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It was probably the morning of Soupey IV, almost 40 years ago. At St. Eulalia Church in Winchester they had a very young and hip curate at the time, a real “now generation” padre. And on the morning of the Big Game he began the Mass by declaring, with great solemnity, “Today is Super Sunday, the second Sunday after the Epiphany.”
He brought the house down. Early on though it was, the sanctity of Super Sunday in the liturgical calendar of the American culture, steeped in commerce and combat, was already firmly entrenched. As has become a tradition in this space, we offer in that very same spirit IX observations on illustrious Soupey XLII of favored memory.
I. The weeping and wailing pervading the region is way out of line. It was a heckuva run touched at times with pixie dust and it may not be over. If the boys from Foxborough make it to the dance again next season -- and they are already strongly favored to do so before the off-season even officially begins -- they will be in line to make just as much “history.”
Five Soupey dates in eight seasons has never been done, after all. Their core-essence remains solidly in place. Minor refinements and a couple of tough free agent signings is easily do-able for the alleged genius in charge. To further ease the task, they have the seventh pick in the entire draft and that’s a near guaranteed blue-chipper. They remain the team most prized free agents yearn to play for. I’d waste few tears on them if I were you.
II. All of which means we can look forward to the same tedious, tiresome and ultimately irrelevant debate about their proper place in sporting history to dominate next season as well. Much too much time has been spent on such trivia. History ought to be made before it gets discussed. Moreover, this issue is moot from the get-go. There is no valid comparing of eras in sport, particularly in the game of football.
III. If Bill Belichick’s worst enemies had scripted the moment they could not have arranged to make him look worse in defeat. Leaving the field with one more play that had to be run was exceedingly dumb. Doubtless it was mere impetuosity on his part and not done with malice aforethought but it looked no less like a childish tantrum, unworthy of one of the alleged titans of the profession. His friends will say it is minor. They are wrong. You just don’t do that. Period!
Then came his petulant performance in the post-game interviews, first with Fox Network and then at the general news conference. His answers -- three and four words long and uttered in a barely audible mumble -- reeked of condescension and scorn for the questioners who were only doing their job and rather politely at that, it seemed to me. No one likes to lose and everyone accepts that imperishable axiom. But the measure of a man is clearer in defeat than victory. Such a graceless display coming from one who has won so much and has been so consistently blessed will cost Belichick still more precious esteem. This man is his own worst enemy.
IV. And yet to come and sure to be even more damaging is the resumption of the so-called “Spygate” probe featuring the U.S Congress led by Senator Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), a redoubtable prosecutor no one in his right mind would want to have on his case. It hardly matters whether Specter is grandstanding, as some are sure to believe, nor is it useful to downplay the moral and ethical importance of the alleged crimes, as many are already doing. The fat is in the fire and the potential of this little blaze is becoming explosive. Who exactly is this Matt Walsh fellow and what does he know? You can bet that Belichick is rattled.
V. So how does all of this set with Clan Kraft? These are not rough and tumble owners from the old school. They are not indifferent to public opinion. Perception is very important to both Mr. and, especially, Mrs. Kraft. It must have been jarring for them to recognize over recent weeks how unpopular their team is becoming. They may have New England in their hip pocket and the adoring local media will strive to keep it that way. But they are getting killed nationally. It could not have amused ‘‘The Family’’ to have their team being branded “evil,” a term used so freely in the national media the last two weeks it almost became a cliché.
They have a problem here and it is not trifling. Much of it doubtless has to do with their coach and his odd attitudes. But the perception of arrogance extends beyond the field boss and his chippier players. It’s a franchise problem. To some degree all of this may be motivated by envy. But it would be a mistake for the Krafts to assume that and do nothing. And something tells me they won’t. But would they dare get tough with Belichick? Interesting question, eh?
VI. Eli Manning’s closing drive was magnificent. It took 50 years but he finally redeemed the Giants with a spectacular closing flourish reminiscent of the one that was visited upon them in the storied franchise’s most painful historical moment. That would be the near immortal last second drives orchestrated by the Colt’s Johnny Unitas in the 1958 playoff, first to tie the game with seven seconds left and then to win it in overtime. With everything equally on the line and the pressure arguably even greater, young Manning marched the Giants with just as much poise and calm and fearless elan as the great Unitas did exactly 50 years ago. For the Giants, it was a very nice way of bringing history full circle, at long last. Manning was Homeric.
Yet having said all that I would have preferred the MVP prize go to one of the Giants ferocious defensive linemen. They were the lads who decided this thing and all of them were worthy. My choice would have been Justin Tuck, who set the tone early and gave the Pats fits throughout. David Tyree, the unknown wide out who made the catch of the ages on the Giants’ winning drive, might also have been an interesting choice. Has there ever been a tougher catch in graver circumstances? Just once you’d like to see someone other than the QB walk off with the baubles.
VII. We’ll never know because Sir Galahad the quarterback will never tell, nor will, of course, his coach. But was Tom Brady healthy or was he hurting? Was that booted high ankle sprain business a bit of a charade or was it a desperate ploy to minimize a real problem? And why in terms of tactics was all of that folderol necessary, let alone useful? We’ll never know because they’ll never tell. Strange!
VIII. What do you suppose the Boston Globies will do with all that copy compiled for “Path to Perfection,” the unexpurgated tale of Patriot infallibility they were producing for the immediate edification of an adoring Patriot Nation. It used to be a rule in the business that you didn’t write the news before it was made. Embarrassing, is it not. But that’s the risk you run when you lose sight of your role and climb on the bandwagon.
IX. Lastly, there was the TV production. The game presentation by the wild and crazy kids at Fox was acceptable, although Messrs. Buck and Aikman in the booth are exceedingly average. The pre-game show was simply awful; four hours of wall-to-wall commercials interrupted by silly features, mindless chatter, and grown men giggling. Watching Terry Bradshaw, once such a tough and honest player, make a fool of himself is always painful.
And here’s one last unanswerable question. Why did they have a half dozen F-14’s do a blazing fly-over to punctuate the anthem when the stadium is domed and the roof was closed, indeed locked tight? Only at Soupey!