I feel like I'm the only person in America who hates the New England Patriots. That's like hating apple pie and Neil Armstrong! How could anyone hate the Patriots? They're an American flag with a football, and they're so good as to be unbeatable. But does anyone remember a time before their dynasty started, and exactly when it happened?
In the year 2000, the Patriots were 5-11. (2000 Standings.) They weren't a good team. At the beginning of the 2001 season, nobody expected them to do anything, and for good reason. They started off 0-2, as expected. Then the unthinkable happened. The World Trade Center towers got knocked down, and everyone needed to pull together and be patriotic. And ... the Patriots started winning. A lot. Tom Brady, a nobody, a quarterback from the Big Ten (which is not very well known for producing great quarterbacks these days), who didn't play at all in 2000 (not technically true; he played in 2 games, and was 1-3 for 6 yards and 0 touchdowns), suddenly became the best quarterback in the league. People are now trying to go so far as to say he's the best quarterback of all time. (This is complete crap, by the way. Johnny Unitas, Joe Montana, Dan Marino, Brett Favre ... at least you can say Brady's name in the same sentence, but he's not as good as any of them.)
In 2001, the Patriots won the Super Bowl, after an amazing turnaround from the previous season. They started playing well after a big tragedy. And the "dynasty" has been going strong ever since. After the 2001 season, I had begun to suspect that something fishy may be going on in the NFL. How did the Patriots get so good all of a sudden? Why did a team called the "Patriots" suddenly become the best team -- by a long shot -- right when everyone in the country was supposed to start being really patriotic? It seemed like too much of a coincidence, but I had to sit and wait until something happened again before I could point any fingers.
Then, a year and a half ago, Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. Despite all the pain, death, and damage, what was the main focus by the people charged with rebuilding the city? The Superdome. They'd been planning to demolish the Superdome anyway, since it's so old and crappy. The Saints wanted to build a new stadium, and since they might not have gotten one in New Orleans, they were considering leaving for a city with a better fanbase. It didn't matter where. New Orleans fans had always been bad to their team.
Why did everyone care so much about rebuilding the Superdome and keeping the Saints in New Orleans? Surely the money could have been better spent elsewhere in the city ... unless the Saints had a good season for the first time in their history and actually got fans into the stadium, made some money, and united the population of New Orleans.
Last season, the Superdome wasn't ready. The Saints didn't play any home games all season. They were miserable, going 3-13. This team had no future, no quarterback, no coach, no talent. Then they drafted Reggie Bush -- despite all the hype, there was no way he could be ready for the NFL already. And they picked up Drew Brees from the San Diego Chargers. It was the first time in NFL history that a team acquired a quarterback who had a passer rating of 90 or better for the previous two seasons. I was surprised by this until I realized that if you have a quarterback doing that well, you're not going to give him up. Well, the Chargers did (and it wasn't a bad move by any means, thanks to Phil Rivers), and the Saints really lucked out.
This year they made the playoffs, got a first round bye, and even won a game, sending them to the NFC Championship game against the Chicago Bears. It was the second playoff game the Saints had ever won. It will be their first trip to the NFC Championship. And it is the most remarkable one-season-to-the-next turnaround in NFL history. No other team had a worse record in the year preceding a trip to the Championship game.
We'll see how the Saints do in the rest of the playoffs. Will they manage to defeat the Chicago Bears, at Soldier Field? It's possible; the Bears haven't looked good in the second half of the season, despite their early dominance. And depending on the outcome of tonight's game between the Patriots and the Chargers, as well as next week's AFC matchup between the winner of that game and the Colts, it's just possible that the Saints will be matched up in the Super Bowl against -- get this -- the New England Patriots. The two teams who actually benefited from tragedy will be facing each other. Will the torch be passed from New England to New Orleans? From the Patriots to the Saints? From Belicheck to Payton? Only time will tell.
Another possibility is that the Chargers will beat the Patriots, and then the Colts (which is likely, considering LT's awesomeness and Indy's lack of a defense), and go on to face the Saints in the Superbowl. And we'll get to see if San Diego made a mistake by getting rid of Brees, or if they made the right move in going with Rivers. (By the way, in case anyone was paying attention, Drew Brees is another Big Ten quarterback.)
Frankly, I'm rooting for the Chargers over the Patriots. No surprise, I despise the Patriots. But that's a passing thing. Five years from now, my hatred will have subsided. But for the sake of the sport, I hope that on Superbowl Sunday we don't see a scoreboard with the Saints and Patriots both on it. That would just be too much. For all us football fans out there, who have spent so many years of our lives following our teams and our favorite players ... is it really so meaningless week in and week out that the only thing that you need to do to have a Superbowl caliber team is to suffer some horrible tragedy?
Programming is a wonderful mix of art and science; source code is both a poem and a math problem. It should be as simple and elegant as it is functional and fast. This blog is about that (along with whatever else I feel like writing about).