"You are what your record says you are."
It was not Bill Belichick but another famously taciturn New England Patriots coach, Bill Parcells, who uttered the now-famous line that brushed aside any thought of moral victories in the notoriously amoral National Football League. If your team has a good record, then your team is good. If your team has a bad record, your team is, well, bad. If Parcells wasn't polite, at least he was honest.
And so we come to the halfway point of the COVID-inflected season. The Patriots are 3-5 and in third place in the AFC East, ahead of only the New York Jets, the 0-9 also-rans who choked away a sure victory over New England in one of the most underwhelming Monday Night Football contests in recent memory.
The Patriots' record says they are not good, and anyone watching Monday night's game would surely agree. Quarterback Cam Newton played better than in recent weeks but still seems confused and out of sorts at inopportune times. The defense has lost the ability to tackle, and injuries have slowed or sidelined star players like All-Pro cornerback Stephon Gilmore. Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski and even Stephen Gostowski have gone on to Super Bowl-contending teams in Tampa Bay and Tennessee.
Let's face it: The Patriots are bad. And things likely won't get better any time soon. When it was announced Gillette Stadium wouldn't allow fans through the end of the season, it came across more as a mercy than an imposition.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox reintroduced Alex Cora as their "new" manager, in classic news dump fashion, just as Joe Biden was being declared the winner in the 2020 presidential election. Cora, of course, was suspended for a year by Major League Baseball for his role in the Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal. All it took for forgiveness, it seems, was a 24-36 record and a last-place finish in 2020, one game behind the woebegone Baltimore Orioles.
Cora says he has learned his lesson, and he apologized to Boston fans in his welcome-back press conference Tuesday. But he will be returning to a team as bereft of talent as the one in Foxborough. The greatest Red Sox player of the last 20 years, Mookie Betts, is now winning World Series for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Pitching ace Chris Sale won't be ready to play until midsummer at the earliest, thanks to elbow surgery.
Cora may have summed up the Boston sports situation for everyone Tuesday.
"It's been a tough year," he said.