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The Worst Super Bowl in History?

As the Patriots clinched their sixth Super Bowl, even the winning team seemed bored by Sunday night’s punt-a-thon

A New England Patriots' fan awaits the start of Super Bowl LIII against the Los Angeles Rams, February 3, 2019 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP)        (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

The New England Patriots won the Super Bowl, but even they seemed bored by the whole ordeal.

Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images

On behalf of Patriots fans everywhere, I apologize for the Super Bowl. We know it was a terrible game. We also know you hate us. Hell, I hate us.

Even we don’t enjoy this that much anymore. My personal excitement level Sunday night was between enjoying a good cheeseburger and waking up to find a boil gone.

Aesthetically there have definitely been worse Super Bowls. The 1995 Niners-Chargers game was over in five minutes. The Eighties and early Nineties were filled with games like that, blowouts decided before your second beer. Super Bowl V, in 1971, featured 11 turnovers and a missed extra point.

But Sunday’s game was 14 punts and four hours of offensive ineptitude capped by an ending that depressed everyone outside New England. The Patriots themselves struggled to conceal the mildness of their excitement over their just-good-enough win. Devin McCourty, yawning almost, called it “still a pretty good feeling.” Depending on your point of view was either an amusing middle finger to the rest of the country or the ultimate testament to their vile corporate personality, or both.

Tom Brady, in previous Super Bowls, jumped up and down like a kindergartener (the Seattle game in 2015) and collapsed from exhaustion (the Falcons’ comeback in 2017). After his first championship in 2002 he seemed dumbfounded with excitement, wearing the “Who, me?” look of the next contestant on The Price is Right as he stood with his hand on his head staring in all directions.

This time around, in the postgame interview with Tracy Wolfson, the gazillionaire 41-year-old struggled to identify why he was celebrating. Thinking for a moment, he said, “We’ve, uh, been this far and lost, which is really tough,” then added, “I wish we’d played a little better on offense, but we won… Super Bowl champs.”

Two weeks of hype for, Well, it’s better than losing. No wonder everyone hates us. He looked about as happy as your Dad unwrapping yet another shaving kit on Christmas morning.

A lot of people this week are saying things like, “We’ll never see a dynasty like this again.” That might not be true. I could see Patrick Mahomes ripping off six titles. What we’ll never see again is a team that makes it to a ninth Super Bowl and unironically plays the “nobody believed in us” card when they get there.

Even curmudgeon-in-chief Bill Belichick, who normally keeps such thoughts imprisoned behind that Easter Island face, was babbling about how “Everyone counted us out” in his postgame interview. This is a man who repaints the name of his boat with each title and will soon be puttering around the Vineyard in a vessel called “VIII Rings” (he counts the two he won as a coordinator with the Giants). Count you out? The Patriots are as inevitable as herpes to most Americans.

The one poor kid who ran his mouth about the Patriots in the last few weeks was Rams corner Nickell Robey-Coleman. His crime was being insufficiently pedigreed as a player to say true things about Brady (Aqib Talib would have gotten away with it). Robey-Coleman said age had “taken its toll” on the GOAT, who was “not the sharpest” and “not the same quarterback” he’d seen as a member of the Buffalo Bills, hinting Brady’s arm and brain had both slowed. The kid was seemingly forced by someone to backtrack in a public statement in Atlanta a few days later that was as convincing as a captured jet pilot offering a video confession.

Then the game started, and Brady instantly validated everything Robey-Coleman said! The man who we keep hearing has “seen every coverage” and is “impossible to fool” mixed up zone and man literally on his first pass, which he underthrew to Chris Hogan, allowing (who else?) Robey-Coleman to tip the ball in the air for a crushing early interception.

The Patriots deserved to lose the game on that play alone, or at least Brady did. But the Rams’ offense spit the bit on the next possession, on the way to not showing up all game, so it didn’t matter.

The one saving grace of the Patriots throughout its period as America’s leading sports villain was that the team always played interesting Super Bowls. Until Sunday, every single one of their championship games has been a good one, and three or four (2002, 2004, 2008 and 2017 stand out) were outright classics. The only previous title game that was on the boring side was the 2005 game against the Eagles, which the Patriots characteristically won when their opponents appeared to forget the score late in the fourth quarter.

Not this year. The 2018-19 Patriots made a Super Bowl that was tied heading into the fourth quarter feel as exciting as an evening re-run of Shoe Shopping on QVC. The Patriots wet themselves a half-dozen times early on and headed into the fourth quarter with just three points on the board, forcing the whole country to keep watching out of reflexive Schadenfreude, after which the Pats didn’t even have the common decency to lose the game.

Even as the confetti fell, the players were so clearly bored, they seemed to borrow interview lines and expressions of exuberance from previous celebrations (the Brady-Edelman-Belichick tri-hug was a clear ripoff of the Brady-Belichick-Legarrette Blount bro-down after the Falcons game). It was like watching the ’27 Yankees jump for joy after winning on a passed ball against a beer league team. An America that doesn’t hate this team has no self-respect, and again, I say this as a Patriots fan.

A Los Angeles Rams fans take a photo before the NFL Super Bowl 53 football game between the Los Angeles Rams and the New England Patriots, in AtlantaPatriots Rams Super Bowl Football, Atlanta, USA - 03 Feb 2019

A Los Angeles Rams fan at the Super Bowl plays with her phone. Photo credit: David J Phillip/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Then there was the award celebration, which hit another surprising new low. The Patriots have been waging a fierce national unpopularity contest with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for years. Every time the league suppressed CTE research or colluded against Colin Kaepernick or suspended potsmokers while welcoming alleged domestic abusers back to the field, the Patriots would take back the lead with something like Deflategate or an unsolicited endorsement of Donald Trump.

On Sunday, when Pats fans in Atlanta viciously booed Goodell for having the temerity to congratulate Pats owner Robert Kraft for winning an 852-punting-yard contest that cratered ratings and probably set the league’s TV ad rates back 15 years, the Patriots improbably snuck back in the lead of this neck-and-neck race.

This was despite the NFL’s transparent effort to get out from under its self-inflicted Kaepernick cloud — The Root called it the “MAGA Super Bowl” — by running ads praising MLK and showing Goodell touting “community and social justice moments” in Atlanta.

On stage, Kraft grabbed the Lombardi from Goodell, turned his back, and dragged out his slower-every-year “We are all Patriots!” speech for the 10 millionth time.

If the Pats owner is at Super Bowl 54 next year wearing that same fat pink tie and pretentious white club collar (a stylistic tradition, by the way, that came from Eton College aristocrats in England wanting to visually distinguish themselves from riff-raff) — if he’s shouting “We are all Patriots!” into the Miami night — there should be rioting across the country, and none of us would blame any of you.

I wish I could tell you Sunday was the last of this dynasty. If anything, they seem to be reverting to form. Any Patriots fan will tell you the team was actually better from 2001-2005, before Brady started throwing for a million touchdowns.

Did you see how happy Belichick was after the game? Winning a Super Bowl in which his best player was probably the punter is enough to keep that man tumescent for a decade. He will take it as a personal challenge to see if he can somehow make next year’s game even more miserable for everyone.

This is one of the reasons Patriots fans love coach Bill, but we get it if you want to stab us in the face for it. That was a bad one. We know. We’re sorry.

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