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Camp counseling

Posted by Eric Wilbur, Boston.com Staff July 24, 2008 08:32 AM

They begin preparation for the 2008 season not only as favorites, but as punch lines.

Eighteen-and-one. Itís not only a sure sign of their greatness of a year ago, but also of their epic failure.

Never before has an NFL team entered training camp with such a lopsided winning record armed with much to prove and even more to forget. The Patriots open training camp today in Foxborough looking to improve on an 18-1 campaign that ultimately left them thirsty in the desert five months ago, choking up the opportunity for history.

In six weeks, it all begins anew again for the Patriots, spygate, perfection, David Tyree, and Mercury Morris all in the rear-view mirror. Today, step one in their rehab, a process that wonít really be fully rectified until they fulfill themselves with another Super Bowl victory.

Training camp wonít dull the memory.

A season-opening win wonít dull the memory.

Sixteen wins wonít dull the memory.

The only thing that will help ease the pain of the Super Bowl loss to the Giants is another Super Bowl win. And even then, the pain will never be fully rectified.

The Patriots missed out on more than just another Super Bowl, they missed out on history, a record of perfection that would be impossible to top. They would have been the team that all others were ultimately compared to, the golden standard for NFL dominance, flying in the face of controversy.

Their last regular season loss came on Dec. 11, 2006 at Miami. They are 19-0 in regular season games since that point; just 4-2 come postseason.

Of course, itís time to look ahead as far as the Pats and their fans are concerned, but that doesnít mean there will be a lack of revisionist history. The target is still there, square on the backs of a team that most of America hates for their controversial coach, pretty boy quarterback, and brash wide receiver.

Spygate or no spygate, that perception isnít going to change.

And so the Patriotsí 2008 Revenge Tour picks up its initial steam at training camp this week, planting the seeds for what the team hopes is a Super Bowl-winning campaign. They enter an NFL world where they are no longer on top, but one where both Manning brothers can claim back-to-back Lombardi trophies.

They enter a 2008 season where Tom Brady rested his injured ankle by surfing with Gisele. They enter their revenge campaign with major questions in the secondary and the annual injury concerns from Richard Seymour, whoís creeping on overrated status with each ensuing season. They begin training camp with the coach likely doing some soul searching, Bill Belichick probably wondering if he allowed himself to get so wide-eyed over his teamís record-breaking offense that he lost his ways of defensive principle.

They enter the 2008 season as the best team by far that the NFL has to offer. But they donít have a trophy to show for it.

The odds of this season being another 16-0 campaign arenít likely, which is fine as long as theyíre still in the mix come February. But even then, if redemption does finally take place for this team, what will it all mean? How will we look at Feb. 3, 2008 in the future? Will it be forgotten, just a painful memory to log in with Yankee Stadium, 2003, Shea, 1986, and New Orleans, circa í86 and í97? Or will it remain something more, a missed opportunity that will never leave a New England sports fanís consciousness?

A Super Bowl win would seem to dull that pain too. But how often is perfection at stake?

The Providence Journal's Jim Donaldson writes:

Now, at long last, Pats fans can officially forget about last season and look ahead to the coming year.

It's OK if the Patriots lose a few games this season. Just as long as they don't lose the last one.

They don't have to be perfect. They just have to better than everyone else.

Maybe they will be. But perfection? That's not a mark easily attained, and is at stake so rarely that to lose the opportunity isn't something easily forgotten.

They begin anew both celebrated and ridiculed. Theyíre not perfect, not NFL champs, nothing but an AFC title to show for an 18-1 mark.

Things can only get better.

21 comments so far...
  1. My wife went from rabid Pats fan to, "They're dead to me." We have spygate, Gisele, Tom's baby, Bill's peccadilloes, and the final insult, losing the Super Bowl to the lesser of two Mannings. Dynasty to Choking Cheaters. Yankees, 2004. They have made fools of all of us. I'm more interested in Celtics training camp. There are men of character on that team.

    Posted by Brian W. July 24, 08 10:39 AM
  1. Brian, while I respect your opinion you are wrong in comparing the NBA to the NFL. At least the NFL holds power over (most) of the players. The NBA is a bunch of spoiled brats, and let's not even talk about horrible officiating in Basketball. That just wouldn't be fair. And lastly, while I have no doubt you are close to TB and know everything regarding his past relationship with Moynahan and their child, don't you think it a bit rediculous for your wife to use it as a reason to hate on the Patriots?

