‘Like yourself, I saw it, but I’m not sure I believe it’

Sometimes, as Abe Lincoln once nicely noted, it’s beyond one’s poor power to add or detract with mere words to the majesty of an event, even a moment. Further, I’d be loath to make the faintest comparison of grueling football combat even at the highest levels of the National Football League to the Civil War. All I know is, like yourself, I saw it. But I’m not sure I believe it.

Will this be remembered as the Belichick-Brady machine’s finest hour, or merely their luckiest?  What does it say of where the football gods apparently stand on all the nagging issues we’ve all been obsessing over of late? Had Russell Wilson, an otherwise cool cat, not lost his senses in a moment of frenzy they’d be asking roughly the same questions in Seattle right now and coming up with pretty much the same answers.

Say this further for the Patriots: They have a gift for always being highly entertaining when they get to a Super Bowl, no matter whom they play. Was this more a great game than essentially a weird one? That’s for the football divines to decide, but no one will dispute it was memorable.

Four championships seal Belichick’s standings in the ranks of the immortals, but his critics will still want to attach asterisks. It does pretty much the same for Tom Brady in the annals of the great quarterbacks. Even if his lustre has faded some, too.

Not even the spectacular conclusion alters the fact that Soupey XLIX was blighted by nonsense. The fuss over the deflated footballs unquestionably chilled whatever legitimate anticipation the event should have enjoyed. Does the whacky ending negate all that? Probably only in greater Foxborough, west to Worcester and south to New Haven. It will be interesting to see how devotees elsewhere in the country react to the near divine-intervention that otherwise inexplicably rescued the Patriots. 

Sorry, old Sport, but the probing of Deflategate, however silly it may be and however aggravating you regard it, will resume. The betting here is that the big bad commissioner – himself in huge trouble – doesn’t dare brush it aside. In fact, Czar Goodell is but one more dumb flub removed from being the wealthiest unemployed middle-aged ex-CEO in America.

Moreover, all this comes at the end of a season in which the game’s many long-festering warts have not only been exposed but rubbed raw. Those thin illusions that spared pro football from whatever reality checks it has for so long richly deserved have been scraped away. The football season is over, but open season on football is just beginning. Many will say that it’s about time.

In the meantime, here are IX parting points about Soupey Bowl XLIX one wishes to share. Call them thoughtful observations, snide remarks, or mere ragtime, as you wish. But please don’t call them “points of light.”

I – There has not been enough outrage over the way the Seahawks reached Soupey by overhauling the Packers in an overtime during which Green Bay never got to touch the ball. Seattle won the coin flip, chose to receive, marched promptly to a score and because it was a TD and not a field goal, the game was over with the NFC championship decided without Green Bay having a chance to run a down. It should have been hugely controversial. But there was nary a comment.

Idiotic! Essentially, a bloody coin flip decided the outcome. How can the NFL allow its annual multi-billion dollar machinations and all the madness and mayhem of an entire season to be resolved by the whims of a coin landing either heads or tails. Ridiculous!

Consider the equivalent in baseball which would be having the seventh game of the World Series decided in the top of the 10th when one team scores a run ending the game without the other team getting a chance to bat! That would make just as little sense.   

Ludicrous! This is a true NFL problem; much bigger than “Deflategate.” But unlike baseball, which gets run through the ringer on every issue, the NFL, widely given a free pass by the media, blithely ignores its problems. But one of these years the Super Bowl will be decided by a dumb coin-flip and everyone will be outraged.

II – In the good old days championship games were played at one of the combatant’s home parks instead of the neutral and artificial setting of Tinsel Town, Arizona. One concedes that in our contemporary television universe, settings are irrelevant. But it’s still fun to wonder what playing the game in snowbound and gale-swept Foxborough might have been like.

Some of football’s most memorable moments have been etched under crazy weather conditions. There were the Giants donning sneakers to stun the Bears in the ice bowl of 1934. The Eagles over the Cardinals, 7-0, for the 1948 championship in a bitter classic played in a blizzard. And, of course, the ultimate example, Green Bay besting Dallas on the last play of a game that had temperatures dipping below zero.  Call it “Winter Dreams.”

III – With his cocky little performance essentially demanding an apology should his team be found guiltless, Bob Kraft went too far, methinks. His fellow owners are not likely to dig his routine. Taciturn owners are greatly favored in this tight little cabal. Think such excellent examples as the Maras, Rooneys, Wilsons, Bidwells, and Fords who collectively may have made a dozen notable utterances in a dozen years. Loudmouths are disdained.

Moreover, it will be a cold day in hell when Kraft’s dear pal Goodell apologies to him, no matter the end result of the fiasco or the nearness and dearness of their relationship.

IV – On the other hand, I figured Tom Brady, the immaculate quarterback, had gravely overplayed his hand in his pre-game quips aimed at calming the roiling Deflategate waters that were inundating him. Actually thought he might get laughed out of the league when he mournfully confessed on his house radio show, “My feelings have been hurt!” (Sniff, Sniff) Couldn’t imagine that coming from Joe Namath.

Then, upon arriving in Arizona, he confessed to media admirers to having “a little cold” while adding that back home the little ones and their momma were also under the weather. (Sniff) Very tender, but it’s hard to imagine the likes of that coming from Bobby Layne on the eve of the Big Game.  

But one errs grossly in underestimating the charms of our Teflon-coated Galahad of a QB. If his aim was to simply change the subject, he succeeded admirably. The rest of the week went just swell. Right through the game!

V – According to the National Chicken Council, the football fans of this great land consumed more than 1.25 billion chicken wings on Soupey Sunday. That’s four wings per every man, woman, child, and pet. Only in America.

VI – It’s quite a lonely consideration to be wondering if I’m alone in never having heard of Katy Perry, star of the halftime show. But comforting to know I hadn’t missed much.

VII – Perhaps jarred by recent ordeals, Boss Bill Belichick (from a distance) seemed notably more mellow than usual once he reached the desert. He seemed more patient, more thoughtful in his comments, maybe even more willing to suffer fools gladly, and less intense on the sidelines. Maybe it made a difference.

VIII – It got little attention and probably will make little impact. But an important medical study in which BU was a major player released findings that conclude boys under age 12 risk significant cognitive damage playing tackle football.  Assertions by NFL talking heads about seeking ways to make the game less dangerous and more kid-friendly are just so much mouthwash.  

IX – And here, we solemnly promise, is the last word on Deflategate. If the Patriots, including Kraft, Belichick, Brady, and whoever, along with Czar Goodell and his cronies, arrange to have some anonymous, minimum-wage paid, defenseless ball boy take the fall all by himself they will be the laughingstock of all sport.

And this is the last word, period. Less than two weeks until pitchers and catchers report to spring training. Hip, hip hooray.


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