Those New England Patriots are something else, aren’t they?
A team won the Super Bowl before kickoff, if you can believe that. New England ran out of the tunnel together as a team. No introductions, please; we came here to distribute the St. Louis Blues to the high-flying Rams.
The Pats were in The Big Easy to play football, not to twirl off a famous jazz number. They made their victory over the St. Louis Rams look like bobbing for apples in a Vermont orchard, and that is no easy task.
And the Patriots did it. They are champions.
Head Coach Bill Belichick and his New England staff devised a game plan that would give them a shot to win, and they made the big plays to pull off arguably the greatest upset in Super Bowl history, bar Joe Namath’s guarantee in Super Bowl III.
All this from a squad that started 0-2 and 1-3, lost its starting quarterback to injury in the third week, parted with its most prolific wideout for the season, and was hinging its success on a grouchy coach and a second-year QB who was a three-year backup in college. The Indianapolis Colts were supposed to win the AFC East. People are probably still shaking their heads in disbelief.
When Adam Vinatieri’s 48-yard field goal sailed dead-on through the uprights with the clock ticking 0:00 in the Patriots’ 20-17 victory over the befuddled Rams, I woke up from my disbelief.
I woke up from the nightmares of the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Lakers and Detroit Redwings dominating with dollar signs. I woke up from Major League Baseball Commish Bud Selig planning the demise of two baseball franchises. I woke up from the greed, the incessant whining and the rotten sportsmanship that plagues professional sports.
I woke up from the pre-game chatter and fluff to the comforting voice of Pat Summerall.
Last night’s 36th Super Bowl was probably the last football game Summerall will call with color commentator John Madden. For 21 years, the pair have brought warmth to people’s living rooms in the dead of winter, in the chill of autumn, at the end of summer.
Summerall’s voice was a lighthouse on dark, stormy nights, efficiently describing the game as if he were painting a house.
I’ve never heard Summerall maliciously criticize or offend another player, and he always approached his work with reverence for the finer aspects of the game. He stayed out of the limelight for his 50 some odd years in the NFL as a kicker with the New York Giants and then as a broadcaster.
Now he is a national icon.
Summerall is the measuring stick that greatness is based upon. He is the backdrop of light of the selfishness and immaturity that is rampant in the NFL, from players (Ray Lewis) to coaches (Bill Parcells) to owners (McKay family in Tampa Bay). Summerall stands above all of them with his cool demeanor.
With the play-by-play man in the booth, the Patriots played tribute in a way Summerall would understand and appreciate. New England respected the Rams enough to play each down as if it was their last. They played smart, they played tough and they played to win.
What a way to go out. For Pat Summerall and the New England Patriots, thanks for making Super Bowl XXXVI a game to remember.