Wednesday, January 23, 2008

It's Like You're Reading my Mind, Man

So I waited on a guy tonight who, I found out through conversation, had recently moved to Pittsburgh from New York. And I told him that I'd recently moved here from DC and we were chatting about the culture shock of living here. He told me how glad he was to find a really nice restaurant (the one I work at). I asked him where else in Pittsburgh he'd eaten so far, and he said, "I don't know. A few places. I can't believe the food here. I went to someplace the other night and I swear the menus were deep-fried. I asked the waitress for a napkin and she brought me a Monte Cristo sandwich..."

And I knew how he felt. But I told him, and may God strike me dead, "Give it time. It grows on you."

Monday, January 21, 2008

18 and Life to Go

Well, no going back now. I said a while back that the Pats would go 19-0 and here we are, one win away, one balmy desert night from history. And it's going to happen. I know it, the Pats know it, you know it, hell, the Giants know it. Take the Pats, give the thirteen and let's get to spring training.

There's going to be a lot of journalists, talking heads, "experts" and average Patriots-hating fans who will try to talk themselves into the idea that the Giants will win. They are kidding themselves. That's not to say that the Giants can't win; anything can happen. But they won't win. The Pats have won every kind of game imaginable this year. They have faced nearly every situation possible, except being down by multiple touchdowns. All those late game fourth down plays are paying off now. Never just sitting on the ball late in a blowout is paying off now. Does anybody in their right mind think that, with two weeks to prepare, Billy B and Brady won't be ready for anything and everything the Giants will throw at them? Are there still people out there who doubt the Pats' greatness, who still think that the "aging, slow" defense and our "soft" running game are weaknesses? Have those people even been watching? There is not a situation out there for which this team is unprepared. They've come this far and there is no way in hell they won't complete this perfect season. As for their place in history, as the greatest team ever or whatever, I don't really care. I just want another hat and t-shirt.

I remember at the half of Super Bowl XX, with the Pats down 23-3, Ahmad Rashad came up with a way for the Pats to be winning the game at the half...if Stanley Morgan just catches that goal-line slant...if Eason doesn't fumble...if Don Blackmon catches those two INTs and takes 'em back...if, if, if. And the late Pete Axthelm says something to the effect of, "This is men against boys...if the Pats had twenty points, the Bears would have forty..." I don't think the Giants are that overmatched, but on a certain level, the point holds: no matter what the Giants do, the Pats will be just that much better. I have the utmost confidence in that.

One thing is strange, though. Before the last three Pats Super Bowls, I've been much more excited. Even given the lack of novelty in the Pats playing for the title, there's still something missing, or at least something different. And I'm more nervous about this game then the others. Not because we're unequipped for the challenge, just because of what's riding on this. I imagine some Yankee fans felt this way before game 7 in 2004. As in, if we lose this next game, we'll never hear the end of it. (And I'm not comparing the two in terms of choke-osity...just making a different, but related point...) The Yanks lost that game, and I've made damn sure to do my part to make sure their fans never hear the end of it. And I have no doubt that everywhere the Pats are loathed, which seems to be most everywhere (and especially here in Pittsburgh), plans are being made to let Pats fans never hear the end of it if we lose this next game. That's not something I have any interest in hearing for the rest of my life.

The only chance we ever had of putting "spygate" behind us (at least mostly) was going 19-0. Now we're so close, and I just want it to be over. Not to say that I won't enjoy it, but this time when I'm gasping for air at the end of a Super Bowl, it won't be from jumping around too much. It will be from holding my breath.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Thinking (While Trying to be Nice to Niki)

So it's the Chargers then. I am ambivalent about this. The Bolts present an easier opponent, I think, than the Colts, especially if it's going to be as cold as they're predicting. But, man, it would've been sweet to watch Peyton hang his overrated head amongst the snow flurries again. Yes, that would've been sweet.

