They won on Sunday. This is good. And they did it despite the previous high-schoolesque detention of several delinquent superstars (although I can’t totally blame Adalius Thomas, who at least phoned ahead, for being in a snit) and Brady’s obviously battered state (ribs, finger, the perennial shoulder, possibly the demands of brand-new fatherhood?). Wes Welker, as usual, showed up – bigtime. As did several others. However, something felt like it was missing.
So, what’s the matter? I think it might be called ‘team spirit-less.’ The Saints, beaming with laissez-les-bon-temps-roulez, lately are reminding me of the Pats of 2002 (and 2004 and 2005) – they were, in the best sense of the word, together.
During the 2001 season the Pats were first disregarded and then pitied when Drew Bledsoe was injured and an unknown Tom Brady had to step up. When astonishingly they made it to the Super Bowl (a major underdog to the ‘greatest show on turf’) they didn’t even allow themselves to be introduced individually – they ran onto the field…together. And in doing so, changed the ambiance of the game – or at least the Super Spectacle.
Being part of a functional team isn’t so different from being in a good marriage. Sometimes you click on all cylinders. Sometimes you have to fake it until the spirit returns. (And sometimes you get traded.) But at heart, you’re together. You face the world, its joys and travails, as one; your destinies are aligned. And, in truly good relationships, you always do your best to show up, not so much for yourself but for the other guy.
The Pats are a team brimming with talent. However, at the moment, their attitude seems to be less team-spirit than ‘teaminess’: they’re not really together – they’re just going through the motions.
If they reclaim their heart and passion, and their commitment to each other, they can do this – they can win their remaining games and return to the playoffs, where fortune can be notoriously fickle and favor fall on the un-anointed. The operative word is ‘if’ – if they remember how to be a team. If they care.
Teams that work don’t always win – nobody does. But coming together, giving everything you have to give, in every game, does mean never having to say you’re sorry.