Why would anyone root for the New England Patriots?

Some guy has come up with a spin on being a Patriots fan that got published in the Washington Post. He felt sorry for Atlanta fans last year, and he thinks Patriots fans have been made miserable by their success.

The typical Patriots fan, on the other hand, was miserable with success by then, our blood long since curdled and our spines crooked with the glut of good fortune. Anything less than a Super Bowl win last year, as this year, would be considered a failure.

Being a fan is an interesting psychological condition. For me, as with most people (I don’t know about the Post writer), it’s tied up with my childhood. For most of my Boston childhood, we didn’t even have a football team. We saw the Giants play on TV every Sunday, and that turned some kids into Giants fans. But what did I care about Frank Gifford and Y. A. Tittle?

Then we got a team in the American Football League, so I had to root for the Patriots, and the league. I saw them play at Fenway Park. I saw them play at B.C.’s Alumni Field. But the Patriots were no good. They were never any good. They played in the AFL championship game in 1963, and they got clobbered. After the merger with the NFL they still sucked. Finally when I was in my thirties they made it to a Super Bowl, and they got clobbered yet again. When I was in my forties they returned to the Super Bowl, and the clobbering continued.

Meanwhile coaches and owners came and went. Now it’s 2001 and I’m middle-aged, maybe beyond middle age, and my team has never accomplished anything.

Then came the Tuck Rule Game, and the football gods finally started to smile on the Patriots–40 years after I became a fan. It was about time. Seventeen years later, the gods are still smiling on the Patriots. Do I feel sorry for Atlanta fans and Philadelphia fans and Buffalo fans and all the rest? A little, I guess. Not enough to change my ways, though.

Go Pats!



I’m afraid I’m getting ready to add a new sub-plot.

Stop me before it’s too late.

538’s analysis of “Love, Actually”

I realize that many of you rely on me for my annual insights into Love, Actually, the Christmas film that has ruined so many lives. This year I just wanted to point folks to 538’s “definitive analysis” of what it calls “the greatest Christmas movie of all time”. (This appeared last year, and maybe they didn’t have time to include Bad Santa 2 in their thinking.)

The first part of the article is standard statistical analysis of the actors–whose movies have made the most money since Love, Actually (Liam Neeson) and whose movies have the highest IMDB rating (Alan Rickman).

The authors then do a “network analysis” of the movie. It looks like this:

And they analyze how much time characters spend talking to other characters. The authors’ conclusion: Laura Linney’s character is the linchpin of the movie.

Linney’s character is the one that truly straddles the two Londons. In a movie stuffed with redundant plots and permutations of the same stereotypes, there’s no character quite like her. If you find yourself forced to Grinch through a viewing of “Love Actually” this holiday season, treasure Laura Linney — she’s a bona fide Christmas miracle.

Good lord. There are many reason to watch (parts of) Love, Actually. The simpering Laura Linney character is not one of them. Statistical analysis does not always lead to aesthetic insight.

I will report back later on Bad Santa 2, which we’ve been saving up for this holiday season.

The Bowker Collection of Money

Less than a mile away from the Vermeer exhibit, in the Numismatics Room of the Museum of American History, we find the Bowker collection of money:

I have no idea who this particular Bowker is, but it’s good to know that at least one of us managed to collect some money.

Downstairs from the Numismatics Room is the ultimate reason to visit Washington D.C. (for some of us, anyway): Julia Child’s kitchen:

Bon appétit!

Sex clams and other editorial problems

Sometimes the lack of copy-editing is pretty obvious, as in the soon-to-be-legendary “sex clams” headline:


Here’s a subtler problem, buried in the Boston Globe sport section:

The compensation committee comprises of Robert Kraft, John Mara, Art Rooney, Clark Hunt, Bob McNair, and Blank.

“Comprises of”? The writer seems to be aware that the correct usage of comprise is tricky, but doesn’t have a clue how to get it right. (Ditch the “of” and the sentence is fine.) Following journalists on Twitter is a good way to just how much they need editors; yesterday I saw one of them use the word dependant, which even WordPress tells me isn’t spelled correctly.

Of course, none of these are as funny as this headline’s missing hyphen in “first hand”:


This usage peaks my interest

I spent some time on the phone recently talking to someone about the company where I work. The guy sent me an email the next day to tell me that my description of the place had “peaked” his interest. So he wanted to apply for a writing position there. Hmm. Well, at least he wasn’t applying to be an editor.

Confusing peak for pique is understandable, as these things go — better than confusing regretful for regrettable, or incredulous for incredible. You can make the case that peak is being used as a transitive verb, so the phrase means something like “created a peak in my interest.” Can’t you?

Here’s the Google Ngram of “pique my interest” vs. “peak my interest”:


We see nothing much happening until about 1980, when “pique my interest” takes off. But “peak my interest” starts gaining a foothold around 2000 and, if the statistics for the last few years are meaningful, “pique my interest” may be starting to lose a little ground to it. The guy who used the phrase is a millennial, so maybe he represents the future of the language. Is this regrettable or incredible? Should we be regretful or incredulous?