WORCESTER, Mass. Richard “Richie” Guertin is a forlorn looking figure as he sits on the curb rubbing his ankle in Newton Square, one of the busiest “rotary” intersections in a state known for its aggressive if inept drivers. “You can’t really blame me, can you?” he asks Patrol Officer Dan Hampy of the Worcester Police Department, when asked why he ran out into four lanes of busy traffic. “I had nothin’ left to live for after the Patriots lost that second game there,” he says of his desperate effort to kill himself.
Hampy surveys the scene and decides to let Guertin off with a warning. “You better get some ice on that,” he says of the sprained ankle the pedestrian suffered when he collided with a black-and-white MINI Cooper, which was totaled on impact with the burly former hockey defenseman. “Go see the Samaritans,” he adds, referring to the suicide assistance charity. “They can help you pull your life together.”
Guertin is just one of many attempted suicides to plague Massachusetts and other states in the Northeast in the twenty-four hours following the second loss of the season by the New England Patriots, the reigning Super Bowl champions. The professional football team provides vicarious meaning to the lives of men who otherwise suffer from the quiet desperation spoken of by Henry David Thoreau, a local 19th century sage who died shortly before the merger of the AFL into the NFL.
Thoreau: “Take the points on the road.”
The Patriots began the season by winning ten straight games, causing amateur mathematicians to predict that the team would go undefeated until the universe collapsed into a black hole. When first Denver then lowly Philadelphia triumphed over the local favorites, it set off an extended period of soul searching that ended only when television re-runs of “Soul Train,” a dance show that aired from 1971 through 2006, had been replayed in their entirety on the region’s cable TV stations.
Grief counselors say it is unrealistic to expect spoiled Patriots fans to recover immediately, and that the grieving process will take time. “In a situation such as this a change of scenery is critical,” says Dr. Linda Sentri of MGH-Brigham-Pilgrim-Vanguard-Partners, the region’s sole remaining health care provider following a series of mergers. “Perhaps if Tom Brady gets a new supermodel wife for male fans to ogle it would help.”