NEW ENGLAND sports fans have suffered through plenty of hard times, so they may be excused for rubbing their eyes in disbelief at the triumphs of the Red Sox and the Patriots. Even after the miraculous Red Sox season of 2004 and the three Patriot Super Bowl victories of this new century, it was still hard to overcome the habits of self-abasement that inhabitants of a conquered province tend to harbor long after liberation.
But this autumn the tide has turned so dramatically that the rest of the Republic has begun to gaze upon New England's sporting success with unseemly envy. The four-game World Series sweep of the Rockies by the Red Sox was taken by some people in Colorado as an excessive blow to their self-esteem. And now, in the run-up to today's long-awaited rematch of the Patriots and last year's eventual Super Bowl winner, the Indianapolis Colts, resentful outlanders are kvetching that the Pats somehow humiliated their first eight victims by scoring too many points.
Even if one discounts some of this whining as the sort of thing to be expected from gamblers who bet that at least some of the Pats' victims this season would beat the point spread, the note of sheer envy is unmistakable. As Tom Brady said last week, the Patriot offense does not take the field to make the other team's defense feel good about themselves. And after the painful way the Pats surrendered a 21-3 lead in the AFC championship game last winter, Coach Bill Belichick has been prepping for today's showdown by schooling his squad to keep the pedal to the metal for 60 minutes.
In sports as in history, empires rise and fall. We in New England should savor the envy of others while we can.