Monday, February 04, 2008


In almost all undertakings in life, we can never be perfect even as we strive, Sisyphus-like, for perfection, aware the goal is unattainable but determined to push forward nonetheless. That’s why so many became enraptured in the New England Patriot’s quest for an undefeated season. They almost got the boulder to the top, and that’s a rare thing indeed.

You could say a perfect NFL season is not perfection at all, the pursuit just a game and the achievement defined in the narrowest of terms. And yet that misses the point. Sports is the only arena in life where perfection is actually attainable. The quantification of athletic success makes ultimate success possible in a way that’s impossible in business or art or politics. Numbers are inarguable. You are either 19-0 or you’re not.

The New England Patriots are not. 18-1 is laudable, the team’s season is legendary. But they are not perfect. And we may never see another team come so close. Even under the clearest of definitions perfection is brutally hard to achieve. Only one NFL team has ever reached such heights – long ago and in a different era. They look, more than ever, to be alone on that hill for years to come.

If some who rooted against the New England Patriots are feeling malaise today, perhaps it’s because a historic moment vanished, replaced by just another Super Bowl winner, strong yet imperfect. Instead of seeing the near impossible happen we witnessed the all to commonplace drama of greatness succumbing to mediocrity.

The Patriots lost their bid for immortality because they lost one game. Perhaps, in the end, that’s why we respect sports achievements less than we respect the triumphs of art or culture or humanity. In sports, you’re either perfect or you’re not. And there’s almost all nots. But in art and literature and humanitarianism and life, perfection is infinitely debatable, feats measured not in whether a man or woman reaches the top but how close he or she gets and how hard he or she fights.

Personally, I’d rather struggle for unattainable perfection than be measured by a rigid mark. The Patriots had no such luxury. They are imperfect, just like every other team.

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Anonymous kranky kritter said...

OTOH, who would remember Goliath now if he had been 159-0 instead of 158-1?

1:10 PM  

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