    Posted by Andrew July 24, 08 10:56 AM
  1. Brian W - Good we don't want you anyways. You're probably one of those fans that jumped on the bandwagon after the Superbowl win in 2002.

    Posted by Matt July 24, 08 10:59 AM
  1. Brian, you and your wife...don't let the door hit you where the dog should have bit you. Good riddance to you fair weather fans. We don't want you back either when the Pats win it all in February.

    Posted by ziggy July 24, 08 11:42 AM
  1. I've been waiting since Feb 3 for the Pats season to begin, I haven't been able to watch any of the footage of that game at all. They played a snipet of it on ESPN the other day and my heart just sank and then I got mad. I am so ready for this season to start you have no idea. Payback time! It does kind of suck that everyone hates our team now because honestly they really have no reason to, but whatever, don't care. Let them hate, the more they hate the better the motivation to win and not only do I think the Patriots are capable of going undefeated again and winning it all this time around, I think the streak could carry over into the 2009 season. If they're playing as pissed off as this fan is, if I were another team.... I'd hide.
    GO PATS!

    Posted by Joe July 24, 08 12:22 PM
  1. Why is Gisele a reason not to like the Patriots?

    Posted by J-Bone July 24, 08 12:25 PM
  1. Is it fair to say that the last 2 Patriots losses were the two most heart-breaking losses in franchise history? Gut wrenching. Good riddance to bandwagoneers such as Brian W. and his wife (who I am sure Brian W. wouldn't drop everything and sprint away from if Gisele Bunchen was interested in him), those people that probably weren't around to remember that our Patriots were once the laughing stock of the league and were not seen as a total failure when, heaven forbid, they didn't win the Super Bowl every single year. In fact, they were only seen 8 times a year b/c the home games were blacked out, and to add insult to injury, Don Criqui and Beasley Reece were calling the 8 road games on TV. We have it pretty great at the moment.

    The Pats wheezed to the finish line and (barely) lost to the hot team at the end last year, and I still contend that Indy would have come into Foxboro and won if San Diego hadn't caught them sleeping. So which ending would have been worse? A horrible finish but an otherwise amazing season, which we can never speak of again as it was all just a dream anyway, right?

    Tom Brady is still under center, so things are looking up. Now if they can just go 19-0 (which is possible BTW) this season and shut everyone up once and for all that would be awesome, but either way a championship would be fantastic. Go Pats!!

    Posted by internet_king July 24, 08 01:00 PM
  1. Yeah I agree with J-Bone, Gisele is no reason to hate Patriots. Belichick , his boorish behavior and poor sportsmanship are the reason to hate the Patriots

    Posted by BB's ex July 24, 08 01:24 PM
  1. As a diehard Pats fan I gotta say our team had an unbelievable season last year. Sure it hurts to lose the big one and just miss achieving immortality, but let's keep things in perspective. They're a great team and had a season for the ages. Every team loses a game now and then. Would you rather be rooting for the Jets?

    Posted by Robert B July 24, 08 01:29 PM
  1. Brian, too bad you started the comments. I don't believe you or your wife "they're dead to me" are fans. How absurd to comment on a personal situation in Tom Brady's life in which you or your wife have no personal knowledge and has no bearing on his play or in my opinion character. Go rattle the skeltons in your own closet!
    The Patriots are by far the best football team in the NFL. It's a joy to watch their execution of the game at the highest level. Football fans and especially Pats fans have had a great thrill ride watching the team grow and explode last year under Bill Belichick's masterful coaching.
    This team is loaded with talent, skill, drive, heart, and humility.
    Let the games Begin! GO PATS!!!!!!

    Let the games begin!
    GO PATS!

    Posted by Luke July 24, 08 01:29 PM
  1. I still love the Patriots and Tom Brady. Am rather concerned about his not resting the leg. I am also curious as to whether there will be a Bradybundchen wedding before long.

    Posted by Mary Mansour July 24, 08 03:33 PM
  1. I thought last year was our "revenge tour." Oh well, whatever gets you going or makes for good print.

    Also, personally I'd wait to see what a finally healthy Richard Seymour does this season before using terms like "overrated."

    Posted by Steve July 24, 08 04:48 PM
  1. Embrace the hate.

    Posted by Jason July 24, 08 07:12 PM
  1. We just have to all keep our head up a bit. Things will get better for us this season.

