"Hell may have no fury like a woman scorned but heaven hath no sweetness like a sports fan vindicated." - Samcat

Friday, January 28, 2005

Dishing about Pigskin

Check it: Girls talking about football. For real.

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(A big woo hoo! to Sam for the graphic)

These chicks are awesome and they've graciously allowed me to join their discussion for the time being. I'm the one getting all uppity when people say mean things about Tom Brady. Well, me and Beth.
Read it. Read their blogs. Live a better life.

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Part VI
Part VII
Part VIII (yours truly jumps into the mix)
Part IX
Part X
Part XI


This is bullshit.

Hallucinating Spring

Or: Is that a Fenway Frank I Smell?

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(I will now stick my entire body in the dryer)

I have tried to be calm. I have tried to grit my teeth and endure stoically. I have tried not to complain. But I can't take it anymore. I'm writing a strongly worded letter to Mother Nature and calling for a cease and desist on this bullshit.

Dear Mother Nature:

Listen, you uppity bitch, knock this shit off. A little snow is one thing - hell, even a foot or so is fine, we're hearty, we can take it - but goddamn woman, this is flippin' ridiculous. We can take the three feet of snow OR the hurricane force winds. Not both. No, no, you're not listening to me. Human beings were not meant to withstand this. You're taking our New England blood for granted. And it's not just people that are having problems. My car - a Subaru Forester, mind you, the very same car that is often depicted blowing through snow drifts like Darryl Strawberry through cocaine - literally screeches at me in protest when I coax her to life every morning. Screeches, I tell you! I mean, people stare.

I just spent ten minutes shoveling my driveway and I'm pretty sure I heard the wind mocking me. Or at least I assume I would have had my ears not frozen, fallen off my head and shattered on the ground.

You have dashed any hopes I've ever entertained of dressing cutely as you've made it necessary for me to swath myself in a gigantic, puffy, red coat that makes me expand to twice my normal size and gives the distinct impression of a sunburned Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. I lost my toes sometime on Tuesday and I've already taken one spectacular header thanks to your black ice. I sense more in my future.

I have permanent hat head thanks to the Patriots cap currently cemented to my skull and I mean to tell you that I am not at all fond of the ice planet Hoth you've turned my city into. The ocean? Frozen. FROZEN! Surely that is not normal.

Whatever point you're trying to make - that we're all whiny pussies, that you're pissed about global warming, that Father Time just broke up with you and you're hurt and you want everyone else to suffer - whatever it is, consider your point made. For real. Uncle. I give up.

Days like today with temperatures hovering in the tens make me question why on earth I continue to live here. I mean, I know there's a reason. It's just hard to remember what it is when you're forced to sleep under, UNDER, your feather bed to stave off hypothermia.

Currently, I have the 2004 World Series DVD playing in the background as I write this. Game 7 of the ALCS which means mid-October but damn if it doesn't look downright tropical right now. I would settle for a nice, temperate 50 degrees. I'm not picky but I would prefer my chills come from watching Jason Varitek embrace Tim Wakefield and say, "I'm so proud of you, man," then from the drafty-ass windows my landlord has seen fit to install.

I like snow when it serves to make Peyton Manning look like a third-string Pop Warner player against a swarming Patriots defense but the Pats aren't even playing this week. And when they do take the field again, it'll be in Florida. Even our own resident Nanooks of the North are done playing on Ice Station Zebra. And I'm still here. I've half a mind to get my frozen ass down to Gillette where the Pats are practicing
inside, attach myself to Mike Vrabel's leg like a mollusk and refuse to let go until we land in Jacksonville.

By the way, on the DVD, Denis Leary is currently recapping Game 1 of the World Series. A game I missed everything but the last three pitches of because I was attending the wedding of a high school friend. In between updates from the bartender who was listening to WEEI on a contraband radio and sneaky phone calls to my Dad for an inning by inning play by play, I distinctly remember standing outside on the balcony, breathing in second-hand smoke and discussing the ALCS with the bride's uncle - a Yankees fan - while I gestured dramatically with what had to be my sixth gin and tonic. And I was shivering as satin dresses and strappy heels are not meant to ward off October chills. Do you have any idea what I would give for that kind of chill right now? That kind is sure as hell preferable to the kind I endured tonight when my legs literally turned into thigh-sicles and I put my faith in the fact that they would remember how to function on their own because my brain was too frozen to relay basic motor skills information.

I sent out a company-wide email yesterday asking who wanted tickets for the yearly company Red Sox game. Within three minutes - THREE MINUTES! - thirty people had responded. These are busy people, woman, busy people who are thinking about any number of things besides baseball but that one suggestion of spring, of warm breezes and Fenway smells and a night game on a Friday evening in May made all these important people drop what they were doing and respond with a resounding, "Yes! Sign me up!" Because warm thoughts are hard to come by these days.

I'm all for our hearty New England souls and our "we can take it" badge of honor represented by surviving this weather but right now I am sorely longing for warm, overpriced beer in a plastic cup and peanut shells crunching under my feet.

I mean, it snowed three feet on Sunday,
literally trapping me in my house as they'd closed the roads to passenger traffic and leaving me with no choice but to pace back and forth in my tiny living room during the Pats/Steelers AFC Championship Game. Maybe you don't understand how this works. When there is an important or potentially stressful game on - and let's face it, what game isn't stressful for me? - I need an escape route. I need to be able to walk around the block to clear my head and scare the shit out of my neighbors by attempting to see the score on TV through their windows. I need to be able to hop in my car, switch off the radio, drive around aimlessly and call Heather and demand to know what's going on. I cannot do these things when I am trapped in my house by order of the State of Massachusetts as mandated by your pissed off mood swings. Are you trying to drive me completely, stark-raving, mental patient, batshit crazy? 'Cause it's working. And then, THEN, just when I'm starting to adjust to the twelve-foot snow bankings and I've promised my car a remote starter with my next paycheck, you dump another six inches of snow on me. Is that your idea of a sick fucking joke?

I mean it, woman. Chill. And by "chill," I mean, "warm the hell up." This isn't funny anymore. You do realize that spring training starts in three weeks, yes? Pitchers and catchers report? Because right now, Opening Day seems very, very far away.

On my TV, Foulke just tossed the one-hopper back to Minky and the Red Sox won the World Series for the first time in 86 years. Perhaps it's possible that Hell has literally frozen over. Millar is hugging Varitek and Wakefield is crying. Now those are chills. I guess I remember why I live here after all.

Beat that, woman.



Thursday, January 27, 2005

Respect the Tek!

