Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Super Bowl 51

These past few days have been some I won't soon forget.  Monday morning I woke up feeling like I'd had the most bizarre (yet incredible) dream.  I don't even know where to begin.  Even after I've had time to let it all sink in, I'm still rendered speechless: The New England Patriots are Super Bowl Champions once again!!!

And what a game it was... I've talked about how much I love the Patriots.  I grew up watching them every Sunday when I was in high school.  I begged my parents for my Tom Brady jersey; the jersey that I faithfully wear to this day.  I'm a born and raised Patriots fan.  And my whole family is.  Where I'm from, it's a way of life.

We weren't always this good.  I was a fan back when we didn't make it to Super Bowls, when we lost in the playoffs (when we made it to them) and when we weren't expected to do anything big.  I was a fan when I'd get the paper copy of the JCPenney catalog (remember those?) and the Patriots would never have any merchandise in it.  I would search high and low, and always come up with nothing.  We weren't good enough.  I was a fan and was devastated when we made it to Super Bowl 31 and lost to the Packers (1996), dreaming of the day we'd finally win a Lombardi trophy of our own.

But things change.  I was a fan when a young Tom Brady took over for Drew Bledsoe when he was injured.  I was a fan when we finally made it back to Super Bowl 36 (2001).  I was a fan when Tom Brady led us down the field and when Adam Vinatieri made that field goal as the game clock ran out.  I was a fan when we finally did it: we won our first Super Bowl.  Everyone rejoiced.  I even made myself a custom pillow to commemorate it.  My parents bought Jeremy and me Super Bowl 36 throw blankets.  I cut out tons of newspaper clippings- photos that are still on the wall of my bedroom at my parents' house to this day.  They still make me smile.

And I was a fan for all the other ones: Super Bowl 38, 39, 49 and now.  Through the wins, and the losses, the highs and the lows.  From the agony of defeat, to the celebration.  To attending the Patriots victory parade and rally on a cold January day in 2004.  To going to my first ever game at Gillette Stadium on a really cold December day in 2012.  To finally having merchandise available for us to purchase.  To my team becoming a football dynasty.  I've been a true fan throughout it all.

On Sunday, I had a pit in my stomach all day.  I was excited, but nervous excited.  I had a bad feeling about this one.  On top of that, I'm incredibly superstitious when it comes to the Patriots.  I've had my Tom Brady jersey laid out, neatly folded in the same location since the AFC Championship game.  That was National Polka Dot day, and I wore my Minnie Mouse brooch.  Do I take it off?  Leave it on?  I hate to admit this, but I've been debating it for the past two weeks since the AFC Championship game.

About an hour before the game, I went upstairs to change into my outfit- the same red pants, a white undershirt and my Tom Brady jersey (still with the Minnie brooch).  I found Duffy's little football costume that I made him years ago.  Since it's delicate and handmade, he only wears it during big games.  I dressed him up in it, and made sure Eeyore and Brother were all set with their jerseys.

I knew it was going to be a long night long before the game even began.  I was super emotional watching the promos before the game.  Then, when President Bush and Barbara Bush came out from behind the flags, I started to cry a little.  I laughed it off, but I knew it was going to be a long, emotional night no matter the outcome.

The first half wasn't pretty.  I'm not going to relive it.  It's not something I want to talk about.  Missed opportunities, bad plays and a series of awful took us into the half with a score of 3-21.  I'm not going to lie, it looked pretty bad.  These were not my Patriots.

I went into overtime feeling a bit dejected.  I perked up at the beginning of the Pepsi Halftime Show; Lady Gaga was a fun choice and I hoped she'd sing some of her older songs.  I've always thought she was an awesome performer.  And she absolutely killed it.  Diving into the stadium, drones, flying, flips, dancing, cool lighting effects, stellar vocals and some poignant subliminal messages.  I loved the show, as did many of my friends judging from their Facebook posts.  (Note to self: add Lady Gaga songs to current playlists.)  This was probably my favorite half time show thus far.

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After that awesome performance, I put my game face on.  "We can do this!"  I went upstairs and the Minnie Mouse brooch came off and was safely tucked back into it's drawer.  I came back downstairs and rearranged our plushies into the order they usually sit on the couch.  (I should have known to put them in their normal order.)  It sounds crazy, but superstitions Melissa won out.  And I felt a lot better afterwards.

The third quarter didn't start how I'd hoped.  The more I saw, the more disappointed, disgusted and deflated (haha, pun totally intended) I got.  This one meant something to us.  It was a chance to prove something.  I'm so sick of all the hate against us.  No, we haven't always played fair, and I'll own that.  The past few years haven't been the easiest with the whole Deflategate and witch hunt nonsense.  (Don't even get me started on that...)  This year was the Revenge Tour.  A lot was at stake, including Tom Brady's place in history as the best quarterback ever.

I started losing a bit of hope.  One by one, I watched my friends Facebook status messages as they went from pre-game elation, to misery.  I know plenty of people who wrote them off and went to bed.  Or they changed the channel.  They couldn't stomach it any longer.  This was supposed to cement our place in history, and it looked like we weren't going to get the outcome we'd hoped for all season.  That golden moment.

A lot of New England fans wrote them off.  Heck, I was tempted a few times.  But I hung on.  I held out hope, even if it was just a small shimmer.  I kept telling myself that they've done crazy things in the past, why should this game be any different?  Still, it seemed impossible and the NFL announcers kept reminding us that it was definitely improbable.  Over and over I told myself that if anyone could do it, it was the Patriots.

And they came back.  The New England Patriots did something that was supposed to be impossible.  They came back and they won.  They scored 31 unanswered points to win Super Bowl 51.  When they tied it to go into overtime, I shed a few tears.  This was impossible wasn't it?  I'm pretty sure I held my breath the entire overtime.  When we got the final touchdown in overtime, I literally didn't believe it.  I waited with baited breath for the call that the ball was over the line.  Then, I promptly burst into tears.

Emotions overcame me as I sat on the couch and sobbed happy tears.  I had just witnessed the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history.  Heck, I think we all witnessed the greatest Super Bowl in history.  In 50 years, it has never gone into overtime.  In 50 years, no one has come back from a deficit that big.  It was one for the history books.

In the end, Super Bowl 51 had 37 records that were broken, set, or tied.  And there were so many firsts: 9 Super Bowl appearances, 4 MVP titles, 5 wins by a coach, 5 wins by a quarterback and so many more.  After this, I think we can all officially agree that Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are the best coach/QB duo ever.  Although, we Patriots fans have known it for awhile.

New England might be the most hated team in the NFL, but they're my team and I'll cheer them on no matter what.  And this one, it really meant something.  This one was a season's worth of work, a whole lot of heart, a task that sometimes seemed impossible, and to be honest, it was a little bit spiteful.  And I'm 100% ok admitting it.

If the Patriots never win another Super Bowl while I'm alive to see it, at least we won this one.  (Although, it should be noted that I'm perfectly ok winning many more...)  The 2016-2017 Revenge Tour is complete.  History has been made.  Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are officially the best this league has ever seen.  The Drive for Five was successful.  We got "One More" and we're bringing another title home to Boston.  And most importantly, my beloved New England Patriots are Champions once again.

Thank you 2016-2017 Patriots for one heck of a ride this season.  I'm thankful to be a part of Patriot Nation.  And as I look back on this game, I'm always going to remember something my Mom taught me growing up: it's never over until it's over.  °o°

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