Yes, the New England Patriots have had another great season, but they are definitely not the most exciting team to watch in the playoffs. On paper, they're a dream come true. In fact, if Superbowl rings were awarded on stats alone, the Patriots would have this one. Brady is a veteran, and he's the top rated Quarterback in the league. Every week, New England fans expect to see amazing offensive yardage. Every week, New England fans expect the Patriots to win. More often than not, they deliver.
The Patriots are the safe, albeit boring, bet. They meet expectations. They represent stability, reliability, and consistency. These are excellent characteristics, but are they exciting?
And much to New England's dismay, Superbowls aren't handed to the teams with the best record, either. That wouldn't be interesting, and it certainly wouldn't be exciting.
Excitement requires an inherent level of volatility and risk. The most exciting teams, the most dangerous teams, are the most volatile teams. Michael Vick is exciting. The Chicago Bears are exciting. The New York Jets are exciting. There's even something exciting about the Seahawks -- the veritable underdogs of the competition. What makes these teams is exciting is their unpredictability. It's almost impossible to set expectations for these players and teams because every week is different. Some weeks they display a level of play that is above and beyond anything else in league. Other weeks, they simply look dismal.
One never knows what to expect when watching a hot and cold team like the Chicago Bears or the New York Jets -- and naturally, the unpredictability leads to lowered expectations. That's where the excitement comes in.
Simply meeting expectations is mildly satisfying. Exceeding them is exhilarating. It's the reason why NFL fans cheer for the underdog and live for upsets. It's why thousands of fans pack stadiums for games when their team is expected to lose by a 20-point margin. There's something really exciting about an imperfect team pulling it together and having an amazing game. Perhaps it appeals to conflict inside us all -- the knowledge that we can have both good and bad days, that we can make mistakes and move forward, and that our future isn't determined by our past.
The New England Patriots are like the cool kid in high school, the one who has it all together. Everyone expects him to succeed, but nobody relates to him. He's talented, but frankly, not that interesting. He validates our self-defeating believes that only people who are perfect and follow all the rules will succeed in life. It's much more interesting to hear a rags-to-riches story, or to see the guy who gets cut from the high school team in his first year go on to play as a starter in college. These unconventional heroes silence the negative voices in our heads and show us that there is another way to succeed in the world, and it isn't always perfect.
If the Patriots win the Superbowl, millions of NFL fans, outside of New England, will probably shrug their shoulders and say, "It figures." But if another team wins, especially a volatile, unpredictable team, something more will be stirred in fans all across the country, something hopeful and exciting. When an imperfect team succeeds, it reminds us that there is a champion inside all of us, and we're all capable of achieving greatness. If that's not exciting, I don't know what is.