Why do they hate us? The Football Gods (TFGs), I mean. They seem to have a malign and perverse interest in knees and in yesterday’s TexMess smote yet another brilliant player with their evil touch. Oh, Wes, say it ain’t so!
Last week I mentioned significant injury as worst-case scenario, and that nearly happened. Welker, considered by many to be the Pats’ season MVP and a key to playoff success, much less that elusive fourth Super Bowl win, is a huge loss, irreplaceable despite the apparent channeling of WR Julian Edelman who had 10 carries for over 100 yards.
Why do I contend that Welker’s injury is nearly worst-case? Two words: Darryl Stingley. Welker’s accident, possibly the result of a cleat tangle with the stadium turf, did not leave him paralyzed. It might have ended his season but if there is justice in this world, it won’t end his career.
It was not, as in the case of Jack Tatum’s assault on Stingley, tainted by the reprehensible suspicion of malicious intent (except perhaps from TFGs). Tatum’s churlish behavior in the aftermath of Stingley’s devastating injury – he never apologized, never visited, never called (whoa, that sounds like a relationship) – only fuels the flames of blame.
So, what now?
The odds, already dubious, are set against them. The Pats rolled into Reliant Stadium on, well, a roll: peaking at the perfect time, a playoff berth guaranteed, the game meaningless except for keeping everybody sharp. Instead TFGs landed a stunning blow. The mettle of this season’s team is about to be tested like never before. The story waits to be written.
Every heroic tale has its dark before the dawn. Every hero faces the worst kind of setback before stumbling to his feat and pulling off a miracle. The sidelining of Welker is dreadful and demoralizing but it doesn’t have to be fatal.
Perhaps it’s not likely that one or more of the players will find a way to transcend their own limitations and truly step up – when that scenario plays out on the heroic stage it never is the likely thing. But when, oh so rarely, it does happen it’s the stuff of legend. In local lore, it’s Curt Schilling’s bloody sock. Would that 2004 World Championship, as great as it was, been the mythic event it became had the Sox, just days earlier, not stared into the abyss?
So I say, let’s reverse TFG’s curse. Let’s face the darkness with courage and resolve and dare the abyss to look back. Let’s have the audacity to still seek the Ring — in spite of, or maybe even because of, the nearly impossible odds. I challenge this team to show us all that football, like any noble quest, can be so much more than a game.