Jerry Ballgame talks about the New England Patriots chances in Super Bowl XLVI, and what it must be like to be a Yankees fan.
So this is what it must feel like to be a Yankee fan. When I was growing up in the western part of Massachusetts, back in the heyday of Mantle, Maris, Berra, and Ford, I had this irrational hatred for the Yankees and the seeming ease with which they returned to the World Series. It felt like every year they would run away with the American League pennant, leaving me to hope that they would be upset in the Fall Classic. Yes we had Ted Williams, probably the greatest hitter of all time, but little else for which to cheer. While five Super Bowl appearances in ten years may not approach the dominance of those New York teams, it certainly seems to have generated an equal amount of ill will.
I would assume that at least some of the bad feelings this time around is a result of the rather clumsy way in which they captured the AFC crown. It obviously was not the dominant performance of the previous week against Denver, or the precision like effort we have grown to expect from Brady, but hey, it was good enough. Pats fans are not as bothered by the fact that the Ravens out gained New England, 398 to 330, nearly as much as they are concerned that for the second week in a row, they lost the turnover battle (3 to 1). Not a factor in the Broncos game, it was nearly very costly against Baltimore. Perhaps the most disconcerting aspect of the some of the turnovers was that they were the result of questionable judgement on the part of Tom Brady. Brady is where he is largely because of his intelligence on the football field and the accuracy, rather than the strength of his arm. If he is losing the patience and vision that has made him “elite”, then the Patriots are in serious trouble. I don’t believe that this is the case, but I can’t help feeling troubled by this lapse in such a pivotal situation.
Undoubtedly, the single largest positive, and by that I mean a 325 pound positive, to emerge from this game was the play of Vince Wilfork. Long a family favorite, I was preparing to include a spirited argument as to why he should be considered a Co-MVP for the Pats along with Brady, when he so conveniently made the case for me. Actually, last Sunday he easily was the Pats’ player of the game. He was on the field for a staggering 67 out of 70 plays (95.7%), making 6 tackles (3 for losses), recording a sack and 4 ‘hurries’. Wilfork helped lead the defense that for once, bailed out the Patriot offense.
It has to be a reflection of how people feel about the Pats since “Spygate” (or that they were so quick to believe it in the first place) that they actually were blaming them for the Ravens mishandling the end of the game. Do people really believe that there is a Patriots’ employee running the clock, or anything official, for something as important as the conference championship game? Seriously? The collective genius of the Brothers Harbaugh took some real hits on Sunday, but most especially in Foxboro, were a simple timeout probably helps to settle a rattled kicker, and produces an overtime with momentum in their favor.
As long as I’m venting; this week marked the tenth year that we’ve had to listen to Raiders’ fans whine about the so called “tuck game”. Of course, ESPN has to drag out replays of the hit and apparent fumble, followed by tearful and/ or annoying interviews with former Raiders, who usually happen to be on their payroll. I’ve always been irritated by this because they never give any context to it. They never mention that Oakland had a 13-3 lead going into the 4th, or that with about 2:45 left they couldn’t gain a single yard to make game the ending first down while still up by three. Nor do they ever talk about the fact that Oakland went to the Super Bowl the following year, and got crushed by Tampa Bay, 48-21. For us Pats’ fans of a certain age, it was just a matter of revenge for a bogus roughing the QB call in a 1976 playoff game against “Sugar-Bear” Hamilton, that prolonged the winning Raiders drive, and cost the Pats a shot at the title.
Finally, you can count me as one of those who believes that the spirit of the late Myra Kraft is playing a hand in the Patriots late season success. They are going to need all the inspiration then can get from Mrs. Kraft, as well as Mickey Ward for that matter, (and a healthy “Gronk”) if they are going to beat the New York/New Jersey Giants on Feb. 5th. I believe they will do it. After all, the Giants luck has got to run out at some point.
Belichick image courtesy of: The Associated Press
Wilfork image courtesy of: Al Bello/Associated Press
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