The Patriots' excellent adventure begins again


The Patriots' excellent adventure begins again

The Patriots have lost 42 regular-season games in the 11-year span since 2001. That's an average of less than four losses per season.

To put that in localized context, anyone over 30 can vaguely recall when the Patriots lost 61 games in five seasons (1989 to 1993). That's an average of 12 losses a year.

It's impossible to overstate how deeply entrenched the Patriots were as the NFL's laughingstock for most of their existence.

And now their excellence has become so routine that they've sucked the drama out of a question American sports fans obsess over at this time of year: "Can my football team make the playoffs; can it win the Super Bowl?"

Around here, the answers now -- and for more than a decade -- have been "Yes, definitely" and "Yes, maybe."

Like fall foliage and the Atlantic Ocean, the Patriots have become a regional privilege that we're aware and appreciative of, but no longer struck by. It's a fact of New England life.

Today, training camp opens.

The editorial staff at the region's paper of record, the Boston Globe, decided a soccer "friendly" between Roma and Liverpool at Fenway would be the centerpiece for their Thursday sports section. A scene-setting column for the London Olympics -- which begin Sunday -- was at the top of the page. Two Patriots stories -- including a column that referenced Red Auerbach, Bill Russell, Fred Lynn, Jim Rice, Bill Buckner and Hugh Hefner -- were wedged into the left rail.

The annual departure of the Red Sox equipment truck gets breathless coverage; the start of training camp for the AFC Champions gets a shrug and a "wake-us-in-January" feel.

Admittedly, there's a "chicken-or-the-egg" debate to why the Patriots don't rate.

They don't make it "fun." They believe in the "one-voice" theory, and that monotone and grunt-infused voice belongs to Bill Belichick. He believes a good day is one where his team is flying happily under the radar, and a scrimmage between European soccer teams gets center stage.

The 90 Patriots in training camp will sweat and run into each other from 1:30 until 4 p.m., and then come off the field and say they are "Happy to be back to work," "Working hard," "Taking it one practice at a time" and "Moving on from last year."

The actual stories are what happens on the field, not what the players and coaches don't say when they come off of it.

And there are stories. The addition of wide receiver Brandon Lloyd on offense. The pecking order at running back with BenJarvus Green-Ellis gone. The uncertainty on the offensive line because of injury and the absence of Brian Waters. The defensive transformation from one that favored wide-bodies up front to one that focuses on speed at the edges and depth in the secondary.

Watching the Patriots roll the rock up the mountain -- especially when they are at sea level -- may not be fascinating because the potential of the rock rolling back on them doesn't exist until they are near the peak.

But the process of getting the rock up there -- if you choose to look closely -- will never fail to be fascinating.