Wednesday, February 11, 2015

When I win PowerBall tonight, these are the jerseys I will buy

The Powerball jackpot is over $500 million tonight. That's two A-Rod contracts! I bought one quick-pick ticket and the PowerBall number is 33. Since 33 is one of the most important numbers in Boston sports (right up there with 9, 8, 12, and 6), I'm pretty sure I'll win.

Obviously the first thing I'll do is buy a plane ticket out of this dismal snow entombed part of the world, but after that I will purchase and have made the ultimate collection of sports jerseys:

Bill Belichick, Annapolis High School football
If my memory serves me correctly, in A Football Life, Belichick wore #60 at Annapolis High. Of course I'll have to hire a researcher to verify this. Nothing is worse than a cool jersey ruined by inaccuracies. In Monterrey, California I asked a guy in a band wearing a #12 Michigan football jersey whose jersey he was wearing. He said Tom Brady. I didn't have the heart to tell him that Brady wore 10 at Michigan. If you're going to be obscure, be accurate.

Customized Patriots jersey, Number: 12.5, Name: PSI
Because I have a sense of humor.

Jamie O'Hara, Notre Dame football
Vince Vaughn's character in Rudy. The only way in hell I'd wear a Notre Dame jersey.

Tim Thomas, Jokerit Helsinki
The team Thomas played for during the 2004-05 lockout. It was one of many European stints in Thomas' career. And although not the most meaningful or successful of Thomas' Scandinavian exploits, Jokerit's court jester logo is just too ridiculously awesome.

Roberto Luongo, Quebec Nordiques
Unlike most Nordiques jerseys, this isn't a throwback. This is a throwFORWARD. Luongo is on the Florida Panthers, who might one day move to Quebec. This jersey won't honor the past, it will predict the future.

Julian Washington, Miami Sharks football
LL Cool J's character in Any Given Sunday. A Willie Beamen jersey would also be cool. I was going to have a Luther Lavay (Lawrence Taylor's character) jersey, but I'm seeing that those are available on eBay. When I'm a billionaire, I don't want to be wearing jerseys on the same level as some middle-aged Giants fan in Paramus, NJ.

Wade Boggs, Springfield Nuclear softball team
From The Simpsons episode "Homer at the Bat," which was one of the best Simpsons episodes of all time, one of the best set of sports guest stars on a TV show, and was the first time The Simpsons beat Cosby in the ratings.

Charles "Old Hoss" Radbourn, Providence Grays
In 1884 Old Hoss Radbourn had a record of 59-12. He made 73 starts and had 73 complete games. He also had 2 saves. He threw 678.2 innings. He's a Hall of Famer, and currently has one of the funniest Twitter accounts out there. All the pictures I can find of him in a 20 second Google search are him wearing a Boston Beaneaters uniform. But his best year was in Providence for the Grays.

Mo Vaughn, Wareham Gatemen
Cape Cod League baseball has produced a massive amount of baseball talent, including Maurice Vaughn, who was one of the first sports stars in my life as a fan.

Neon Boudeaux, Western University basketball
Shaq's character in Blue Chips. They gave him a Lexus, he didn't want it.

Jackmerius Tacktheratrix, Michigan State football
Hingle McCringleberry, Penn State football
Mergatroid Skittle, Louisville football
The player formerly known as Mousecop, Missouri football
My favorite players from the Key and Peele football name skits. Obviously the name on the back of Mousecop's jersey would be the symbol. And maybe another jersey with "Mousecop" on the back, for the time before he changed his name to the symbol.

And there would be many, many more. Mostly obscure Red Sox players from the late 90s and early 00s. Butch Huskey. Morgan Burkhart, Pete Schourek, Rico Brogna, Hipolito Pichardo. I'd get each of Michael Bishop's CFL jerseys, and all of Rohan Davey's NFL Europe and Arena football jerseys. A Tom Glavine LA Kings jersey. All the Brady 6 quarterbacks. I'd probably squander all $500 million on sports jerseys.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Tom Brady's legacy cemented by the best Super Bowl win of his career

Tom Brady won his fourth Super Bowl Sunday night, along with his third Super Bowl MVP. He threw 4 touchdowns, which makes him the Super Bowl record holder with 13. Total completions, yards, attempts, completions in a game, all Super Bowl records now held by Tom Brady.

He's clearly the best quarterback of his era, and it's tough to argue against him as the greatest of all-time. The debate between Brady and Joe Montana would be like arguing who is the better President: Washington or Lincoln. It would be a matter of taste and preference, not of clear distinction. And whoever you thought was second best, would still deserve statues to their legacy, along with cities and high schools named after them. Can we change Vermont's name to Vertom? And change New Hampshire to New Bradyshire?

