Retro Running Diary: Super Bowl XLIX

The Bill Simmons retro diary of Super Bowl XLIX captures Simmons at his absolute best. 100% accurate of what every Patriots fan was feeling, especially during the absolutely insane last minute of the game.

His description of Bill Belichick and why he is the greatest coach in football history and why this game was his signature moment is spot on:

The answer: He’s not like any other coach. Of anyone — seriously, of anyone — he’s the one guy who would stand there and say, “You know what? I think Pete Carroll might screw this up. I’m not doing anything even if I don’t have the best hand. I’m gonna let him raise the pot. CHECK.” The rest was history. Whenever you’re arguing about the greatest NFL coaches of all time, just remember the final minute of Super Bowl XLIX. The man finally gave us his version of Jordan’s game winner in the ’98 Finals. And like everything else that happened with the great Bill Belichick over the years, nobody totally believed him.

About deflated footballs

Last Monday, when I woke up and was going through my morning routine, I saw a tweet about the New England Patriots possibly using deflated footballs during the game against the Indianapolis Colts the prior day.

My heart sank. I knew immediately that there would be a completely unnecessary overreaction to this. I knew that this would overshadow what will be a fantastic Super Bowl by two #1 teams. I was right. When was the last time the top coach and QB in the league wasn’t asked a single question about the big game at their press conferences?

I completely understand any football fan getting upset about this controversy. The Patriots have been on a ~14 year tear through the league, never having a losing season and only missing the playoffs twice in that time. Winning three Super Bowls, barely losing two others in the last minutes of the game, and now returning for the sixth time a week from tomorrow. It is completely defies explanation. How can the Patriots win so much, and often by a lot? They must have had help? They must be cheating!

Sitting on the other side of this when the Cowboys ruled football in the early/mid 1990s, the Yankees in the late 1990s/early 2000s…I wanted nothing more for those teams to fail, seizing on every controversy, using every argument I could make. And they eventually did, even the Yankees, sometimes in spectacular fashion (2004 ALCS Games 4-7), other times fading away (Cowboys core aging away without comparable replacements).

But an objective fan must look here. Deflating a football by 1-2 PSI is something that football players can’t even agree among themselves whether it matters or if they can even tell the difference. There are players openly admitting to doing similar things to footballs, even in the Super Bowl. While an under inflated football may be easier to catch, it is likely to be under thrown. Seems like a real mixed bag. This is far, far different than video taping other team’s walkthroughs, which admiringly was a stupid risk to take and could cause a real unfair advantage. This is fraying the edges of what is/isn’t fair. It’s a grey area.

Sports are supposed to have grey areas. Look at all of the unwritten rules in baseball, hockey, and basketball. The place for this to be solved is on the football field and with the league making clarifications to its rule book. For instance, returning footballs to both teams at game time seems like an invitation to try something…they should be under control of the league during the game and tested frequently.

I hope the league concludes this investigation quickly and allows the most important people, the fans, to enjoy the lead up to the Super Bowl. Because it will be a fantastic game, perhaps one for the ages.

But knowing the NFL, with signs that the investigation is already being bungled give it took 5 days for a statement to be released, I’m not holding out hope. It is time for Patriots fans to rally around each other and our team.

A lot has changed in a decade

A lot has changed in a decade. Ten years ago, all four sports teams I follow (Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics, and Bruins) were at different points of their history, but shared one common bond: no recent championships. We love our sports in New England, but there was a sort of fear that would come up when there was a glimmer of hope and our teams never failed to make that fear become reality. Things changed quickly though.

What changed this culture of fear was Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. Two fearless individuals who just wanted to win. With a little luck aiding their journey to that first Super Bowl, these two showed New England that it was OK to dream, that something good will happen in the end.

The domino effect happened fairly quickly. The Patriots won three Super Bowls in four years. The Red Sox finally broke through 86 years of disappointment with the most thrilling and unbelievable run I’ve ever witnessed in 2004 and then followed this up in 2007 with another championship. The Celtics, after years of management blunders and bad luck, constructed a new Big Three and won a ring in 2007. The Bruins even got into the act, pulling off an improbable run last year and winning the Stanley Cup.

Now the Patriots are back to the big game and look for that fourth Super Bowl ring in ten years. I cannot wait for tonight. As I learned early in my life, you never know when you will be back to the big game (or even get there). Enjoying this while it lasts is something I will do.

The Return

Just under a week ago, I returned to the soccer field for the first time in 11 years, this time on a team sponsored by my employer. We are a team of players who hadn’t played competitively in quite sometime. We knew it would be a challenge to play up to our standards.

I was part of the starting lineup, which made me joke to a teammate (and coworker) that I would last about 30 seconds before calling for a sub. In reality, it was about 2 minutes and I was COMPLETELY gassed. Sitting on the bench, I could barely catch my breath. Completely out of shape for cardio exercise.

One thing I found is despite a 11 year layoff, I still had my sense of position. Playing my natural position of striker, I found I could still anticipate the play developing and get in the right spot, causing all sorts of havoc on the other team’s defense. The problem was my timing: I always seemed about 1 step too slow. Not sure how much of this was my reaction time due to not playing, lack of endurance, or age, but it frustrated me to no end. Speed was a vital part of my game in high school and not being able to sustain that speed other than short, infrequent bursts really got to me.

We won the game 3-2 and I’m very proud of how the team played. With no one in soccer shape, we did an excellent job passing the ball and getting back on defense. Our pressure on the other team resulted in many opportunities. I also got sick at the end of the game…no pain, no gain!

I have no doubt that once I get into better shape I will be able to contribute some goals to the scorecard. It felt good to get on the field again.

2011 Fantasy Baseball preparation

This year marks 9 years in a fantasy baseball league run by an old college friend of mine. I have decided to prepare differently this year.

Usually, I go into the draft with lots of pages of paperwork, highlighters, pens, etc. I then sit on a cramped couch in a cramped room and frantically try to keep up with the draft, who has taken which players, and inevitably fall behind. Or worse, pick a player that is already taken. What should be fun becomes stressful at times. I am not naturally an organized person.

This year, I’m going paperless. It is just going to be my laptop with me. I made a spreadsheet in Numbers that lists the top 300 players in order, top players by position, etc. I can then just search through the spreadsheet when a player is picked, quickly highlight the player red (unless I picked the player, who then ends up being highlighted green), and move on. I can also quickly look up players to make sure they aren’t an injury risk or were just knocked out for the season.

I also normally have to deal with flakey wifi or worse, hosts who forget their wifi password. This year, I am bringing my MiFi device as a backup.

I don’t have any stats to back this up, but I already feel vastly more productive, organized, and less stress using this method. This is just when doing pre-draft preparation too!

I will post what my team ends up being once I get back later today.

Finally, no distractions

It is rather odd to say that it is now July and this is probably my worst season of watching the Red Sox. It isn’t even close. Between the Bruins having a nice run in the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Celtics making it to Game 7 of the NBA finals, and the World Cup, it feels like I am completely worn out watching sports. There were days I just did not feel like watching the Red Sox or just couldn’t due to too many other important games on.

That is going to change for the rest of the year. I am looking forwarded to having the game on and being interested again. I feel like I have missed out on enjoying a team that has really fought hard despite a huge amount of injuries to key players. Let’s hope they can continue to play well as reinforcements arrive back from the DL.