Editorial: The day a dynasty was born

  • New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady throws a pass against the Indianapolis Colts during his first NFL start on Sept. 30, 2001. AP

Friday, January 26, 2018

High school seniors have no idea what it’s like to live in a world where the New England Patriots stink. That is how long the team has dominated the National Football League.

If you go by the schedule, the dynasty began on Sept. 9, 2001, a season-opening loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in the Patriots’ first Super Bowl season. But fans know better. The dynasty actually began two weeks later during a 10-3 loss to the New York Jets. With 2 minutes and 16 seconds left in the game, Tom Brady, filling in for the injured Drew Bledsoe, threw his first pass of the season – a four-yard completion to fullback Patrick Pass. All Brady has done since then is become the best quarterback the NFL has ever seen and leader of one of the greatest franchises in the history of professional sports. But everybody knows that story by now. We thought it would be interesting, however, to travel back to that day (by way of the Monitor’s microfilm) when, in hindsight, the Patriots became THE PATRIOTS.

The Sunday Monitor of Sept. 23, 2001, was dominated, of course, by the fallout from the terror attacks of Sept. 11 and the coming war. The headlines read “Noose tightens on Taliban,” “Attacks usher in new era of national security,” and “Bush wartime strategy emerges,” but the certainty of those bold-faced words belied the confusion and anxiety of the time. On Oct. 7, the United States military would invade Afghanistan – a war that, like the Patriots dynasty, is more than 16 years old with no end in sight.

Deeper inside the A section, four faces adorning the weekly congressional “Roll Call” served as a reminder of just how much things have changed politically in New Hampshire since 2001. Instead of a delegation of four Democratic women, there were four Republican men: Sens. Bob Smith and Judd Gregg and Reps. Charlie Bass and John E. Sununu. 

In sports, Michael Jordan was on the verge of beginning his comeback with the Washington Wizards and the Red Sox were in second place in the American League East, 12 games behind the New York Yankees (who would go on to lose to the Arizona Diamondbacks in the World Series). The day before, Concord High football had lost a close game to undefeated Pinkerton, 18-12, and Franklin had edged Pelham, 14-13. And what kind of coverage did the soon-to-be-dynastic Patriots get for their game against New York that day? A short feature story on Jets quarterback Vinny Testaverde.

The Monitor’s editorial focused on President Bush’s televised national address the previous Thursday night: “A bedrock optimism could be felt throughout the president’s speech, and that was the message for which the country most yearned. Still, in forecasting ‘a lengthy campaign unlike any other we have ever seen,’ Bush was frank as well. More bloodshed lies ahead.” The president couldn’t have known how right he was.

Now some quick hits from Sept. 23, 2001:

– A headline on the Technology page read: “Can the Internet really be trusted?”

The Fast and the Furious (the first one!) was still in theaters, along with Legally Blonde and Shrek.

– A new Ford F-250 Super Duty pickup truck was selling for about $26,000.

Black House by Stephen King and Peter Straub topped the bestseller list.

– The Dow Jones Industrial Index was at 8,235.81.

Someday, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick will hang it up, and the Patriots won’t be a good football team. It’s anybody’s guess when that day will come and what the world will look like when it does.