This was Brady's best Super Bowl performance. Not just because he threw 4 touchdowns. Not just because he had two touchdown drives in the 4th quarter. Not just because he threw 300+ yards. It was his best because he did it against an elite defense, and because his team needed him to do it. The Pats couldn't run the ball, the defense was giving up big plays, Brady needed to have the 4th quarter of a lifetime for his team to win. And he did.

In the 4th Brady was the most clutch he has ever been in his career. Never has winning hinged so much on his actions than it did in the final 15 minutes of this Super Bowl, and he answered the call. He was 13 for 15 in the 4th, for 126 yards. He was perfect on the game-winning drive (8 for 8). There was even a sack and a penalty thrown in to make his task more difficult, and he still came through.

He would not be denied.

Four rings, 3 Super Bowl MVPs, 21 playoff wins. To match Brady, just think of the mountain that good young quarterbacks like Andrew Luck, Aaron Rodgers, and Russell Wilson must climb. Luck is 25 and has 3 playoff wins and no rings yet. So he needs 4 rings, 3 Super Bowl MVPs, and 18 more playoff wins to match Brady. Rodgers is 31. He needs 3 more rings, 2 more SB MVPs, and 14 more wins in the playoffs. Wilson is 26, needs 3 more rings, 3 Super Bowl MVPs, and 15 more playoff wins.

Good luck, guys.

No more "what ifs" or "if onlys" for Brady. All the questions have been answered. All the doubters silenced. Brady is the best in the game. The best today, the best in the past 20 years, and perhaps the best of all-time.

Photo Credit: Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports


The Patriots won their fourth Super Bowl with one of the most exciting finishes to a sporting event I've ever seen. To go from feeling defeated and deflated (pun intended) as the Pats were about to lose another Super Bowl in heartbreaking fashion, to sheer elation as Malcolm Butler picked off Russell Wilson in the end zone, was a feeling I will never forget. I've never transitioned from sitting quietly to jumping up and down and screaming more quickly in my life. From despair to ecstasy in the span of a heartbeat.

We're on to the duckboats!

Tom Brady was named Super Bowl MVP for the third time. Many have argued that Julian Edelman should have won, but Brady's performance was much more critical than anyone else's. Especially since the Pats struggled to run the ball (21 of the team's 22 first downs were in the air). The 2 interceptions were his fault, but they also showed how much the game turned on every decision he made. Brady had to be great for the Pats to win, and he was.

Despite the picks, Brady had an MVP caliber night. He threw 4 TDs and for 300+ yards against the Legion of Boom. In the 4th quarter he orchestrated back-to-back touchdown drives. He was 13 of 15 in the 4th for 124 yards and a 140.7 passer rating. And on the game-winning drive he was 8 for 8 for 65 yards. When his team needed greatness, Brady delivered.

This was the most clutch performance of Tom Brady's career, and that's saying something.

What about Malcolm Butler though? What about Malcolm in the middle? What about Malcolm B, by any means necessary? What about chaos theory with Dr. Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park? As the Seahawks lined up to snap the ball on the 1 yard line and the clock ticked down, I was dreading sports radio and the Monday morning coaches that would be hammering Belichick for not allowing the Seahawks to score or not taking a timeout. Then an undrafted free agent from West Alabama sniffed out the play, attacked the ball, and won the game.

An undrafted corner out of a D-2 school makes a play that wins the game, so that the QB taken in the 6th round can win the MVP, while many argue that a 7th round receiver should have won it. That's how the Patriots do things.

All of the Patriots players showed up with good and great games. Julian Edelman with his 9 catches, 109 tough yards, and a score. Rob Gronkowski with 68 yards and a TD. Danny Amendola fought for all 48 of his yards, and also scored. Brandon LaFell with a touchdown as well. Shane Vereen caught 11 passes (the Seahawks as a team caught 12). And the much doubted offensive line protected Brady.

The defense did their job in the 4th quarter. The Patriots punted with 14:17 left, down 10 points, and crucially the defense forced a three and out (Lynch run for 2, Lynch run for 1, Wilson sacked by Ninkovich for -8). Brady and the offense then scored a touchdown. After another three and out, Brady and the offense scored another touchdown. Seattle's first two drives of the 4th took a mere 3:10 off the clock. Which gave Brady and the offense plenty of time.

The defense almost blew it in the end. Another freak catch in the Arizona desert. But Malcolm Butler saved the day.

It was an awful play call by Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevil. And Pete Carroll should have vetoed it. It was also a poor pass by Russell Wilson. All that being said, Malcolm Butler made one hell of a play. He saw the receivers setting up the pick, he attacked the ball, he beat his man to the spot and won position, then he held on to the ball.

