...to point and laugh at the Dodgers.
Otherwise, I could not care less about baseball right now. I am all about football. I've officially slipped through that seasonal looking glass, and if it's not silver and blue, it's not on my mind. I've mostly been cruising around in my car, listening to the Black Eyed Peas (because they played "Pump It" in the stadium during pre-game warmups) and reliving this past Sunday's excursion to the game. I'm scouring the Web for Tommy stuff, reading through the news on the Patriots official site, watching the streaming videos of various press conferences, reading David Halberstam's book on Belichick and essentially just plain old flipping out about the Patriots.
As a result of all this, I've found myself ruminating on the possibilities for the rest of the Patriots' season, especially after having read this article, particularly this part:
It looks a little nutty to be angry after all the great things he's experienced. But this season, in a particularly frustrating moment during a 19-point loss to Indianapolis, Brady fired a water bottle to the ground and screamed that he wasn't going to accept losing. "He's the ultimate franchise quarterback,'' former Green Bay Packers GM Ron Wolf told me. "He does everything right.'' This is a season the Patriots should have taken a step back, with the five offensive starters missing, the defense on its fifth starting strong safety, and captain Tedy Bruschi out for the first six games. But Brady's teammates know there will be hell to pay if they even think about packing it in and looking toward 2006.
Brady is supposed to have enough by now. He's supposed to be satisfied with having won three Super Bowls by age 27 and having proved that everyone was wrong for drafting him all the way back in the sixth round of 2000, behind even Spergon Wynn. But he's far from satisfied.
...and actually allowing myself to think, "What if they do it?"
After all, I don't think anyone would question the assertion that this team is stronger than the one the Patriots fielded in 2001.
As this article puts it:
To say the Patriots started slowly in 2001 understates matters tremendously. They lost their first two games; only one other team overcame an 0-2 start to win it all, the 1993 Dallas Cowboys, who dropped their first two contests while running back Emmitt Smith was holding out for more of Jerry Jones' money. After Smith re-joined the team in Week 3, Dallas reeled off seven straight wins en route to a 124 campaign.
At various points in the season, New England was 1-3, 34, and 5-5. No team had ever won a Super Bowl after starting with any of those records--and the Patriots had all three. But they got hot when it counted, winning their final six regular-season games to finish 11-5 and capture the AFC East title.
The 2001 Patriots are proof positive that numbers can be deceiving.
Of course, that particular piece also goes on to attribute the Patriots' 2001 victory to "mistake-free football" and a positive turnover differential. Whoops. It also goes on to say "Anyone who watched the way New England played in the postseason knows there weren't 23 better defenses in the league. A unit featuring the likes of safety Lawyer Milloy, cornerback Ty Law, defensive end Willie McGinest, and rookie defensive tackle Richard Seymour simply couldn't have been as bad as the numbers indicated. And, obviously, it wasn't."
This year, I still just don't think we're going to see any rising stars emerge from our secondary. That weakness seems simply to be fact.
But there are other strengths that weren't present in at least the first championship year. For one, Brady leads the league in passing yards this year. We have Corey Dillon and Deion Branch. Brady is comfortable even at the helm of a shaky offense. And, uh, we still have Tom Brady?
That's pretty much what it comes down to.
Consider the description in one of the Sportsman of the Year articles from SI of the game against the Steelers this season, the one where we lost Rodney Harrison and Matt Light:
In the end, however, Big Ben could only watch as Brady laid down another eerie Joe Montana cover. When the fourth quarter began, as Brady's backup, 42-year-old Doug Flutie, would say later, "it was like somebody threw a switch." Brady took over at the New England 14, dropped back to pass and dropped Flutie's jaw with a sweet, 14-yard sideline throw to wideout David Givens. "[Brady] got rushed and had to throw it early and guessed a little bit, and he put it in an incredible spot just shy of the sideline," Flutie said afterward, marveling. "At that point it was time to sit back and enjoy the ride."
I very nearly slapped my forehead reading these articles last night, especially when I considered the observation that he might be the only thing stopping the rest of the team from packing it in. It remains to be seen if the problems with this team can be overcome, but O me of little faith for not remembering we have the one guy who's going to do it, if it's doable.
Like that one Panthers player said (can't remember who it was) on the sideline in the final minutes of Super Bowl XXXVIII: "It ain't over. It ain't over. Not with that dude, not with that quarterback."
Most people seem to concede the Patriots will at least make the playoffs. And I'm starting to think maybe...just maybe...
Because what if Tommy flips that switch, like Flutie said? All bets are off in that case. Right now, it looks like the Pats are at least going to make it interesting down the stretch, and I'll be glued to the television waiting to see just how far the Brady Magic can go. I might end up looking dumb, but when I think about what could happen...there's no way I can afford to miss it.