Monday, February 04, 2008

The Act of Hubris and the Sports Psyche

So much for the hype.

So much for the talking heads.

So much the greatest team in history.

So much for Super Bowl XLII.

It is finished. The professional football season of 2007-2008. Unlike the National Thugs Basketball Association that has the perpetually never ending season, there will be no more football o any kind until August, college or professional.

Perhaps even more shocking than a competitive Superbowl was the much ballyhooed New England Patriots with their undefeated season on the line entering the biggest sports arena of them all. The modern day gladiators just one win away from sports immortality: a dynasty with an undefeated season.

In many Superbowl Sunday newspapers across the country, what awaited readers was a fanciful depiction of the famous painting of Washington crossing the Delaware. In lieu of the traditional figures of Washington and his men were cut-outs of Patriots coach Bill Belichek, Playboy Quarterback Tom Brady, and other various and sundry New England football players. The allusion being that the Patriots were crossing their own Delaware on the journey to sports immortality.

But, as in olden times, a funny thing happened on the way to the Colosseum: hubris reared its ugly head. You recall what hubris is, do you not? Comparing oneself to the gods. One thing that Greco-Roman mythology teaches is that the gods do not like competition nor do they smile upon mortals who think they can become like the gods on Mount Olympus. In fact, in mythology, a mortal who falls into the act of hubris always has an ignominious end.

Ironically, the New England Patriots, whom many pundits were considering as potentially one of the greatest teams of all time, turned out to be not the valiant George Washington crossing the Delaware but the hapless Hessian army, the finest mercenaries money could by, who were completely unaware of the coming surprise attack that would ruin their holiday revelry. They were the same Hessians that would be remembered and studied for centuries not as the conquering heroes but as the lambs slaughtered upon the altar to the unknown sports gods.

The danger of propaganda is that the purveyor begins to believe his own propaganda. The Patriots we happy to proclaim to anyone willing to listen that they were a dynasty, invincible, undefeated, the gods of all football creation. Now the marionette lies lifeless for its strings have been cut.

Just as the gods of yore overpowered the titans, so too did the upstart Giants overpower the Patriots. Perhaps it is fitting that from the modern day Circus Maximus has arisen the old Circus Maxim: Pride goeth before the fall.

Giants 17, Patriots 14

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