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(Oh Captain! My Captain)

I realize that the Patriots are in the Super Bowl. Oh boy, do I realize it. And along those lines - wheeee! But the three feet of snow on the ground is making me wistful for summer and baseball season. So I've decided to address one of my favorite baseball-related topics. That, and we've got ten days until the Super Bowl and if I don't take a break from obsessing about the state of Richard Seymour's knee and whether or not T.O. will play, I'll never make it to next Sunday without severe heart palpitations. And so it goes...

There are many things about which I cannot be rational. I think canned parmesan cheese is evil. I strongly believe pleated pants should be outlawed. I think Starbucks is overrated and overpriced. And I believe Jason Varitek is God's gift to baseball. I argue this point constantly and I am steadfast in my opinion. But for fairness's sake, I shall try to explain.

Aside from Trot Nixon and now, Kevin Youkilis, Varitek is the closest thing we've got in
Boston to a through and through Red Sox player. In 1997 Varitek came over from the Seattle organization in a trade that involved jettisoning embattled reliever Heathcliff Slocumb for what were, at the time, two promising but as yet unproven prospects. One was Derek Lowe. (Bye, D-Lowe, enjoy L.A.!). The other was Jason Varitek. You can say what you want about Dan Duquette, and many have, but that is easily, easily the best trade he made during his tenure as Red Sox general manager. It may be one of the best Red Sox trades of all time.

That said, no one knew quite what we were getting in Varitek. At the time, he was a 25-year-old minor league prospect out of Georgia Tech. He had some impressive work on his resume - Little League World Series, College World Series, Olympics, only player to have his number (33) retired by Georgia Tech - but we still weren't sure about this guy. In 1998, he played in 86 major league games, splitting time with Scott Hatteberg. In 1999, with Hatteberg plattooning, the position was all his. He played through the 2000 season as well, only missing 23 games. But it was in 2001 that his true value became clear.

Ironically, Varitek only played 51 games in 2001. On June 6th, he broke his elbow making a spectacular diving catch in foul territory against the Detroit Tigers' Shane Halter. He had surgery six days later and did not return for the remainder of the season. Catching duties were split between Hatteberg and Doug Mirabelli.

The 2001 season was an interesting and frustrating one. Nomar Garciaparra went down after only 21 games with a season ending wrist injury. Everyone said, "The season's over." But somehow, the team continued to tread water. Pedro Martinez pitched in only 18 games then went on an extended DL stint with shoulder problems. Everyone said, "Now we're screwed." But miraculously, the team held its own. Then, Varitek went down with the elbow injury. Everyone said, "Well, if we can handle losing Nomar and Pedro, we can handle losing Tek." The wheels came off.

People will point to the injuries to Nomar and Pedro and the managerial run-around with pitching coach Joe Kerrigan replacing the fired Jimy Williams as the reasons the team plummeted. Me? I think it had more to do with losing Varitek.

By his very nature, Varitek is not a noticeable player. He squats behind the plate and quietly does his business. He makes some noise with his bat but keeps his mouth shut in the locker room. He'll grant you an interview if you ask for it but he won't seek you out to make a point. He's caught two no-hitters (Hideo Nomo:
April 4, 2001, Derek Lowe: August 27, 2002) but you will never hear him boasting. Since 2001, he's served as Pedro Martinez's mouthpiece when Pedro was in a snit and wasn't speaking to us or the media. He's been a clubhouse leader, an on-field captain and a team psychiatrist for the better part of his tenure in Boston. And thanks to a new contract signed on Christmas Eve this past December, he isn't going anywhere.

And yet some people don't believe he's worth it. I have this argument at least once a week:

Point: Jason Varitek is overpaid and does not deserve to be compensated with a forty million dollar contract when he's only been an All-Star once and he's not a great defensive catcher and he doesn't even catch every day.

My counterpoint: First of all, you are smoking some especially potent crack. Secondly, he is not overpaid because he is the ultimate Captain Intangibles, thirdly, the All-Star game is a popularity contest and finally, "not a great defensive catcher?" Again with the crack.

Admittedly, I have a soft spot in my heart for Varitek. I find it hard to be rational when it comes to him because there are only so many times you can hear members of the team intone "Tek is the heart and soul of the team" before you start believing it. And as far as his contract goes, he's being compensated in the same manner as Ivan Rodriguez and Jorge Posada and Varitek is just as important and instrumental to his team. In that manner, Varitek is a lot like Tom Brady. He doesn't put up the eye-popping numbers a la Pudge but he is the backbone which the team is built around. That may be even more important in baseball than it is in football simply because of the fact that players can and do demand prohibitive contracts because there is no salary cap and salaries are guaranteed. You want the money? You get the money. If not here, then somewhere else.

I do not begrudge Varitek his large contract. The Red Sox can surely afford it. I choose to believe it had more to do with wanting to give himself some security that he would remain in a Red Sox uniform for the entirety of his career than it did with him wanting the money. I know, I know, I'm being very idealistic about this. If you hire Scott Boras as your agent - which Varitek did - then you're sending a message. And that's fine. But I must also admire the fact that, when things came down to the wire, Tek did not go all hard-ass and refuse to compromise. He did, the Sox did and we've got a happy catcher, a happy team and a happy fan base for at least another four years.

That said, ten million dollars is a lot of money. And how do you justify giving that much to a catcher who has, as has been pointed out, only been an All-Star once and has been only slightly above average offensively? Here's how: If we're handing out money based on All-Star appearances, we might as well give everything we've got to the Yankees. Oh, wait, bad example. But my point remains, the All-Star game is a popularity contest. And by virtue of the fans voting for their favorite players - the players whose jerseys they wear - you're going to get your big name, big contract guys in there. Your Barry Bonds, Manny Ramirez and Derek Jeters will always be All-Stars. And more power to them. The numbers they put up certainly warrant it. Sure, other people have other favorites but they are not flashy enough to show up at the All-Star game. My brother's favorite player on the planet is Doug Mirabelli but do you think he gets himself worked into a righteous snit over Dougie's absence from the All-Star team? No, he supports Manny and Ortiz instead. Likewise, I do not think All-Star appearances should be considered when you're just not a flashy numbers kind of player, as most catchers tend not to be. You've got your exceptions, for sure, Pudge and Mike Piazza among them. But really, if we're seriously referring to Piazza as a "catcher," we've got a whole other argument.