Can you imagine Game 7 of the World Series, bottom of the 9th, down by 3 runs, and a rookie hits a Grand Slam? Because that's what Malcolm Butler did.

Love or hate the Patriots, you have to admit that when the Pats are in the Super Bowl you'll be entertained. All 6 of their Super Bowls with Brady and Belichick have been instant classics. This one might be the best.

I remember about 10 years ago Tom Brady was asked which one of his Super Bowl wins was his favorite. His answer was "The next one." He and the Patriots have finally won that next one.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Super Bowl thoughts and predictions (I compare Belichick to Churchill)

I'm writing this at 4 in the morning of Super Bowl Sunday. It's not that I can't sleep, I don't want to sleep. I can't tell if I'm buzzed, or groggy, or a mellow mixture of both. But I'm sure of the mellowness, which is rare for me.

Seven years ago, as I anxiously anticipated the Patriots meeting the Giants in Super Bowl XLII and perhaps the completion a flawless season, I remember not being able to sleep, and sending texts to my older brother, quoting Shakespeare's Henry V (Roman numeral overload). In that play there's a scene of French commanders conversing on the eve of battle, excited to destroy the small number of underfed and under-equipped English soldiers that stood against them in what would be known as the Battle of Agincourt. And I felt like those eager French. "Would it were day!" In one of history's greatest upsets, the outnumbered, exhausted, and poorly equipped English utterly destroyed the French army in that battle. It was the equivalent of a 16 seed in the NCAA tournament beating a 1 by 40 points, and then continuing to win the whole damn tournament. Similarly, the underdog Giants beat the mighty Patriots.

This feels different. The Patriots are not overwhelming favorites. They face a formidable defense that will not give an inch without a fight. In terms of historical conflicts, this actually reminds me more of the D-Day landings of 1944 in Normandy (and no, I'm not comparing the Seahawks to the Nazis). Like the Allies on the eve of D-Day, I don't know how it will end, but I'm confident that the generals and the soldiers have done all they could to prepare and will do their jobs when the moment comes. We can only wait and watch how it plays out.

I'm more relaxed than I was 8 years ago. Less anxiety, less nervousness. The game starts in 14 and a half hours as I write this, and I'm more concerned about what beer to bring to the party I'm going to. Do I want just Sam Adams, or a mix of some lighter beers? And this is not because I take the opponent lightly, but because there's nothing to think about except the beer. These two teams will decide matters on the field, not in the brains of pundits and "experts,." And certainly the worries and hopes in the arena of my brain won't be able to determine the winner.

Those "experts" by the way, some of whom have been gushing over how amazing Seattle is, completely underestimated them last year against the Broncos. What kind of judge of quality or character are they? In their minds, the Broncos have won 2 of 3 Super Bowls, and the 49ers won the other. The same team they wrote off last year is an unstoppable juggernaut today. The dumbest people in the world are the ones who don't realize what they don't know. And many of those people join the media.

The Patriots have two key advantages in the upcoming game: special teams and Bill Belichick.

The Seahawks are not very good at covering punts. The Patriots have an exceptional punt returner in Julian Edelman. A big return from him could prove to be the difference in the game. A couple of solid 10+ yard returns from him could sway the field position battle in New England's favor. This area is one of the few matchups that either team has a decided advantage over the other.

The other advantage is Belichick. The D-Day invasion was meticulously planned. It involved the coordination of thousands of troops landing in dozens of places, ships and planes bombarding defensive positions, airborne troops landing behind enemy lines to cause disruption (shout out to the 101st Airborne, the unit my brother served in). That was a massive logistical undertaking. There was also a heavy dose of guile and deception, as the Allies were able to convince the Germans that the invasion would take place at the Pas-de-Calais, about 200 miles northeast of Normandy.

Hmmmm, guile and deception. Remind you of any NFL head coaches?

And in risk of hyperbole, wasn't Bill Belichick's "We're on to Cincinnati" press conference the type of simple yet stirring eloquence that Winston Churchill might employ? When the Germans forced the British to evacuate France at Dunkirk in 1940, Churchill might as well have said "We're on to the Battle of Britain," or "We're on to North Africa."

Those 4 words repeated by Belichick helped turn the tide of the season.

These teams are both so good and so tough, wouldn't it be great to see them play a best-of-5 series? Sadly, we only get to enjoy a single game between these very worth adversaries. Only 60 minutes of football. Every small edge will need to be exploited, every opportunity taken advantage of.

I think the Pats make a big special teams play. I think Brady and the offense will have trouble scoring lots of points, but will do their job in the field position game, with the occasional touchdown and field goal. And I think the Seahawks receivers against the Patriots secondary is a favorable matchup for the Pats. The Seahawks won't score many points either.

Patriots win 23-20.