When you get to your NFL-record 10th Super Bowl, there's a natural tendency to believe there will always be another chance. Or, that there will always be "next year."
And then, when you see the thousands of fans who lined up outside of Gillette Stadium for the Send-Off Rally Monday morning in Foxboro - some who arrived as early as 3:00 am ET (hello Peru, Maine!) - you realize how special a moment this is.
And always will be.
These days, there's a generation of fans that don't remember what the AFL was, or remember the merger with the NFL in 1970 that brought New England into the professional sports spotlight beyond the banners that hung (and still hang) inside the then-Boston Garden, and don't really recall the historical missteps at Fenway Park from their beloved Red Sox.
There's a generation of fans that may barely (if at all) recall the first trip to the Super Bowl (XX at the Louisiana Superdome) in 1986 to face Da Bears, or Trip #2 to the same venue to face off with the Green Bay Packers eleven years later in 1997.
Neither trip ended the way the current generation has become accustomed to experiencing, so it certainly speaks to their good fortune to have witnessed eight of these ultimate games in the past 17 years. And it speaks to our good fortune, too.
As the Patriots' AirKraft left Providence's T.F. Green Airport Monday afternoon, the realization of "here we go again" for fans undoubtedly began to soar again just as the Patriot players took to the skies, headed for Minneapolis.
Next year, is here. It's this year.
Two favorite signs from the scene at NRG Plaza outside of Gillette Stadium Monday morning - "This never gets old!" and "Let's shut up the world - again!" Both indicate an appreciation for recent history, but with an expectation that might be a bit unfair. After all, the Patriots are facing their toughest test of the season in a Philadelphia team that can also share an appreciation of where they are - especially after losing starting QB Carson Wentz a few weeks ago.
Nick Foles, who is eminently capable of performing under center, is probably playing with house money right now. You know he has an appreciation for this from where he stands, as do his Eagles' teammates, which include ex-Pats LeGarrette Blount and Chris Long. They were, of course, members of NE's SB LI championship team. Coming from the other side, there is undoubtedly an appreciation for the present moment.
The New England Patriots held their Super Bowl LII send-off rally on NRG Plaza outside The Hall at Patriot Place presented by Raytheon on Monday, January 29, 2018.
The City of Philadelphia and the Eagles have yet to experience what New England has experienced five times previously in NFL history - and that's to win a Super Bowl. No Eagle remains behind from the Super Bowl XXXIX match-up 13 years ago between the Patriots and Eagles, except for owner Jeffrey Lurie. And there's his Patriot counterpart in Robert Kraft and of course, TB12 who have also persevered through time.
It's a different moment and opportunity, a different place, and another chance to create a snapshot of sports history that stands the test of time. You just don't know if there will be a "next year," so you try to live in the present moment, and appreciate it for what it is.
Next year is here, again.
Open mouth, insert foot
It wouldn't be the Patriots or the Super Bowl without some sort of off-field issue or controversy rattling around, and this year the first shot fired concerns a media comment coming from Tom Brady's Facebook film series "Tom vs. Time."
If you're not aware, in the opening episode Brady's young daughter Vivian was very excited, as most five-year old kids can be from time to time. Referencing Brady's daughter in a review of the opening episode, WEEI's Alex Reimer referred to her on-air in a rather intolerant moment, with an unflattering comment.
It was beyond dumb. Brady responded to the comment during his weekly contracted visit with WEEI by telling the hosts, "I've tried to come on this show for many years and showed you guys a lot of respect," Brady said to WEEI's 'Kirk & Callahan.' "I've always tried and come on and do a good job for you guys. It's very disappointing when you hear (the comments about my daughter), certainly.
"My daughter, or any child, certainly don't deserve that. I really don't have much to say this morning," Brady added. "Maybe I'll speak with you guys some other time."
And with that, the conversation ended. Who can blame him? Everyone, no matter their status in life or in sports, has a right to some privacy. Criticism of children in the media spotlight has long been - and always should be - considered off-limits. It's not the child's fault if they have a famous mother or father whose every move is scrutinized under a public microscope, and I can only imagine criticism coming from those individuals who might not have kids of their own.
Reimer is a young man, and a relative newbie in his job. He was indefinitely suspended by the station, which was to have included him in their Super Bowl coverage. It's a tough lesson to learn, but one that's necessary to reinforce the boundaries in media-to-athlete relationships.
Brady has had a long-standing relationship with WEEI on Monday broadcasts, and the contract between the Patriots and the station for his appearances was just renewed in the past week. Perhaps with a little time to go before the next scheduled visit, a mea culpa can be observed.
But right now, time is on TB12's side in this relationship. The radio station needs him more than he needs his weekly 6:00 am appearance, and a lot more than he needs a green-behind-the-gills talk show host throwing senseless, inconsiderate comments toward his children.
Reimer should have known better, sure. But then again, the station should also have known better than to put an inexperienced personality in a position to give a "hot take" like that one. There is so much pressure to make news, and to "be the news," reporters, hosts and personalities too often forget they are not the news. Nor should they be. It makes others at WEEI look bad too, when there are several veteran, classy, professional hosts on the station capable of criticizing athletes without degrading family members.
Getting on board the "Way-back" machine
For the memory-addled - or maybe you weren't even alive (or aware) back then, Super Bowl 39 took place in Jacksonville, Florida, ultimately as a promise kept by the NFL to the City of Jacksonville to eventually host the game with the Jaguars joining the league a decade earlier.
The Eagles were making their 2nd Super Bowl appearance, and their first since 1980 when they lost to the Oakland Raiders with Dick Vermeil as their coach. Andy Reid ran the show this time, hoping to derail a Patriots' Crazy Train that had won twice in the previous three seasons.
The game was close throughout, and tied at 14 going into the 4th quarter. Corey Dillon and Adam Vinatieri were responsible for 10 4th period points that put the Patriots over the top, withstanding a late Eagles' rally behind Donovan McNabb.
Ultimately, the Patriots "D" made the difference, forcing four Philadelphia turnovers, and wide receiver Deion Branch was named the game MVP with 11 receptions for 133 yards. Did you know - Branch was just the 3rd player in Super Bowl history to be named MVP without throwing, catching or running for a touchdown?
While the Patriots celebrated a 3rd win in four years - something they hope to do again this year - the Eagles may have been just happy to be there. After three straight losses in the NFC Championship game leading into their SB 39 appearance, the thought existed these Eagles might fly again after achieving the best record in the NFC over four straight years.
They even went out and hired the loquacious, energetic Terrell Owens to be an impact player. He was, despite a metal plate and two screws keeping an injured ankle in place. But not enough to make the ultimate difference in the outcome.
The Patriots' major story seemed to center around the potential loss of their two coaching coordinators, with Charlie Weis (headed to Notre Dame) and Romeo Crennel (to the Cleveland Browns) ready at the time for running their own shows.
Wouldn't you know it? NE offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia are both prominently mentioned for two current NFL openings.
Now, if karma will just be kind here, maybe we'll have something. Like déjà vu, all over again.
John Rooke is an author and award-winning broadcaster, and is in his 25th season as the Patriots' stadium voice. Currently serving in several media capacities - which include hosting "Patriots Playbook" on Patriots.com Radio - Rooke has broadcast college football and basketball locally and nationally for 30 seasons and is a member of the Rhode Island Radio Hall of Fame and RI's Words Unlimited Hall of Fame.