by Dan Snapp
As plights go, it’s not a bad one to have.
Our team’s in the Super Bowl, at the threshold of completing the most historic season in the sport’s existence. We should be grateful, humbled and in reverent awe of what’s occurring, and for the most part, we are. But allow us this one minor cavil:
Can’t we please just play the damn game already?
It’s a bit of predicament for Patriots fans. You want the game to be here, yet you hope the moment lingers. After Sunday, after all, it’s over. Nothing left to look forward to, but also nothing left to worry over.
So which is it, then? The journey or the destination? It’s tough, though possible, to enjoy both, as they seem at odds with one another.
It feels like waiting for your kid to be born. You’re excited in the anticipation, but want it to be over with and for everything to just turn out OK. And you know nothing’s going to be the same ever again.
(I can hear my wife now: “Childbirth and the Super Bowl. Right. Perfectly analogous.”)
So to amplify that anxiety – and exploit your consumerism – the NFL decided to invent the two-week waiting period. If the Super Bowl is the league’s Heaven, this then is their own little Purgatory, where no point goes underanalyzed, no shot’s considered gratuitous, and no dead horse is unbeaten.
It’s great for the media. They spent all last week talking themselves into a Giants upset, so they’ve still got a week to sober up.
But mostly, it’s an opportunity to discuss their favorite topics: themselves. This “Broadcast News” line seems apt:
TOM GRUNICK: The latest message seems to indicate that the Libyan pilot was acting on his own without authority from anyone else. (into camera directly) In other words, I think we’re okay.
ERNIE MERRIMAN: Who cares what you think?
One of the first questions off the plane for Bill Belichick was how much disdain does he hold for the media. Essentially, “Bill, let’s talk about the game. How come you don’t like us?”
Dan Shaughnessy had a good get last week, interviewing Bill Parcells on his old Giants staffers Belichick and Coughlin. Dan’s signature question:
What about Belichick’s astonishing ability to remain obtuse about the most benign of topics?
So Shaughnessy gets what he wants, a more open, friendly Belichick in Arizona, and what does he do with it?
Who kidnapped Bill Belichick? Who invaded his body? Where is the ogre?
That must have come out of Dan’s “Plan B” drawer.
Thank God for the NFL Network, or for my purposes, the NFL Films Network. Rewatching the Patriots Super Bowls is a great time-killer. They never get old, and you always pick up something new. Like this exchange in SB XXXVI, mere seconds before Tom Brady connects with David Patten for a TD:
Pat Summerall, on Belichick: “Talk about a guy that’s become easier to converse with, and loosened up.”
John Madden: “Yeah, he’s a good guy. He’s a good guy and a great coach.”
My favorite in the first Super Bowl remains Rams reserve running back Justin Watson, aka the “I like our chances!” guy. You remember him:
“I told you, I like our chances! We are the number one offense in the league. I like our chances!”
I wanna see Watson in some commercial spots during the Super Bowl. Have him suited as different Pats opponents from this season, with a mock interview prior to each game.
REPORTER: “How do you feel about the game today, Justin? Your chances of beating the Patriots?”
JETS WATSON: “I like our chances! I like our chances!”
Each game, he’s a little less enthusiastic.
STEELERS WATSON: “Well … we’re the number four offense in the league. …. I like our chances. They’re, um, you know, good chances.”
DOLPHINS WATSON: “Man, we don’t have a chance.”
Finally, with the Giants:
GIANTS WATSON: “I’m in the Super Bowl, baby!”
Might be tough to locate him. Nobody in the NFL’s seen him since Super Bowl XXXVI.
Re-watching the Patriots/Packers from ’97, you couldn’t help but think, “Winnable game.” The Patriots had a good plan to offset the Packers rush, if Drew Bledsoe could only throw a damn screen pass. He had two tipped, threw another at Bob Kratch’s back (causing a penalty), and threw one in the only conceivable manner that would allow “Curtis Martin vs. Gilbert Brown” to be a mismatch in Brown’s favor.
What was forgotten was the seven- and eight-DB formations the Pats threw at Brett Favre in that game. What was seen as groundbreaking in Super Bowl XXXVI was taken from this game. Madden was the one who called it out; you’d think he’d have made the connection five years later.
The simpler, more innocent days of the NFL are long gone (at least they seemed simple and innocent in John Facenda’s booming voice backed by Sam Spence’s soundtrack), but I want ’em back.
Give me back Super Bowl day games and Hank Stram telling his boys to matriculate. Give me back unextended halftime shows, be it college marching bands, Al Hirt or even “Up With People”. OK. Don’t really give me “Up With People.” But the others, yeah, sure.
Mostly, give me back the one-week wait.