A catcher's ability to handle a pitching staff goes largely overlooked. Strange since pitching is perhaps the greatest component necessary for a winning team. Prior to 2004, Varitek seemingly had his hands full dealing with the diva-esque Pedro Martinez, the space shot Derek Lowe, the young and often erratic Bronson Arroyo and the entire cast of bullpen characters. We've got Dougie to corral Tim Wakefield's knuckleball and I'm pretty sure there's no one on the planet more grateful for that than Varitek. Suddenly, he has to learn the patterns and manners and idiosyncrasies of closer Keith Foulke and notorious student of the game and uber-preparer, Curt Schilling. The verdict? Schilling has said that prior to coming to
Boston, he never let a catcher call a game for him. Now? Varitek gets to tell the big man what he'll throw. That, my friends, is respect.

Boston has a big turnover in their pitching staff this year. Two of the five starters are gone and three new ones (David Wells, Matt Clement and Wade Miller) have been thrown into the mix. The Big Schill, Bro-yo and Wake return. Mirabelli is back as well. Of the three newbies, to a man, they have all declared the presence, or anticipated presence of Varitek as he was still unsigned as a major factor in their deciding to come to Boston. To whit: "A huge thing for me was the catching situation. When I watch catchers, I think, 'Man, I'd like to throw to this guy.' I remember saying that a lot of times about Varitek." - Matt Clement. Not only does he get the respect of his teammates but Varitek is garnering praise from his opponents, as Wells has been in the past, and even pitchers in the National League whom he's never played against, like Clement. You don't get much more well-respected than that.

When he signed his new contract on Christmas Eve, the Red Sox presented Varitek with a new jersey, bearing a red "C" over the left breast. Or the heart. Exactly where it belongs. Some people have argued that baseball teams don't need captains because they've got managers to keep everything straight and argue with the umps. Fair point. And that may be why only three teams that I can currently think of have official captains - Mike Sweeney of the Kansas City Royals, Derek Jeter of the Yankees, and now Varitek. But I think the Red Sox were making a statement by naming Varitek caption - something that he was unaware of before receiving the jersey, by the way. The team had been searching for a "face of the franchise." That's what the whole A-Rod business was about last winter. They tried to sell Nomar, but Nomar was a reluctant superstar, not particularly comfortable with the spotlight. They tried to sell Pedro, but Pedro was too uppity for some in the Boston media. And Schilling, despite his best efforts, only pitches every fifth day. So we've got Varitek. He has become the face of this franchise. And giving him that captain's jersey solidifies one thing that we've all known to be true for some time: the Boston Red Sox are Jason Varitek's team. He is their leader.

Whether it's coaxing a struggling starter through a particularly difficult pitch sequence or laying the smack down on A-Rod because he Would. Not. Take. It. Anymore., Varitek is the leader of this team. No one works harder, no one plays harder and no one respects the game more. The thing is, he's a model baseball player. Let's put it this way. If I had a child who wanted to play baseball, I'd want him or her to have Jason Varitek as a role model. Not Pedro. Not Jeter and certainly not Bonds. Varitek. He stands for everything that is great about the game of baseball. Call him a "dirt dog." Call him a "throwback." Call him "Tek." But now we've got a new one. Now, we call him "Captain."

Pitchers and catchers report in three weeks...

We now return you to your regularly scheduled Super Bowl obsessing.

(Some helpful info about captains from the swell folks at ESPN.com)

Wednesday, January 26, 2005


Hee Hee. Hee hee hee.

Okay, I'm done.

Simply the Best

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(Smiles to light up Pittsburgh)

Sports journalists and commentators of America, you know the drill, but for the uninitiated I shall provide a primer. Repeat after me: Open foot, insert mouth. Now say it: The Patriots are good. The Patriots are gerat. I will not pick against the Patriots.

Admittedly I was nervous about this game. But it was the kind of nervousness that comes with the knowledge that your coach is the Stephen Hawking of the NFL and your normally impressive quarterback morphs into Robo-QB in the big games. In fact, I'd like to propose a constitutional amendment that he be referred to as Tom "Big Game" Brady from here on out. That said, it doesn't mean that my hands weren't shaking just a wee bit. Or that I refused to move from the couch even though my feet were frozen and my bladder was nearing maximum capacity. Years of being a Red Sox fan have taught me not to mess with things if they're going well. Although I should probably remember what my father said to me last year when I mentioned not wanting to jinx the Pats. "Kristen," he said, "The Patriots are not the Red Sox." And he's right. I should have known better. Do not doubt the Patriots.

As far as the game goes, it appeared to be a constant contest of "anything you can do, I can do better" by the Patriots. Because the Pats don't exploit your weaknesses, they attack your strengths. Then they go for the jugular. You're gonna run it down our throats with heavy doses of Jerome Bettis and Duce Staley? All right then, meet Big Willie and the Teds. Oh, and as for that running game? Allow us to introduce you to Corey Dillon. I don't believe you've met before. Gonna sic the rookie on us and make history? Baby Ben, meet Eugene,
Asante and Rodney. Misters Wilson, Samuel and Harrison, if you're nasty. Our QB? Just some guy named Tom. No, it's okay. Don't mention him. He's perfectly content to go about building his legacy by being, as Sean Salisbury calls him, a "silent assassin." Then again, maybe you have heard of him before. He's won a few things. Around these parts, we just call him Tommy.

All respect to the Pittsburgh Steelers, they are a very good football team and their being in the AFC Championship Game - hosting it even - was not a fluke. They deserved to be there. But this is the Patriots, man. The New England Patriots do not lose when it matters. They do not lose when pride is on the line. They do not care that you're the number one defense in the league. They do not care if your quarterback has never lost an NFL game. And they do not care if they're playing in your house. But you can be damn sure they care that you beat them almost three months ago and ended their historic winning streak at 21 games. Big mistake. Because now they want revenge. Now they're out for blood.

The Patriots know what you're afraid of. They make you face your fears. They know you want to control the clock and pound the ball with your punishing running game. They know you'd rather keep the ball and the decisions out of the hands of the suddenly shaky and possibly injured rookie QB. They know what you're scared of and they become sharks smelling blood in the water. Then they attack. Suddenly, Duce and The Bus are running into brick walls of men and Roethlisberger is forced to pass. Suddenly, your worst fears have become reality. And before you know it, you're playing catch-up against the defending World Champions. You're not built for that. Don't feel bad. No one is.

You see opposing quarterbacks looking perplexed as they're faced with a Patriots defense. Poor Ben Roethlisberger was in way over his head last night before he even stepped on the field. Yes, the rookie has been impressive but Bill Belichick does not lose to the same quarterback twice. That's a fact. You can look it up. Patriots/Colts games feature frequent shots of Peyton Manning shaking his head. I can only imagine he's trying to dislodge the computer chip that Belichick has implantedinto his brain. There seems to be no other explanation.

