by Scott Benson
There are no words left.
Two weeks with Super Bowl XLII under the microscope, and there’s nothing more to say. Everything has been laid bare, up to and including the final walkthrough of Super Bowl XXXVI. Now, almost incidental to the madness that surrounds it, only the game itself remains.
Forty years following this stuff and I don’t remember a more emotionally exhausting season. Eighteen straight wins and, incredibly, I have to think hard to remember if we had a good time during any of it. Because there was always some assault coming from somewhere, from the traditional media, from the new media, from rival executives, rival players, and always from the miserable supporters of the other 31 teams.
First, they and their Nixon-ian coach cheated to win. Then, when they weren’t cheating anymore, they won by too much. And then they weren’t winning by enough. And then they were dirty. And…..there was always an ‘and’.
Naturally, the moments before Super Bowl XXXVI would not be any different. Once again, Angry America and the media that satiates it moved stealing football signals to the forefront of the perpetually overwrought national debate, ahead of OJ, shark attacks, Gary Condit, Anna Nicole Smith, and even Britney Spears. A congressional investigation, complete with whistleblower, just happen to arrive in the nick of time.
In the words of Larry Johnson – lemme ask you a question. After five months, assistant golf pro Matt Walsh arrives on the doorstep of SB 42, the single most watched sporting event in the world, and he’s doing this out of some altruistic concern for the integrity of the NFL?
Come on. Nobody has used a lick of common sense in this whole thing, right from the beginning. Not Bill Belichick, who probably could have avoided all this. Certainly not Roger Goodell, who just made it worse. Certainly not the disgraceful Senator Arlen Specter, who is so hopelessly out of touch that he would make a Federal case out of a football game while average Americans can barely heat their homes, fill their gas tanks, and stock their cupboards. Who is so staggeringly arrogant that he would remain invisible as American mothers and fathers bury their dead soliders yet make himself so noticeable now.
And absolutely no common sense by the media, so caught up in competing with each other and mugging for ever-decreasing attention that they long ago disabused themselves of any public trust.
Anyway, that’s over now, if you use good sense and find something else to do with your day once ESPN and Fox begin their pre-game programming. Which flat out sucks, because of all times, we should be enjoying these most of all.
Let’s hope the Sunday papers take it easy on us; this is going to be a long day.
In the Globe, Mike Reiss has Andre Tippett becoming the second player to enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame after playing his entire career with the Patriots. What a thrill to see a Patriot be so honored yesterday, on this of all weekends. And we have none other than Ron Borges to thank for it. Borges made the case for Tippett in yesterday’s selection process, and in the strangest twist of all, fans of the local entry owe a tip of the cap to their longtime adversary for providing the only feel good moment of the last few days.
Reiss and Christopher Gasper also have the league and the Patriots denying they taped the St. Louis Rams walkthrough the day before their legendary Super Bowl XXXVI win. Key line for me: Matt Walsh’s “employment ended abruptly” in 2003. By the way, Matt, you had 2002 in your own wedding announcement.
Turning our attention to the field, Gasper correctly notes that one way or another, the Pats will make history today. Gasper also correctly notes that 18-0 won’t mean a thing if the Pats can’t close the deal. Jim McBride says no worries – the Pats will prevail 37-10.
And now its time to get Up Close and Personal with the key players behind the Patriots’ success. Mike Reiss profiles Robert Kraft (who is firing back on Spygate), Kevin Paul Dupont takes on Bill Belichick, and Bob Hohler catches Ernie Adams pulling the strings. On the field, Jackie MacMullen says Laurence Maroney has persevered to become one of the best players on the field over the last month. Michael Vega looks at two things that never get old – going to the Super Bowl, and Rodney Harrison. Frank Del’Appa visits with jack of all trades Heath Evans, who should be remembered in any assessments of the Patriots and free agents.
Briefly glancing at the other sideline, John Powers has Mass native and Giants DC Steve Spagnuolo facing a tall order today. Jim McCabe looks at Giants GM Jerry Reese, and in his notebook, rookie TE Kevin Boss. Mark Blaudschun focuses on LB Antonio Pierce.
On to the Herald, which had a quiet day yesterday.
John Tomase has the league and team denials of his Saturday report. He includes a comment from then-Rams QB Kurt Warner, who remembers working on red-zone offense at the walkthrough that was allegedly filmed. By the way, red zone trips by the Rams in SB 36: one. Result: touchdown. So what did this tape do, again? And the Patriots had just played the Rams in November, for crying out loud. The lessons learned in that game led to a changed approach and the win (“Slants, and in-cuts! That’s the game!”). That’s in the history books already, for Pete’s sake. None of that’s true? It all came instead from a hand held camera on the weekend of the game?
Common sense, people. Common sense. Take Tomase’s report yesterday, and his story of “what happened” according to his source. Plenty of detail – employee stays behind, tapes Rams walkthrough, not asked for credentials or interrupted in any way, blends into the media crowd and even rides their shuttle back to the hotel. Seem like a first person account to me. So what happened to the tape? Oh, that’s “not known.” Strange how the story just trails off there, doesn’t? Is somebody holding back the punch line looking for the best offer?
One more thing. Secret Agent Man rode back with the media? Were they watching the walkthrough too? Sounds like the Rams were working on some top secret stuff. Common sense. Shoudn’t it be applied at least once before we start ‘tainting’ this or that? It’s okay to slap that tag on Belichick, Brady, and all the others, but it’s not okay to hold Walsh and Tomase’s ‘source’ to an equally high standard, providing they aren’t one and the same?
It isn’t? Not according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, who is so anxious to see the worst befall the Patriots that he’s decided to accept Walsh’s story at face value, and blame Patriots fans for any inconsistencies in his story. So much for due diligence when it doesn’t support our preferred end. And get this: Florio’s a lawyer. Hopefully not a defense lawyer.
To the field, Tomase predicts a blowout for the Pats. Karen Gurgeian says the controversy just provides further incentive for the Perfect Pats. Tomase adds five things to watch. Tony Massarotti profiles the unequaled leadership of Tom Brady. Donna Goodison gives us some good material with which to give Laurence Maroney a hard time next year – hey man, are those the Goofy Grapes?
This being the Herald, they have to give equal time to the New York Post, which ought to be taken out into the alley and given two in the hat. Steve Serby should drop dead, working ‘Bill Belicheat’ into the second paragraph. This being Boston-New York, Massarotti can’t just let it go for once.
In the ProJo, Robert Lee says this is the Pats shot at immortality. Shalise Manza Young outlines a Giant task for New York. Jim Donaldson says you can’t overhype this Super Bowl, not with all that’s on the line. Yes you can, Jim, but that’s a nice sentiment anyway. SMY looks at Andre Tippett, and Lee says Ellis Hobbs must be a Little Big Man against the Giants BIG RECEIV-UHS! today.
Elsewhere, the Courant has pulled out all the stops with a special Super Bowl edition, so check out the work of Dom Amore, David Heuschkel and Jeff Jacobs. Glen Farley of the MetroWest Daily News looks at the key move in the construction of the Patriots dynasty – luring Bill Belichick to New England.
From earlier this week, Ron Hobson looks at Belichick and his partner in team building, Scott Pioli. And my pal Chris Price has been cranking them out for the Metro all week. Chris has the Pats confronting history, and their offensive line as the key to the game. Have Randy Moss and Tom Brady become a package deal? Will this be Tedy Bruschi’s last game?
Check back throughout the day as members of our Patriots Roundtable share their final pre-game thoughts as their team tries to cap the first perfect season of the sixteen game era, and grab their fourth world championship in the last seven years.