug Tom Brady with his rings and model wife and Bill Belichick with his awful hoodie and curt, mumbling press conferences. What’s to like? How about this: in my lifetime, no team has handled adversity, change and chaos as well as the Pats.
We are now 14 years into the Brady-Belichick era. From 2001-2013, the Patriots won at least 10 games 12 times, made the playoffs 11 times, appeared in five Super Bowls, advanced to eight AFC Championship Games and won three championships. Considering the sport, the era (salary cap) and the mercurial nature of modern athletes, that might be the greatest run by any professional sports team - ever.
The Patriots have maintained their excellence despite “Spygate”, Aaron Hernandez’s murder charges, the loss of coaches like Charlie Weis, Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, and Bill O’Brien and the various injuries (back, arm and knee) of all-world TE Rob Gronkowski. They jettisoned stars such as Lawyer Milloy, Brandon Meriweather, Ty Law, Richard Seymour, Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Logan Mankins without identifiable impact and survived the failed acquisitions of Chad Ochocinco and Albert Haynesworth. They even plugged in Matt Cassell for an injured Brady in 2008 and won 11 games. The Patriots seem impervious to the NFL’s intense variability, an unstoppable winning machine.