Here's the thing: it's not that the Patriots do win, it's how they win. Something special is going on if you hold the league's number one offense to three points one week and hang 41 points on the league's number one defense the next. I've watched this team closely for the past few years, ever since they began on this current era of dominance. Week in and week out, I've seen them dispatch teams - great teams, some of them - and even I don't know how they're doing it. But, after watching all five hours of the recently released "21" DVD chronicling their winning streak, I suspect it has something to do with heart.

Perhaps the most striking thing about the DVD were the post game locker room scenes. After every game, every game, owner Robert Kraft greeted his players with hugs as they entered the locker room. This is why it works. It starts at the top and trickles down.

This team is a family. And a family it needs to be. You do not break your arm in the Super Bowl and come back to play the next set of downs with a compound fracture as Rodney Harrison did last year if you don't think your team is a family. You do not patrol the sidelines in a motorized scooter to cheer your teammates on as the injured Ty Law did duringlast night's AFC Championship game in Pittsburgh if you don't think your team is a family. You do not play nearly an entire season with a separated shoulder and not utter a word of complaint as Tom Brady did last year if your team is not a family. These Patriots do these things. They embrace the Bruschis and the McGinests and the Vinatieris that have been there all along and they bring the Dillons and the Neals and the Millers into the mix and make them family too.

These boys want another ring. Last night after the game, a sideline reporter caught up to Corey Dillon, who, before coming to the Patriots this year had never so much as had a winning season and asked him how he felt about going to his first Super Bowl. Dillon, thousand-watt smile beaming replied, "Can you say that again?" "How does it feel to be going to your first Super Bowl?" the reporter repeated. "One more time." Dillon said. "Your first Super Bowl? How does it feel?" Dillon laughed, "It feels great, man, great." Then he ran off to embrace his teammates. That is what these men play for.

In two weeks when the Patriots face the Eagles in the Super Bowl, they will be ready. They will be hungry. Despite the fact that many of the players already have one, or sometimes two, Super Bowl rings, they will not let up. They want to win for Corey, who's never been here before. They want to win another one for Bob Kraft, to say thank you to the best owner in sports. They want one more for Tom, so he can finally getthe credit he deserves.

They don't want to talk about it but the arguments against calling the Patriots a modern-day dynasty are becoming few and far between. This is not supposed to happen in this era of salary caps and free agency. This is not supposed to happen in the time of ego and ESPN. This is not supposed to happen in this age of parity. But it's happening now. It's happening right in front of us. Bill Belichick does not lose in the playoffs. After last night's win, he is tied at 9-1 with Vince Lombardi for a playoff record. You may have heard of this Lombardi fellow. He's the trophy guy. Tom Brady is currently tied with Bart Starr at 8-0 for most consecutive playoff victories. Starr won a few games in his time. The national media and the pundits can deny it all they want, but thisPatriot team is not good. This Patriot team is great. This Patriot team will turn your own game plan against you and make you beat them. And you can't do it.

So while the team prepares for their third Super Bowl in four years, I will enjoy every minute of it. While Manning, Roethlisberger and thirty other teams are sitting at home, I will be watching and cheering my boys on. Doubt them all you want, they'll prove you wrong. Believe it.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

What it's all about

Congratulations to the New England Patriots for beating the Pittsburgh Steelers 41-27 and advancing to the Super Bowl for the third time in four years where they will face the Philadelphia Eagles.

I promise more commentary tomorrow.

Congrats, boys. And thank you.

Counting Our Blessings

Because no matter what happens today, we'll always have this:

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As you were.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Genetics, Relationships and General Lunacy

Or, I swear this is not my fault, I've been provoked!

The following are all email conversations I've had in the last 48 hours.

Kristen and her Dad email about the big game on Sunday (gulp).

Dad: Nice diatribe on the Pats yesterday for your blog.
I just finished “The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty,” which was pretty good, and certainly a happy ending. Especially liked the chapter largely devoted to Darryl. What a poor, sympathetic soul! Let me know if you want it.

Just started on “America's Game,” the NFL history/business story book, and it's very engrossing but a long read. I will recommend to you for background!

Kristen: Darrrrrrrryl! 'Bout time the Mets sign him again, isn't it?

I will read the Olney one for sure. Of course, now that the Big Unit is a Yankee, I suppose it loses a bit of its luster. What does that make it: if you can beat them, join them anyway?

Colleen and I were talking about "America's Game" the other day. She'd read a review of it and wanted to know if I'd read it. I've actually gotten into lots of discussions with people recently about the marketing behind the NFL and why they have such a successful product. Pretty interesting stuff. Colleen's quite the football fan, you know. Although she grew up a Giants fan so there's always Eli to make fun of.

Did we get you "Bloody Sundays" for Christmas too? I can't remember and that looks like an interesting one as well. I need new reading material.

I have spent the better part of the last three days working up an irrational hatred of Ben Roethlisberger or, as I've taken to calling him, The Hamburgler. His goody-goodiness is really starting to get on my nerves. Everything you read is all, "Ben loves his mom and his dad and apple pie and Jesus and has never so much as crossed against a light." I still hope Big Willie pounds the snot out of him on Sunday as I don't feel he's been properly welcomed to the NFL, Eli Manning style. That said, Bettis and Staley are bigger points of concern than the rookie, I would imagine. But I'm sure Belichick's thought of everything. The about face on the part of the national media after the Colts whupping is downright funny. Everyone now says, "I give up. I'm picking the Patriots until they prove otherwise." Now how are they going to get motivated by claiming a lack of respect?

Dad: Well the best part of the Yankees book is the post-epilogue, the final unwritten chapter. I won't spoil it for you but it's not apparent until the very last words in the epilogue.

Methinks Darryl has a long-term contract with another outfit now that wears solid orange uniforms with long numbers on the back.

Re: Big Ben, remember that the NFL coaches these kids on what and what not to say to the press. You can't have it both ways. Here's a guy that may be squeaky clean and all that but at least he's not like the Big Straw above. So in that line of thinking don't you think America is starting to get a little sick of the aw shucks, win one for the team Pats, especially after they continually physically mow everyone over? I think Bill Cowher has done a great job of maximizing Big Ben's limited talents behind Bettis and Staley as you say, but he's responded well for a rookie. Pitt sure presents a different challenge than the always beaten Colts don't you think? A completely different match-up. I think that you're looking for a new villain now that Peyton has been brought back to earth but it's tough to dig up something on a soft-talking, God fearing rookie from the Midwest!

Guess I don't know much about Bloody Sundays.

