I am 13 years old, and the New England Patriots are getting absolutely crushed in the Super Bowl. Historically crushed. The final scored will be Chicago Bears 46, Patriots 10. The joy of seeing my team play in its first Super Bowl lasts one short quarter. An early 3-0 Patriots lead is a 13-3 deficit after one quarter, and the Bears lead 23-3 at halftime.

The game is a gut punch after an impressive run through the AFC playoffs, three consecutive wins on the road. I’ve never experienced a playoff run like this, and I am young and naive, so I believed the Patriots have a puncher’s chance against the nearly unbeatable Bears. Instead, I watch the biggest rout in Super Bowl history, at least until the Denver Broncos get drubbed by the San Francisco 49ers in four years.

I am temporarily disheartened, but hopeful for the impending future. This team is built to contend. Young players are impressive, particularly quarterback Tony Eason and wide receiver Irving Fryar…

I am 16 years old, and Joe Montana is leading the San Francisco 49ers down the field late in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XXIII against the Cincinnati Bengals. Montana’s touchdown pass to John Taylor in the final minute will become one of the signature plays of the quarterback’s career.

It is a joy to watch a player of Montana’s caliber move his team down the field. In the most stressful moments, Montana is cool and confident. It will come out that during the game-winning drive, Montana went to the huddle and told his teammates to check out comedian John Candy in the stands.

Montana is impervious to panic. I wish the Patriots could get a quarterback like that…

I am 20 years old, and the starting quarterback for the Patriots is a guy named Hugh Millen. Or maybe it’s Scott Zolak, Tommy Hodson, or Jeff Carlson — it depends on the week. The point is, none of the four win very much, and they combine to throw 13 touchdowns and 19 interceptions in a season in which the Patriots win two games. This is coming off a season in which the team won six games, which was a vast improvement from the one-win season which preceded that.

I am numb to the futility…

I am 21 years old, and in the bleachers at Foxboro Stadium on a chilly November afternoon. The Patriots hold a three-point lead over the best team in the AFC, the Buffalo Bills, late in the fourth quarter. My friend Bob, a Bills fan, sits next to me and seems almost casually disinterested. He’s seen this movie.

“You left too much time,” Bob says.

He’s right. Jim Kelly brings the Bills down the field, and Steve Christie kicks a 27-yard field goal to send the game to overtime. Christie wins it with a field goal in overtime, and again, the Patriots are unable to protect a late lead…

I am 29 years old, and I think I just saw the New England Patriots season crumple with a vicious hit near the sidelines. Drew Bledsoe, the quarterback whom a few years ago led the Patriots to their second Super Bowl appearance, was hit hard by Mo Lewis of the New York Jets and is now on the sidelines. The season started a few weeks ago with a disappointing loss in Cincinnati. Now the team is going to be 0-2, and the franchise player is hurt.

Who is Tom Brady? Wasn’t he the fourth string quarterback last season?

A while later, an ambulance speeds by us on Interstate 95. The next day, we learn it transported Bledsoe, who was bleeding internally. We find out this Brady kid is the quarterback for who knows how long…

I am still 29 years old, and Adam Vinatieri is lining up for a 48-yard field goal with six seconds left in Super Bowl XXXVI. Brady just led the Patriots from their own 17-yard line to the St. Louis Rams 30. Brady looked cool and confident.

I am standing in my friend Joe’s living room when Vinatieri kicks. When the football goes through the uprights, and I see the clock shows no time left, I collapse and sob with joy. I have no muscle memory, no natural instinct as to how to react in this situation…

I am 44 years old, and about an hour ago, I came to the realization that the Patriots were likely going to lose Super Bowl LI to the Atlanta Falcons, and I made my peace with that. Atlanta had a 25-point lead, and no team down by that much has ever rallied to win the Super Bowl.

But no team down that much ever had Tom Brady, either, and the fourth quarter is all his. When the Patriots get the ball on their own 9 yard line with 3:30 left to play, I’m more concerned with how they’ll score the needed 2-point conversion after the eventual touchdown.

When the Patriots win the coin toss and get the ball to start overtime, I know it’s a matter of when, not if, they win this game. The last 15 years have made me cool and confident, too.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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