    Posted by Boston Knucklehead July 25, 08 06:32 AM
  1. What a pleasant group of commenters. FYI, we watched the Patriots when they were 1-15. Tom's personal life has everything to do with him not having his head in the game. To waste talent and opportunity is worse than to just be bad in the first place.

    Posted by Brian W. July 25, 08 10:40 AM
  1. I've always had a soft spot for underdogs and outcasts.

    When the Pats played Cinderella in '85/86 I discovered them and got hooked, and the years of misery thaf followed only got me more and more hooked. Then came the magic of '01/02, the wonderful feeling of release and vindication of my loyalty.

    Then came two more titles, and while I enjoyed this, I also began to feel somewhat empty about the whole affair, to feel left out as the Pats became a "glamor team". Then out of nowhere a bomb goes off, and suddenly I find myself here in 2008, savoring the hatred, because now they're "my" team again. Outcasts of a different flavor, but outcasts nonetheless. My own personal 'silver lining' to our collective dark cloud.

    Go Pats! Put them ALL to the sword this time! :o)

    Posted by Waxy Pesaukee July 25, 08 11:47 AM
  1. Brian. Get off your soap box. You and your wife are a bunch of know nothing, champion chasing, fair weather, loser fans. Find another team.

    Posted by Damian July 25, 08 11:48 AM
  1. "Tom's personal life has everything to do with him not having his head in the game."

    Brian - how can you be serious? Unless you know him personally and he has told you so himself, what the hell are you talking about?

    When will sports fans remember that the players on these teams (in any league) are HUMAN BEINGS !? They're not emotionless video game characters that do nothing other than play games for YOUR enjoyment... Relax and enjoy the sport and stop getting so tied up in professional athletes' personal lives.

    And Mary - I'm sure Tom's leg is fine. Just because he's been surfing, it doesn't necessarily mean he hasn't been resting and healed. He plays football for a living, I'm sure he knows what he's doing. What would you expect, he lay in a hospital bed with his foot raised all off-season? It's been SIX months !! Give the guy a break...

    Relax, people. Enjoy the sport and enjoy supporting your favorite teams.

    Posted by Ed Sweeney July 25, 08 01:14 PM
  1. I don't buy into the notion that they blew a chance to win more than just another Super Bowl last season.

    Let's face it, that team peaked in mid-November, then they lost Rosey Colvin, having already lost Sammy Morris, both for the season. After that, they were a much different, far less dominant team. They were extremely lucky to get past Philly and Baltimore to preserve the perfect season. In the playoffs, they let a far less talented Jacksonville team hang around for 3 1/2 quarters, then they got outhit and outplayed by an injury-crippled San Diego team for three quarters the following week (the only reason they won that game were the injuries the Chargers had on offense).

    So in the Super Bowl, after playing mediocre football for 8 straight weeks after the Buffalo game in mid-November, they finally cracked against a team that was playing out of its mind on defense for the entire month of January (remember, the Giants' defense allowed just 65 points in 4 post-season games, and 3 of those games came against offenses that finished in the NFL's top 5 last season--they were simply playing incredible defense at that time.)

    Let the '72 Dolphins have the "perfect" season nonsense all to themselves. Anyone who really has researched that team knows that they played one of the weakest schedules that any NFL champion in history has ever faced, and that their 1973 team, which lost two games, was actually a much better club (even the guys who were on both teams will admit that).

    The Pats could go 11-5 this season and I'd still be thrilled if they won another Super Bowl. And yes, the memory of Super Bowl XLII will be pushed into the background if they win another one. To be honest, I'm still actually more upset about the loss to the Colts and their crowd-noise pumping, Competition-Committee dominating, referee-intimidating loudmouth of a GM two years ago.

    That's one loss I'd like to see the Pats avenge in the 2008 post-season.

    Posted by Tony July 25, 08 01:17 PM
  1. I bet "Brian" is actually a Jets fan.

    Posted by Amy July 25, 08 04:13 PM
  1. Brian- well you must have been asleep last season. Tom's "head not in the game."
    The MVP of the NFL? The QB that literally shattered records last year and led a team to a regular season without a LOSS????
    The QB that starts and plays through every game???
    The QB that opponents threatened to break his legs, take him out, and went after with a vengeance?
    What planet are you on??????
    The PATS have the best current QB and he's destined to be one of the best QB's ever.
    Not sure where your head is... but I have an opinion on that...

    Posted by Luke July 25, 08 05:32 PM
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