Kristen: Or maybe I just don't like the Midwest or any of their products! Or I just need a reason. And I have to dislike the Steelers, they broke our winning streak. That's not nice. I really don't much care if the rest of the world is tired of the Patriots. I'm loving it. And, as I said in my posting yesterday, a true team is rare in professional sports. I still don't think the vast majority of the country's football fans get that yet. You'd think they would have paid some attention after the first Super Bowl but we were dismissed as "lucky." And the Pats can continue to mow people over however they see fit, Baby Ben included. Perhaps I am looking for a new villain, but if the Pats make it through this weekend, my hatred shall fall squarely on the shoulders of T.O. and Freddie Mitchell and his stupid hat. Because I don't see Atlanta getting past Philly. And I like McNabb. I'm still holding a grudge against Pittsburgh for so thoroughly underestimating us three years ago.

And no way Pittsburgh should have won that game on Saturday. It took some Yankee-level choking on the part of Doug Brien (whose body will, I'm sure, be found washed up on the banks of the Hudson River any day now) for them to squeak by. Plus, I hate those god-forsaken Terrible Towels and Bill Cowher's giant, protruding chin.

Cowher has been nominated as a member of the charter pledge class of the "Athletes and Coaches Who Look Like 70s Porn Stars" Fraternity. President Gary Sheffield and VP Dave Wannstedt presiding. Chairman Jeff Fisher also in attendance.

Darryl will break out soon enough to inflict himself on the rest of the world again. Let's hope it happens in February so we have something to follow in the dead month of sports. Perhaps he can start up a softball league with Jose Canseco.

Dad: I hope Brady doesn't fall victim to his own success, what I'd call the Jeff Gordon syndrome. You know, good looking, successful athlete with charm and humility and all that so that folks just want to root against because he's all of the above. And then when he has a falling out with his good-looking wife - pow - they are all over him!

And besides, well-respected, good-guy Jeff Fisher? Is there no limit to the scope of your scorn?

Kristen: Brady has no good-looking wife because he is my boyfriend and all the women of New England – and probably some of the men – would dismember her during pre game tail-gaiting festivities. But more to the point, Shaughnessey of all people had something to say about that yesterday:

“Then there's Brady, who has every God-given attribute that could make him a complete jerk and engender tremendous jealousy. The clutch quarterback is simply just too talented, too good-looking, and too poised. Not fair. He's the guy we all secretly hated in high school because we wanted to be him, but the Patriot quarterback is careful to spread the gold and the glory around the locker room. He works as hard as or harder than anyone else. He plays hard and plays hurt. He eschews the entitlements that generally come to the star QB. He is, in fact, the anti-Pedro Martinez.” - Dan Shaughnessey, Boston Globe.

Not that Danny Boy could resist a completely unnecessary shot at Petey but I think he has a point. There is nothing about Brady, save for his success if you’ve been the victim of it, that makes him the slightest bit offensive. Very Roethlisberger, I’ll admit. And perhaps that’s the reason I’ve had just about enough of Baby Ben, I’m tired of him treading on Brady’s turf. I’m tired of hearing about how his is one of the greatest seasons ever as a rookie (which, yeah, no denying that) and that Brady doesn’t count because he threw three passes his first season. Three passes? Are you kidding me? That makes someone not a rookie? I suppose technically but that’s like claiming that a baseball player who gets five at bats all season and then never plays again can be considered a big leaguer.

I think I’m tired of everyone pretending they’ve never heard this story before when, in fact, they heard it three years ago. All credit to Ben and kudos to Tommy Maddox for sitting down, shutting up and supporting the rook but THIS JUST HAPPENED three years ago. Our memories are not that short. Not in New England anyway.

And good for Pittsburgh. Good for the Steelers and good for the fans. This is special and they should enjoy it. But if the Steelers lose on Sunday – which I am by NO MEANS guaranteeing because I am scared silly for that game – I don’t want to hear word one about how The Hamburgler is “just a rookie.” No excuses. As I shall not resort to Colts-type whining about getting man-handled by their defensive backs if the Pats don’t pull it out.

I have no problem with Jeff Fisher and I think he’s a good coach. But he does look like a 70s porn star. Just because he’s in the company of Gary “Balco” Sheffield and Dave “I wash my hands of this” Wannstedt is not a commentary on his personality. Merely his physical attributes.

Kristen and her ex-boyfriend discuss Jason Varitek's new contract.
(and no, this is not why we broke up)

Kristen: See what the Big Schill has to say?

“I knew that if Jason Varitek didn't come back, we had no chance to repeat as champions. No chance. None." – Curt Schilling

Me and the Big Schill, we're on the same wavelength. Shut it, Jason.

Jason: Schill voted for Bush, he's an idiot. And you are heavily biased because you want to have a million of Tek’s babies...So bottom line is my opinion stands... Tek’s overpaid.

Kristen: For all I know, Tek voted for Bush too. And while I would not agree with his political views - nor Tom Brady's, nor Schillings, nor, I'm sure, many other professional athletes' - I agree with Schilling's assessment of Varitek. And the fact that I want to have a million of his babies is largely inconsequential towards my opinion and assessment of his value to the Boston Red Sox.

I want to have a million of Richard Seymour's babies too but that does not mean I think he's irreplaceable. I think Varitek is. And apparently Theo agrees with me. So neener.

Jason: Theo knee-jerked a desperation move, that’s all. I bet he agrees with me.

Kristen: He does not. Nor do I think you disapprove of the move as vehemently as you appear to. I think you just like arguing with me since you know the whole Varitek thing is the one aspect of sports fandom on which I cannot be rational.

The Kim signing, now that was a knee jerk...

Jason: Kim was not a knee jerk, it potentially could have been a great signing.

If this was any other off-season Varitek'd be laughed at and kicked in the nutz. But because Pedro left and because Lowe left and because Cabrera left, and because no one was left from the World Champion 2004 team, Theo did it to save face and not panic the fan base. It is a bad contract no matter how you look at it. It was a reactionary move that makes no financial or baseball sense. It was a knee-jerk reaction to the mass exodus of champions.

Kristen: LA LA LA, I can’t hear you! See what you’ve reduced me to with your petty arguments? Are you proud of yourself?

Kristen and Kerri email while Kristen is on hold with the Red Sox as she attempts to get group tickets for her company outing:

Kristen: It’s very quiet around here. I feel like this is what it would sound like if the entire department had a hangover.

Kerri: Are you sharing something, Kristen? I tend to get giddy when I have a hangover. And my typing skills suffer terribly.

Kristen: No, no. No hangover this morning. Although I just talked to K and she said, “Butch wanted me to call you and see if you wanted to come over on Sunday and watch men with tight butts run around and bang into each other.” So that doesn’t bode well for the state of my head on Monday.