As for my in-depth analysis of the Pats' game? Well, suffice it to say that Maroney is a stud, and I regret calling him inconsequential at my parents' house two weeks ago. Thank you, LoMo for making like Styx and showing me the way...The touchdown to Welker? Maybe Tom's greatest acting job since "Not a Touchdown!" As for the defense, eh, who cares really? I was concerned for about a half hour about the penalties and long plays and such, but really, who cares? They are just not going to lose and it's that simple. If the defense misses the bus to the stadium, I still have the utmost confidence in Tom and Company to just barely outscore the Chargers. So there's my prediction: Defense-less Pats: 174, Chargers, 171. In the words of Carl Wollarski, "Coach [Bellichick] just barely finds a way..."

More importantly: did anybody see or hear the Colts' fans booing this teenage girl during the Punt, Pass & Kick competition yesterday? I can't get the gist of this whole story...was she wearing a Pats jersey? Was that what this was all about? People seem pretty up in arms about it. On one level, it's kind of funny. On another, you know, parent level, it's not. But, if my daughter wanted to wear her Pats jersey (if she wasn't being foiled by all my Steelers-merch-buying-relatives) into the RCA Dome, I would definitely have her prepared to handle the boos she'd surely receive. That's a good lesson for a kid to learn. I remember the first time I wore a Sox jersey into the Toilet I was about 14 or 15, and some 400 pound idiot eating an ice cream sandwich heckled me. I turned around, looked him over, and said, "Just try to leave some ice cream for the rest of us, ok?" Brought the section down...so, it's good to have formative experiences like that. Otherwise, I'd have been upset by the guy that drove past me walking into work in my Pats jersey on Saturday who yelled, "Fuck the Patriots!" out his window. So, thanks fat Yankee fan. Good lookin' out...

As for the Colts themselves, well, you shit the bed again. Badly. But as I'm sure everyone in Cleveland is saying today, that's karma. You laid down and single-handedly changed the fortunes of two possible playoff teams when you didn't play it out versus the Titans. That's a lot more unsportsmanlike and influential than anything the Pats have been accused of. But, the Colts catch very little heat for it, because gosh darn, isn't that Tony Dungy such a nice man? And maybe he is a really nice man, when he's not using every opportunity afforded him to lecture America on its social and moral ills. But you know what? He's not a great football coach. He coddles his team, then wonders why they play soft. He makes bad decisions on the sidelines. He's had three bye weeks and lost at home in the divisional round all three times. All being a nice guy gets you in the NFL is every possible call from every ref in the league. You got your ring, Tony, now walk away. You proudly say there's more to life than coaching football. And you're right, there is. There's more to life than playing football, just as there's more to life than being a football fan. But the NFL is not the place for people who really believe that. The NFL is for people who play hard every week, and don't cheat themselves or their fans. It's certainly not for whiners and rule-changers.

As for the Chargers themselves, no strangers to my wrath and accusations of classless behavior, congratulations. You beat the Colts and the refs with your second-string, basically. I applaud your vim and vigor. I applaud your ability to somehow keep Never Norv-ous's head from exploding, as it should have. You came from behind more times than Ron Jeremy. Now bundle up, because in the words of Bill and Marty, "It's gonna be c-c-c-c-c-c-cold outside..."

Here's 4(+) things I wonder going into AFC Championship week:

1. I wonder if Shawne Merriman is going to get on stage at a pep rally again and guarantee victory...

2. I wonder if John Clayton will ever be whole emotionally after watching the twin loves of his bizarre life choke again...(don't read that if you're just eaten recently...)

3. I wonder how depressing it is for Peyton Manning that this guy is farther in the playoffs than he is...
4. I wonder what Jim Nantz and Phil Simms will do on Sunday? No undefeated old Dolphins to felate, no Peyton and Dungy to rim; jeez, are they gonna have to talk about the game? Are they gonna have to root for the Chargers? Are they gonna be completely phony and obvious about it? Is there some other obscure meaningless Phil Simms record that Tom can break? Is he gonna use complete sentences to explain his Phil-osophy? These are the questions I want answered...

Anyway, I'm also rooting for the Packers on Sunday. I haven't forgotten about Super Bowl XXXI yet, and this time, there's no one-trick pony Arch Bishop Desmond Howard to bail them out...thus begins the interminable wait till Sunday; at least we're the early game!