As I have written before, I have been a bit of a fan of the Patriots for some time although my love affair with their QB waxed and waned this season (or, rather, waned and waxed, because, hey, he figured it out!). One of the fascinating yet frustrating things about the Patriots over the past decade is that as their passing game has developed, the running game has faltered. Now, while the team’s points per game average has skyrocketed, the win/loss outcome in the playoffs has been, well, disappointing.
(Two losses to Eli? ELI!)
Blount’s most famous day before last weekend.
This season, Brady lost his best receiver (Welker), his towering tight-ends to injuries and a murder charge (Gronk and Hernandez); the defense has lost essential pieces (like my brother’s favorite Vince “Don’t ask me about my weight” Wilfork); and basically only Brady and his coach remain from the last championship. With all the injuries and the easy schedule, this looked like a clear quick trip in and out of the playoffs.
And then the triple-headed running beast of Ridley/Vereen/Blount tore up the field last weekend. Each player brings his own story to this season, but together they represent a simplistic narrative we’ll hear about the Patriot-way, about Belichick’s brilliance in going to the ground in a pass-happy league, about using underrated players and all of that. But this is all really about chance and the fact that there is no other way right now so why not run?
In the spirit of serendipity and getting behind the ground-game, a list off songs about running. Or kind of about running. Or something like that.
“Run On,” Moby
I loved this song back in the 1990s–the samples, the vocals. What a great piece of work. Where the hell did Moby go?
“I’ll Come Running Back to You,” Sam Cooke
Let’s start this sweet and simple. Sam Cooke, the crooner and soul-swiper. What gives someone the edge to run as hard and mean as Blount had to run last weekend? When I listen to a song like this and when people editorialize or psychoanalyze runners like Blount, we wonder what people are running from rather than what they run to. I say, screw it, it doesn’t matter: the running (the longing, the promise) is an end in itself.
“Run,” Vampire Weekend
You need some indie rock. You may not love this band, my brother, but they put together a good series of songs on their albums. Football teams and bands are actually a little similar in that a few individuals usually get all the glory (running back, QB, lead singer) but they couldn’t do what they do without the unsung heroes (rhythm sections; offensive lines). The New England offensive line was great last weekend. Let’s hope they bring it all this weekend too.
“Run,” Snow Patrol
This song is a little maudlin. But I dare you to queue it up and listen to it while watching a clip of Blount’s 75 yard TD run from the last game. Do it. Do it. Do it.
“Keep on Runnin’,” Cat Power
There are many reasons that other versions of this song would have been more appropriate, but Cat Power has a nice languid feel with a sharp edge underneath that would work well for a halftime break or one of those innumerable timeouts and commercial breaks that make games seem interminable.
“Keep the Car Running,” Arcade Fire
You know that trick I mentioned above for “Run” and Blount’s run? Now do the same thing with this song. This is one of my favorite songs to run to. Arcade Fire’s last album was really disappointing and Neon Bible was a little less original and powerful than their debut, but this song is one of their best–a bit of a Bruce Springsteen meets the the future in Canada kind of thing. Just listen to the rhythm and the energy. Then go out for a run. Knock some people over for good order.
“Running On Empty,” Jackson Browne
Ok, this is a little obvious but I put it in as a little bit of black magic to keep the running backs from running out of steam. Vereen is still fascinating as a Kevin Faulk replacement. Poor Ridley has been in and out of the doghouse for fumbles, but he has absolutely phenomenal hair.
“Don’t Look Back,” The Knack
Running backs can get in trouble when they look back to see who’s behind them or if they get caught staring at the video monitors to watch their own runs. In his better runs on Saturday, Blount looked forward and never looked back until the end. I guess he was listening to Bruce Springsteen, or, like this song, one of many covers of New Jersey’s favorite son.
“Don’t Slow Down,” Matt and Kim
My brother thinks that I don’t rest enough. I think that I have this song in my head. While we make many comments about the equivalences between life and games like football, the only real meaningful one is that when the game is over, it is done. There’s no going back. There is no reset button. Everything needs to be left on the field. In this, football might actually be crueler than life: you have to wake up the next day after even the cruelest loss.