It’s just eerily quiet. Perhaps this would be life without Amy. So sad.

Kerri: Very sad indeed. And I too am dreading the state of my head on Monday morning. I shall be a good girl. I shall try to be a good girl.

Kristen: I’m thinking that I’ll behave if the Pats are doing well. Because then it’s just natural euphoria. But if they are not doing well – perish the thought – I may need some Silver Bullets to dull the pain. Thank god for Butch and his man purse of Coors.

Did the lights just flicker or am I insane?

Kerri: Yes, they did just flicker. I am going on a pub crawl on Saturday, so that could very well determine my fate on Sunday, which in turn will determine my fate on Monday.

Kristen: Ah yes, the domino effect. Any thoughts on how you see your boy Donovan fairing against the Falcons? And is T.O. coming back for the game? Did I hear that somewhere?

Kerri: I never know what to believe about T.O. He is a wind bag. You know I will be rooting for my man Donovan despite the fact that Mike Vick is more or less the QB version of Troy Brown, I think it will be a good game. But not to worry, if the Eagles make it into the SB I will be sticking w/ Tommy Boy, although Mike will be provided with endless entertainment at my expense and will be relentless in the questioning of my loyalties.

Kristen: It’s perfectly all right to have an NFC team. This is why I have the Packers and Boyfriend Brett. You only run into problems when and if they meet each other in the championship, which, in this instance, is a real possibility. But then you just stick with the team you’ve been with the longest. It’s like my dad being a SF Giants fan. He wouldn’t know what to do if the Giants and the Sox met in the Series but I guess it would be sort of a win/win for him. Poor guy, he had to deal with the Giants losing in seven games in 2002 and the Sox losing in excruciating fashion in the ALCS last year. Yup, last year. Because this year? Not so much with the losing.

Speaking of winning, I’m on hold with the Sox ticket office to ask them about limits on group tickets and they answer the phone, “Thank you for calling the 2004 World Series Champion Boston Red Sox.” Hee. Never gets old.

I’ve been on hold for 17 minutes. They’re lucky they’re the World Champion Boston Red Sox. I would not put up with this type of treatment from the Diamondbacks.

Kerri: Have you even talked to anyone?

Kristen: Terry Francona keeps coming on to say hi and remind me to use the right field concourse and to reassure me that Red Sox fans are “wicked awesome.” Damn that Terry Francona, giving me false hope that I’ll actually be talking to a real person. Damn him!

Kerri: That freaked me out the first time I called them – stupidly I thought he was actually fielding some calls that day.

Kristen: How funny would that be? “Yeah, hi, Terry. What’s up? Thanks for that whole World Series thing and I’m sorry again about almost running you down in Brookline but I have to say, the hell did you bring Pedro into Game 7 for? I mean, I know it doesn’t matter now and everything worked out well but that was a colossal brain fart on your part. ‘Preciate it if you don’t do it again. Now how ‘bout some tickets?”

Okay, we’re at 23 minutes. They are clearly abusing my unconditional love.

Kerri: Dare you to say that to whoever answers the phone.

Kristen: Or I could tell them, “Could you put Terry back on? We were having a good conversation.”

Kerri: Are you at least on speaker?

Kristen: I have not spoken to an actual person in the past 24 minutes. Right now, Don Henley. And not even “Boys of Summer” Don Henley. Crappy Don Henley. This is abuse, plain and simple. I’ll bet Joe Andruzzi personally answers the phone if I call the Patriots.

Kerri: My condolences. No one should have to suffer that abuse.

Kristen: This is what you get if you call the Pats, Ty Law and Richard Seymour answering the phones. And smiling. Because they love me.

Mr. Blue Sky…doo be doo be doo…Please tell us why (please tell us why) you had to fly away for so long…God, I’m cracking up. This isn’t going past 35 minutes. I won’t allow them to do this to me.

Kerri: What’s the count now?

Kristen: 30:21, 22, 23…

Dude! He never needs to throw another interception in his entire life and I will still collapse into a fit of giggles every time his name is mentioned solely because he did not have his defensive line kill the person who thought it was a good idea to post this picture on peytonmanning.com.

Kerri: God bless you child. I don’t make it past 10 minutes

That picture needs to be enlarged and paraded around Gillette next time they play there.

Kristen: They have two more minutes. Then I am slamming the phone down defiantly.

I’m sayin’, right? That is, quite possibly, the funniest thing I’ve ever seen. I will now spend hours scouring the internet for similar pictures of Baby Ben.

All right, screw ‘em, I will not be abused like this and made to listen to “Fire!” against my will.

Kerri: Pointer Sisters version?

Kristen: No, actually, that may not even be the title but it’s the song that goes “Fiiiiiiiire” that they used in the trailers to “Ladder 49.”

Kerri: Gottcha.

Kristen: Which will now be stuck in my head for the rest of the day. Freakin’ Red Sox. What have they done for me lately?

Kerri: Oh, I dunno- maybe finally won a freakin’ championship after a mere 8 decades or so.

Kristen: Oh shit, that’s right. I keep thinking that didn’t really happen and I have to go through the long, cold winter spewing bile and vitriol at them with only the Pats to calm me. Old habits.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Do Not Look a Gift Colt in the Mouth

Or, Appreciating What the Football Gods Have Deigned to Bestow Upon Us

I hope we appreciate what's going on here. I hope we realize how rare this is. I hope we can see the special things that are happening here and view them in context. I hope we enjoy this for all it's worth.

I'm not just talking about the winning. Sure, the winning is fun. The winning is great, transcendent, even. But it's not just about the winning. I'm talking about the team. The joy. The flat-out euphoria surrounding the New England Patriots and their fans these days. I'm talking about the love that six entire states feel for a wee little man named Robert Kraft. I'm talking about the cheers - always the cheers - that greet guys named Tedy, Tom, Corey and Adam wherever they go. I'm talking about the fact that no one minds waiting for six hours in tailgating traffic on Route One. I'm talking about clutching frozen beers and yelling "Not in our house!" at strangers for four straight hours. I'm talking about the team. It's a good time to be a Patriots fan, people. And I hope we're appreciating it.

If you're living in New England these days and you're trying to raise kids, I hope you're taking advantage of the prime example the Patriots are setting about teamwork. I hope you sit your children down in front of the television on game day and you point out Tedy Bruschi to them and you say, "See how he helped that guy wearing number 50 tackle the guy on the other team? That's called teamwork." I hope you point out Troy Brown as he plays nickel back, wide receiver, cornerback, punt returner, towel boy and groundskeeper, "See number 80 out there? See how he never complains about doing anything that's asked of him? That's unselfishness." I hope you point out Tom Brady in his post game interviews when he credits his coach and his teammates for everything and you say, "See that man behind the podium? See the way he's thanking everyone else and not taking credit? That's humility."

