The Five Stages of Having Your Team in the Super Bowl

Watching your team play in the Super Bowl is both a blessing and a curse. This Patriots fan walks you through the next two weeks.

My name is Alex Smolokoff, and I am a New England Patriots fan. With the Super Bowl now less than two weeks away, millions of Patriots and Seahawks fans are waiting anxiously for kickoff on February 1. While it’s obviously impossible to lump all fans together, there are bonds that tie us all as our teams prepare for the Super Bowl, and I suspect we will all go through the same stages as it nears. If you’ve never had a team in the Super Bowl, let this be your crash course. If you have, or are waiting for your team to play in Glendale a week from Sunday, allow this to be proof that you’re not alone. I present:

The Five Stages of Having Your Team in the Super Bowl:

Stage I: Jubilation

Begins: T-Minus 14 days

Ends: T-Minus 12 days

The first stage of having your team in the Super Bowl is the overwhelming happiness of being there. For Seahawks fans, this began immediately as Jermaine Kearse reeled in a Russell Wilson 35-yard touchdown in overtime (assuming the hadn’t all died of heart attacks before that). For Patriots fans like myself, it began sometime around the middle of the third quarter, when it became clear New England was well on its way to yet another Super Bowl.

NFC Championship Football

Photo: AP

This feeling lasts the rest of the day Sunday, and usually at least through that Monday, as you begin to think of your team playing in the big game. You get to watch your team celebrate their success, hoisting their conference championship trophy. For that 24-48 hour window, it doesn’t matter who you’re playing, what the matchup will be, who is favored; all you care about is that your team is one win away from glory. By Tuesday or Wednesday, this feeling subsides, only to replaced by:

Stage II: Pretending it Isn’t Happening

Begins: T-Minus 12 days

Ends T-Minus 7 days

The next five days are weird. The conference championship is too far in the past to dwell on it, but the Super Bowl is too far away to start discussing game-plans and strategies and the like. With one game too far gone, and the other too far away, the only real option is to act as though it isn’t happening.

You go on with your life. You go to work, come home, turn on anything but SportsCenter, and try to get the Super Bowl as far out of your head as possible. Some of it is organic; the game is truly too far away to think about it. Some of it is forced; you want to think about the Super Bowl and play out every scenario you can in your head, but if you start this early, you know you’ll drive yourself mad.

This stage also includes the sub-stage “hating every pre-game storyline.” This never really ends, but is at its height during this odd period of downtime. Right now, it’s under-inflated footballs, which I have one billion thoughts on, none of which I will be discussing because it doesn’t matter and also I don’t want to get fired. Eventually, this will be replaced by: Pete Carroll facing his former team; Russell Wilson/Tom Brady similarities; Tom Brady’s legacy; The Seahawks trying to go back-to-back for the first time since these Patriots; Spygate, because it’s required; and on, and on, and on. These are time- and page-fillers, stories that are neither original nor meaningful, that anyone and everyone will latch on to. This isn’t to say they aren’t worth discussing, it’s just that you will hear them ten thousand times before kickoff.

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Stage III: Overwhelming Anxiety/Paranoia

Begins: T-Minus 7 days

Ends: T-Minus 3 days

This stage is the worst, by far. Starting roughly a week before the game, this is when every bad thought you’ve been pushing down comes to light. This is when every nightmare scenario and anxious thought you have becomes too much to bear, and begins to consume you. This is when my girlfriend sort of stops talking to me.

From a Patriots perspective, this is when I will think about how the Brady/Belichick era will be remembered if they lose their final three Super Bowls. I will think about how we can stop Marshawn Lynch and how we can throw on that secondary. I will worry about what happens if we can’t run the ball, or if they take Gronkowski out, or if Brady struggles. I will worry about letting Russell Wilson run all over us, and Brady being pressured and sacked all night long. I’ll think about how awful that following Monday will be if New England loses, and about all of the things that worry me the most, both rational (seriously, how do we throw on this team) and irrational (what if someone gets hurt on the first play).

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During Stage III, Patriots fans will close their eyes and see this

This is when you think about what happens if you go down 14-0 early, and think about watching your team’s season die a slow, highly-publicized death. It puts you in a dark place. I already know it’s coming and I still can’t do anything to stop it. That is, until that magical moment when you reach:

Stage IV: Unrelenting Confidence

Begins: T-Minus 3 days

Ends: T-Minus 12 hours

The best stage. This is a coping mechanism for the previous stage, the result of too much rationalization and adrenaline. At this point, Seattle and New England fans will switch places, and each will be 100 percent convinced their team will win.

I’ll stop wondering how we throw on that secondary, and will start remembering that Rob Gronkowski is the most unguardable player in the league. I’ll stop worrying about how we game-plan, and will remember Bill Belichick is the best coach in football. I’ll stop worrying about Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch, and will remember this is the best defense the Patriots have fielded in a decade.

Visions of Richard Sherman picking off a pass on the sideline and returning it to the house will be replaced with visions of Darrelle Revis doing the same. Visions of a green Gatorade bath for Pete Carroll will be replaced with visions of Belichick being showered in blue. “Was the end of Tom Brady’s career a failure?” becomes “Is Tom Brady the best ever?” Before laying down to rest the night before the game, I will be more sure of a Patriots victory than I ever have been of anything in my entire life. Then, I’ll wake up, for:

Stage V: DEFCON 0

Begins: T-Minus 12 hours

Ends: Kickoff

Ah yes, gameday. Super Bowl Sunday, when you have a team playing in the game, is two weeks squeezed into 12 hours. It’s the best/worst day of the year.

On Super Bowl Sunday, every Seahawks and Patriots fan will go through the previous four stages in rapid fire. We will wake up filled with hope and happiness – for about 20 minutes. Once our morning coffee kicks in, we will immediately go from Stage I to Stage II, and once again try to pretend the game isn’t happening and keep ourselves busy. This will not work.

The Stage III anxiety will last most of the day, periodically becoming annoyance when they show Wilson and Brady’s first three seasons worth of stats for the one trillionth time. For the most part, though, it’s nervousness leading up to kickoff. At some point, though, we will all get overconfident again. We’ll talk ourselves up. We’ll go over every reason we can think of that our team will win. This will last all the way through the pre-game, the National Anthem, and the coin flip.

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Then, the jets will fly over University of Phoenix Stadium. The opening kick will sail through the air. The flashbulbs will go off. At that point, all bets are off for another 60-minute football game. Good luck.

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