Thirty-One (04 of 31)

My shoulder exploded with pain Saturday night and I ended up spending the last moments of Saturday and the early part of Sunday on the couch in the living room, woofing down Ibuprofen like they were M&M’s and sleeping in spurts while the Lord of the Rings extended editions played in order on the television. My goal had been to get out of bed so that my wailing and tossing and turning didn’t disturb Stephanie, but I actually ended up sleeping better on the confines of the couch—it kept me from rolling onto my shoulder, at the very least.

By the time The Return of the King finished up at around 11:30 a.m. on Sunday morning, we were about ready to leave the house. Despite the snow, we made our way south toward my parents’ house, stopping on the way for a quick bite to eat at Wendy’s. And then it was time for football and an afternoon spent with a heating pad on my sore shoulder which, at the time, seemed to be helping quite a bit.

With football on the brain, I therefore present to you these selections from the beginnings of my obsession with the sport. I had long disdained football due to my father’s tendency to take over every TV in the house on Sundays in my youth, but beginning in early 2002, as the Patriots made their push toward their first Superbowl championship, I began to take interest.

Here’s an excerpt from the entry I wrote after the Snow Bowl game:

When Vince McMahon started the now-defunct XFL last year he said he was doing it because the players in the NFL had no heart, no passion for the game any more. Well I think, after seeing that game tonight (last night by the time I finish typing this) I can honestly say he was wrong. Dead wrong.

And here’s a bit from the entry I wrote following the next playoff game:

I was thinking of clipping my toenails during halftime but feeling like that would be a very unmanly thing to do during a football game I held off. I?m a very superstitious chap you know. And considering how sloppily the New England Patriots played for a five minute stretch there in the third quarter (giving up 2 touchdowns in less than five minutes), I?m glad I held off.

And, well, here’s the whole text of the entry I wrote following the Superbowl win...

Vinatieri is my hero

You know what was so amazing about the Patriots winning the Superbowl? What was amazing was that it was about to go down like every other Boston sports story seems to. The ball was about to skirt through Buckner’s legs again. What was amazing is that, instead of snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory, this Patriots team roared back to life in those last two minutes. They didn’t let 14 unanswered points get them down. They certainly didn’t listen to John Madden up in the booth saying they should take a knee and go into overtime. They pulled out all the stops and a guy named Adam who at that moment was still sporting a good luck beard… a guy named Adam kicked that fucking ball straight through the uprights and he made six states happier than they’ve been in sixteen years.

If you’re new to the page you should know that I don’t often use this space to talk about sports. I’m not a sports guy. I’ve always liked Basketball and Football was something that you just had to like in a household where your Dad monopolized both TVs every Sunday from September through January. I’m a quiet supporter of all the Boston teams but I never have been too into it. When one of our teams starts to do particularly well I take notice. I wouldn’t call myself a fairweather fan though. I always love these teams but I just don’t devote my boob-tube time to them until close to the end of the season.

I’ve been watching the whole Patriots story unfold since the beginning of the 2002 when it started to look like they could get this thing done for the very first time. Stef and I stayed up late that wintery Saturday night to watch the Snowbowl and she was so into it that she spontaneously tuned in the next day to watch one of the other games. That game was amazing. The Call heard round the world. I just couldn’t believe these guys were playing in what looked like, on TV at least, a friggin blizzard.

The next week we spent our Sunday afternoon glued to the tube to watch the Patties defy expectations one more time and win the AFC championship. Once they’d done that I became a Philadelphia fan real quick. I had been hearing all week that if that Patties won, we would rather they have to face the Eagles. It would be a fairer match-up.

A couple hours later when the Rams emerged triumphant I was feeling scared, as I’m sure most New Englanders were.

Cut to Superbowl Sunday. I’m working on getting this new version of my website up all damn day. As some of you may know, I didn’t finish. In fact, almost a week later, I am still trying to get it all together. Anyway, six o’clock rolls around and I leave the computer for the first time all day and grab my spot on the couch for what will be, for me, one of the most tense evenings of my life.

My wife is screaming the whole time, all animated, like she’s the man in this relationship, (which, if it weren’t for the anatomical factors saying otherwise, wouldn’t be much of a stretch). I’m quiet, concentrated, feeling as if I better not let my feelings out. They’re doing good but they’re not done yet. I don’t want to get too excited.

Stef’s egging me on. “Why are you so quiet?” she asks. She knows the answer. This is just the way I am. It’ll be an interesting anecdote tommorow at the office.

They’re up at the half. U2 plays a great set and we come back. We play a decent third quarter, avoiding the disastrous (at least I thought they were disastrous) third quarter results we had seen the week before. Fourth quarter comes. Only fifteen minutes to go.

Then the Rams get a touchdown.

That’d be alright if they didn’t get another one within the next five minutes.

It’s tied up. Madden’s saying that Brady should take a knee, go into overtime. I’m thinking Madden’s an idiot. There’s a minute and a half on the clock. The one thing I remember about football from my childhood is that when the clock says there’s a minute and a half left it really means that there’s at least ten minutes left. I know because I’d see the minute and a half as a kid and think we were almost done having to watch this crap and it would just go on and on.

Brady marches them down the field, a general the same age as me, bringing his troops across enemy lines and getting ready to unleash the cannon, the cannon named Adam.

They’re close and Adam is a great clutch kicker but still it doesn’t seem possible. He kicks it away and even as it appears that it is going to be good, we can’t believe it. The ref raises his arms. One of the Patriots makes a mock snow angel in the endzone.

The Patriots just won the Superbowl? No fucking way.

I’ve had four days to absorb it, including an hour in the freezing cold on Tuesday watching the parade go by. I’ve had almost a week and I still don’t believe it.