These are important things to teach our children. And they are important things to learn ourselves. I fear we are taking this for granted. Imagine if we lived in Minnesota, land of Randy Moss-ville. Or Philadelphia, a.k.a. T.O. land. Or even Peyton-town, Indiana, population: one. Things would be different.

It's a rare thing when you can use a professional sports franchise as a model for community building. But that's what we have here in the Patriots. We have a true team.

I'm sure the winning helps. Who knows how we'd feel if we were merely an 8-8 team, just missing the playoffs or, worse yet, languishing away at the bottom of the division. Imagine if we were like, gulp, Miami, with a running back who quits on his team, a coach who throws up his hands and an owner who forces us to wear hideous orange jerseys on Monday Night Football. Imagine if we were like Indianapolis where, as far as the rest of the country is concerned, our team is made up of Peyton Manning and some other guys. Imagine if we were the Giants where our most famous player didn't even play for half of the season and then proceeded to get the snot kicked out of him when he did. But thankfully, we have the Patriots. And those things don't happen here.

This past weekend, everyone talked about the Colts, and, I suppose, rightly so. Peyton Manning did set a league record with 49 touchdown passes. Well done him. The Colts are a high-flying offense who went into hostile territory in Denver and proceeded to chew up and spit out the Bronco's defense. And yes, they looked unstoppable. Meanwhile, the Patriots got very little ink spilled about them. Even the usually loyal Boston-based sportswriters were expressing doubt about their chances on Sunday. The names most often mentioned belonged to players who wouldn't even be on the field: Seymour, Law, Poole. It was impact by absence versus impact by presence. Guess who won?

In the end, the Patriots claimed that not getting any respect is what gets them fired up. And that's good. That's something else you can teach your children. Do not believe your own hype. Pride is fine, but arrogance goes before a fall. The Patriots simply refuse to lengthen their legend, content instead to let their play and their conduct speak for itself. And in so doing, they are a true TEAM.

Manning is a wonderful QB. Nobody can take that away from him. But there is also clearly some friction between Manning and his coach. When the QB waves off the punting team and insists on going for it on 4th and 1 from the opponents 39-yard-line (and this time, Peyton was right), and Tony Dungy overrules him from the sidelines, clearly invoking "coaching privilege" you have a problem. Have you ever seen Belichick and Brady miscommunicate, much less argue?

Do you think Troy Brown would have walked off the field during a fake field goal attempt instead of sauntering to the end zone to catch the TD pass from Vinatieri? Nope. Would never happen. Troy Brown does not live in his head like Randy Moss does in his and therefore, he knows what's going on. Troy Brown is a team player. And Troy Brown certainly wouldn't have hit the showers early before the game was even over a few weeks back while his team was losing while still backing into the playoffs. Not here. Not in Patriot country.

Do you ever hear Belichick complaining about the lack of commitment from his wide receivers or Brady badmouthing his "idiot kicker?" Nope. Do you ever hear Richard Seymour claim that "Pittsburgh is ripe for the picking?" Never. Do you ever hear Bruschi say, "Just give us the rings?" Not on your life. Teach your children that. If you can't say anything nice about someone, don't say anything at all.

You will never see a Patriot player in the Bill Belichick/Bob Kraft era act unprofessionally or behave in any way that casts his team in an unflattering light. And if they do, it will be dealt with. Not in public. Not in the papers. Not on SportsCenter. But behind closed doors. Your kids should learn that one as well. Deal with your problems in person. Do not talk about people behind their backs.

And no matter how the rematch ends up on Sunday in Pittsburgh, you will hear nothing but respect coming from the mouths of the Patriots. If they win, you will not hear gloating or arrogance. If they lose, you will not hear excuses or whining. Point it out to your kids and teach them the importance of being good winners as well as good losers.

I hope we're taking advantage of this. I hope we're enjoying the ride. Because it will not always be like this. One need only harken back to the Boston Red Sox days of "25 players and 25 cabs" to realize that this behavior, this chemistry, this team is a rarity. So we best appreciate it while it's here. Because it won't be around forever.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Large Men Quibbling for Yardage in Tights

Or Pass the Pigskin, please: A primer on why I love football.

I am not like most girls. I don't get manicures. I can't walk in heels. I don't wear ruffles. And I love football. Now I know there are many woman stretched across this great land of ours who enjoy Sunday afternoons spent on the couch, beer in hand, watching the game. But there are even more who claim membership in a disturbingly large club christened "Football Widows." Wives, girlfriends, sisters, mothers, daughters and significant others who spend their Sundays standing next to the couch, arms crossed, foot tapping in exasperation, making audibly loud sighing noises in an attempt to distract their man from the game so he'll pay attention to her for a moment. They call their friends and exhale loudly, saying something to the effect of, "He's watching another stupid game. Again. I just don't understand why he has to do this every weekend." The person on the other end of the line is undoubtedly commiserating because these women surely don't call anyone that could actually offer a reasonable explanation as to the lure of the pigskin. No, they just want to complain.

Okay, perhaps I'm being unfair. Mass media leads us to believe that there are two kinds of women as far as sports are concerned. For convenience purposes, I shall refer to them as Old Spice Girls and Tostitos Girls after the commercials in which both appear.

Old Spice girls are the girls pictured sitting across a kitchen table from each other, rolling their eyes as their boyfriends cavort in the background as an unseen commentator on their television declares "This one's going to overtime!" Only when one of the boys gives his girlfriend an impromptu hug and his manly but non-threatening Old Spice body wash scent sends her temporarily to romantic dinners, walks on the beach and running through a field of daisies, does she smile and declare, "He's so great." Meanwhile, the boys are giving each other piggy backs and screaming like idiots in front of the TV in the other room. Her friend, I presume, is still rolling her eyes.

Tostitos girls are different. Around a television a bunch of tuxedo-clad guys are sitting, clearly outfitted for a wedding and hiding in a broom closet somewhere catching contraband glimpses of a football game. The door to the closet opens and there stands the bride, judgemental look at the ready. The guys all look guilty. The bride takes one glance past the busted looking guys and declares, "Oh great, the game's on." before plopping down, grabbing a handful of Tostitos and asking the Best Man, "How's our defense?" That's a Tostitos girl.

