FOXBOROUGH - Secretariat at the Belmont was perfect. Don Larsen in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series was perfect. Bobby Orr on ice was perfect.
A score of 2400 on the SAT exam. John Edwards's hair. Halle Berry in "Die Another Day." The final two minutes of "Jungleland." The last paragraph of "The Great Gatsby."
And now the Patriots are perfect. So far. And they are the biggest story in the NFL. Every day.
The Patriots are 12-0 as they prepare to play host to the 9-3 Pittsburgh Steelers this afternoon. Present Perfect. You know the rest. Only one team in NFL history ever has run the table. The 1972 Miami Dolphins went 14-0, then 3-0 in the playoffs. Past Perfect. The Patriots are striving for 16-0, then 3-0, which would make them even more perfect than the fabled fish.
It's history. ESPN tracks it as "Pursuit of Perfection." Here at the Globe, we're thinking of new ways to describe the perfect team. It'll be commemorated on Globe Store coffee mugs and T-shirts after Super Bowl XLII in Glendale, Ariz., in early February.
Nadia Comaneci earned the first perfect gymnastics scores at the 1976 Montreal Olympics. The 1985-86 Celtics were almost perfect at home. They settled for 48-1 (Portland got 'em on a Sunday afternoon). Mike Mussina was perfect on a Sunday night at Fenway until Jurassic Carl Everett broke it up with two out in the ninth.
"Citizen Kane," "Casablanca," and "Godfathers" I and II can all make a case for perfect. Ditto for the Sistine Chapel, the Pieta, and the Mona Lisa. The Leaning Tower of Pisa is perfect because of its imperfection.
Today is the day some think we'll witness perfectus interruptus at Gillette Stadium. New England was fiercely challenged by Philadelphia and Baltimore in the past two weeks, and the Patriots were downright lucky to escape with a win against the Ravens last Monday. And now they are facing the toughest defense in the NFL. In a short week. And Bill Belichick accidentally admitted that his team is "tired."
Perfect doesn't come along very often. Bob Beamon's long jump at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City was perfect. Rollie Massimino's strategy against Georgetown in the 1985 NCAA basketball final was close to perfect. Same with Muhammad Ali's rope-a-dope game plan against young George Foreman in Zaire in 1974.
A collision of natural forces made for the Perfect Storm in the Northeast in 1991. Dome-bellied David Wells pitched a perfect game while hungover in May of 1998, then titled his autobiography, "Perfect I'm Not." In 1985, John Travolta and Jamie Lee Curtis teamed up in movie titled "Perfect." Perfect it was not.
Patriot haters will be deflated if the Steelers can't get it done today. New England's road to perfection is pretty smooth after today. In the next two weeks, the Patriots play at home against the woeful Jets (no cellphone cameras, please) and the winless Dolphins.
New England finishes its regular season on a Saturday night after Christmas on the road against the Giants. Think there's any chance they can lose to Eli Manning if they go into that game with a 15-0 record? Senator John Kerry already is lobbying to assure that the game (a dreaded NFL Network production) will be televised everywhere. He knows perfection when he sees it.
We do, too.
Michael Jordan's jump shot. Mozart's 40th symphony. Vin Scully's play-by-play. The Zakim Bridge. Tiger Woods at the 2000 US Open. Rene Rancourt's anthem before any Game 7 at the Old Garden. Striped bass fishing at Great Point.
Vanilla ice cream on a hot brownie. Lambeau Field on a playoff Sunday in January. Ray Charles's "God Bless America." Ray Fitzgerald's columns. Gabe Kapler's six-pack. Sam Adams's six-pack.
JFK's inaugural address. Stan Musial's swing. The flag-raising photo at Iwo Jima. Bill Russell in seventh games. Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World." Johnny Unitas's black high-tops. El Greco's "View of Toledo." Bobby Kielty's lifetime World Series batting average.
The par-3 12th at Augusta National. The sunset at Menemsha Harbor. Torville and Dean in Sarajevo in 1984. Ruth and Gehrig. John and Paul.
Shakespeare Sonnet XXIX. Super Bowl XXXVI.
And now the 2007 New England Patriots. Still looking for Future Perfect. Pats Perfect.
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.