On the eve of Super Bowl 51, I thought I would recount one of the most memorable ten minutes of my time in college.
It’s February 1st, 2015, and the New England Patriots are playing the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX. I’m sitting in my room in Craige North dormitory on UNC’s campus, all alone. I refuse to watch the Patriots with anyone else – not because of superstition, but mostly because I’m just a weird guy.
I sat right in front of my TV, donning my grey t-shirt with “New England” across the chest and a logo under it that I had admired my entire life.
There was 1:30 left in the game, and I was close to empty. For three hours I yelled, laughed, cheered, and even squealed a few times (I was alone, give me a break) at the screen right in front of my eyes.
But all of that led to these last 90 seconds. The Patriots were leading, 28-24, and the Seahawks were driving down the field after the two-minute warning.
“Thank goodness the lead is at least at four points instead of three,” I thought to myself.
Then, it happened. The moment that brought me on the urge of tears.
With the clock ticking to about 1:15 and Seattle on NE’s 40-yard line, Russell Wilson threw pass down the right sideline to Jermaine Kearse. Kearse is five yards away from the endzone, but luckily Malcolm Butler (who at this time is just another cornerback in my eyes) tips the ball away to break it up.
Phew. That was dangerous.
I leaned back in my chair and took a quick look at my phone.
Then, my heart dropped. I look back up at the screen and Kearse has the ball in his hands and the referee is signaling catch.
He caught it.
“Oh my God, oh my God,” I said. “Not again.”
The most painful moment of my sports fandom creeped back into my head. I felt just like I did as a 12-year old boy watching Eli Manning escape from the grasps of Richard Seymour only to then throw a miracle pass to a player’s name that I can’t work up the power to type.
I sat in my chair defeated. Another miracle catch. I can’t take this. We’re cursed.
(By now most of you are thinking that it’s ridiculous for a Patriots fan to feel cursed. You’re not wrong. But these were my thoughts in that moment. We were about to lose the Super Bowl for a second time on a miracle catch.)
After Kearse’s catch, the camera panned to Tom Brady on the sideline, shaking his head like someone had broken his heart. I have never related more with someone in my entire life.
Then, the TV network thought it would a great idea to show clips of the 2007 Giants catch again. If you think I’m not on the verge of tears at this point then I don’t know what to tell you.
The first play after the catch was a run play off the tackle. Donta Hightower stopped Marshawn Lynch at the 1-yard line with just about a minute of game time left. (This play will become immensely important in Patriots history.)
I knew what was coming. One more Lynch run up the middle and it was over. The Patriots were about to lose their third straight Super Bowl. I couldn’t take it.
The next play, Wilson lined up in the shot gun. The snap came, but the call was a slant pass, not a draw up the middle. Next thing I know, there’s a collision between receiver and cornerback at the goal line.
Then it hit me. Oh my God. Butler has the ball.
“The ball is INTERCEPTED at the goal line by Malcolm Butler,” says Al Michaels. “Unreal.”
He did it. The Butler did it.
I don’t know what came over me in that moment. I leaped up and down, screaming for joy. The camera then shows Brady jumping for joy as well. Once again, me and Tommy Boy are on the same wavelength.
I ran out of my room, screaming across the hall for the one other Patriots fan I knew in our dorm.
“D-Ray, we did it! We’re champions!”
David Ray Allen (shout out to you, friend) ran out of his dorm (donning a Brady t-shirt) and we jump hugged in the middle of the hall, screaming close to midnight.
I rushed back into my room to see the conclusion. After a little commotion, the Patriots ran the clock out to double zeros.
I had no idea what to do with my body, so I grabbed my phone to try and settle down. I called the one person that I NEEDED to talk to in that moment: my dad.
I called the one man who is responsible for my Patriots’ fandom, and the one who’s voice I wanted to hear the most.
That moment will always be special to me, and one I will never let go of.
Those last couple minutes of Super Bowl XLIX will forever be etched into my memory.
I have thought about this night often as the days have counted down to tomorrow night’s game. I know the roller coaster that is watching your team play in the Super Bowl. It’s amazing, excruciating, satisfying, and painful. You never truly know what the outcome will be, and one point can change the course of the sport’s history.
And that’s why I love it. These feelings I felt back on Feb.1, 2015 are some that no other medium can provide. Fandom does that to you. I can’t pinpoint why, but all I know is that it’s addicting.
So if you need to reach me tomorrow from around 5 pm to midnight, just give me a call.
I won’t answer.