I am a Tostitos girl. Not insignificantly because I believe Old Spice is among the most foul odors on the planet and the entire male gender would do well to never purchase nor wear any Old Spice product again but that is not the point. The point is that Old Spice girls do not understand Tostitos girls. They don't understand how we can flop down on the couch, pop open a beer - a can even! - and proceed to discuss the new pass interference rules with the guys. And they don't understand why, even if we can, we would, since football has not exaclty been subtle about declaring itself a man's game. And I'm sure they certainly would not approve of us interrupting our wedding reception to catch a game. But I mean, come on, it's the playoffs.

Old Spice girls are not idiots. They don't abstain from football because it's "too complicated." Okay, some of them do but I believe I've covered them in my pink hat rant. Rather, many of them are very intelligent women with wonderful and interesting things to say and they simply don't understand what is so fascinating about, as my friend Jen puts it, "large men quibbling for yardage in tights." Despite what some people will try to tell you, it's not the tight pants.

I mean yes, I may have noticed that Tom Brady has an aesthetically pleasing way of filling out his uniform but that is certainly not the sole reason I love football. If that were the case, I'd watch the games on mute and would flip back and forth between the game and E! wherein I'm sure they're in the middle of some nonsense like "Ranking the Top 25 Celebrity Asses." Cute players or no cute players, that is not why I love the game.

I admit that some of my affinity for the game comes about because I take a sort of perverse pleasure in not being like other girls. I enjoy being the girl who not only makes the chili for the tailgate party but who also refuses to let her friends go inside because since they've been standing out in the wind, the Pats haven't given up a first down. (Sorry about that again, guys. I hear Vaseline works for windburn). I like getting those looks from the girls hanging on the arms of their men and tossing their hair over their shoulder. The looks that say, "Is she hitting on my boyfriend? Is 12-yard sack a euphemism for something?" But it's not even that, entirely.

Jen has argued, quite intelligently because she is a very smart girl, that football is really nothing more than manifest destiny made sport. Interesting point. Taking the cues from our founding fathers (and mothers because heaven knows this is sexist enough), modern day football players bash into each other essentially declaring, "This is my land and I will take it by force, if need be." So maybe the appeal of football to the masses is psychological. A deeply-rooted belief that we want what is ours, even if belongs to someone else. Either that, or we just like to see 400 pound lineman banging their helmets together.

There is no doubt that football is a primal game. It is violent and jarring and oftentimes painful. Lineman retire at 35 and can barely walk at 40. Quarterbacks can't lift their arms above their waists for three days after a game. Kickers, well, kickers are usually just fine and free to hock Papa Gino's pizza and Ford Trucks. (I promise I'll get around to buying that F-150 soon, Adam). But for the most part, football satisfies our baser urges for violence and contact. It's certainly not socially acceptable for normal people to go around knocking people down simply because we feel like it. Even if they really, really deserve it. (I'm talking to you, slow-walking, white coat wearing lady on the cell phone). So football players do it for us. If we wear a Tedy Bruschi jersey, it's almost like we just sacked Chad Pennington. And that momentary feeling of superiority and adrenaline rush is addictive. Who amongst us hasn't wanted to scream and throw things and knock things over when we get mad? Well football players do that. They convince themselves that the team wearing the other color uniforms has somehow done them wrong and they must set it right. Justice must be served. Football is a brand of vigilante justice. Hired mercenaries bashing into each other and annexing territory. It's visceral and for many spectators, it's cathartic. I don't suppose a girl who enjoys the noxious odor of Old Spice would understand that.

Perhaps the real reason some women can't understand why I love the game so much is because of it's inherently chauvinistic nature. Women do not play football, unless it's a much more girly incarnation called "Powder Puff" (grrrr), and they do not coach football. Professional offensive and defensive coordinators for the 32 teams are 100% male. The women you see associated with the game of football are either shoving a microphone in the coach's face as his team is in the process of blowing a 15-point halftime lead, sitting way up high in the luxury boxes with a helpful network caption identifying her as "Brett Favre's wife" or worse yet, cavorting on the sidelines in teeny-tiny outfits in all their siliconed and cap-toothed glory. Hell, I don't like cheerleaders either and I am aware that Brett Favre's wife has a name of her own (it's Deanna), but thus far I've not let manly boasting or exclusory gender tactics interfere with my enjoyment of other sports, so why should I start now? I love hockey too and I still have all of my teeth. I have learned to ignore the more offensive aspects of the male-dominated sports world, insomuch as someone assumes I don't know what I'm talking about simply because I'm female and I've even learned to relish proving them wrong. Sports in general and football in particular is not a boys club. And if you think it is, you are sorely mistaken.

I certainly can't play well. (Except for that one time when I dragged Amy across the volleyball court after catching a lobbed pass from my brother). My hands are ridiculously tiny and I can't throw a spiral to save my life. But that doesn't mean I can't appreciate a tightly thrown spiral or a great yards after catch average when I see it. To say nothing of a bone-jarring Rodney Harrison hit. I can't pilot an airplane or write a song either but I sure can appreciate someone who can. Just because guys could conceivably play this sport does not mean they are better or bigger fans. Especially if they're the guys I know, most of whom are far too involved in their complicated Coors Light Consumption Plans to spend hours in pads doing speed drills. (I kid because I love, guys!)

Football is also, despite outward appearances, a mental game. Playbooks are thicker than phone books and the amount of scheming and improvisation and guesswork and planning that goes into a single game is mind-boggling. Sure, some football players are your stereotypical dumb jocks. But the vast majority of them are very, very smart. Perhaps not in an "I can discern the square root of Pi to the eleventh decimal place in my head" type of smart but they are very good at what they do. And that takes intelligence. That aspect of the game appeals to me. I like that we can anticipate the opposing team's next move and try to outthink or outmaneuver them. I love that Tedy Bruschi can step in front of a pass for an interception because he read the quarterback's eyes or that Willie McGinest knew Manning was giving the ball to James because he tapped his hip with his left hand. I love that our coach is just plain smarter than everyone else. And I like that you can choose to look at football as either a game of brute strength or mental agility, but that really, it's a combination of the two.

There is no single reason that I love football. There are many reasons all culminating in my enjoyment of the game. My mom was and still is a football fan and I suspect some of it is genetic as I was never told that "girls don't watch football." Rather, my mom and I have been known to stand and scream at the big screen television "SOMEONE STOP HIM! JESUS, YOU CAN'T WIN IF YOU LET HIM THROW THE DEEP BALL!" While my dad stares in wonder at the women in his life.

I don't know if this is a sufficient explanation to make Jen or Amy or any of the other women I know start watching the game with anything other than utter distaste. But that's okay. We don't all have to agree. And I promise not to don a Richard Seymour jersey and knock them down for daring to be contrary. Now, where are the Tostitos?