I’m pulling for the Patriots to win one final Super Bowl before age finally catches up to Tom Brady.
After all, I was born in Boston and grew up in the coastal town of Hull before heading off to college at Philadelphia’s Temple University (I still rooted against the Eagles in last year’s Super Bowl) where I began my journalism career.
Joe Bailey is correct when he says that I have the 2004 Red Sox World Series championship banner hanging between our desks. That ended the Curse of the Bambino and I believe it’s worth celebrating.
I have other banners — from the old Bill Russell-led and Larry Bird-led Celtics Dynasty, the Bobby Orr Bruins, the Red Sox and Patriots among my personal collection of sports memorabilia — but I keep them at home. No sense rubbing it in, especially to a Yankees/Rams fan.
Now, I can’t say that I’m a lifelong Pats fan but that’s only because I am older than the Patriots — they began play in the old AFL in 1960 when I was 10-years-old, but I have been rooting for them ever-since.
I realize that around here I’m in the minority (although there is one other Lee Central Coast Newspapers employee — who has requested anonymity — who is secretly pulling for the Pats).
Most Californians, indeed most people outside of New England (well, most of New England — western Connecticut is N.Y. Giants and Yankees territory), are either rooting for the Rams to win or the Patriots to lose.
Their string of success, since knocking off the Rams — the St. Louis Rams — in Super Bowl XXXVI on Feb. 3, 2002, is unparalleled.
Along the way, the Pats have gone from Super Bowl darlings to villains.
When New England’s run began in early 2002, at the end of the 2001 season, quarterback Tom Brady — remember, he’s from nearby San Mateo — was the young hotshot of the NFL, as is the Rams’ Jared Goff today.
Brady was a sixth round draft pick in 2000 who spent his rookie season watching and learning behind starter Drew Bledsoe.
But when Bledsoe was seriously injured in the second game of the 2001 season, Brady came off the bench, eventually leading the Pats to their first Super Bowl victory.
That ended a strong of futility that last more than 40 years.
In 1960, behind quarterback Butch Songin (who?), the Pats had an unremarkable 5-9 inaugural season. Songin lost the starter’s job to Babe Parilli the next year, was traded to the Jets and was out of football a year later.
But Boston (they didn’t become the New England Patriots until 1971 when the Pats moved south to Foxborough) started an entertaining run behind Parilli and wide receiver Gino Cappelletti, making it to the AFL Championship game at the end of the 1963 season (they lost 51-10 to the Chargers).
And then followed years when they were mostly loveable losers before finally turning things around to earn a spot in Super Bowl XX, where they lost 46-10 to the Bears.
New England also earned a spot in Super Bowl XXXI where the Bill Parcells coached team lost to the Packers 35-21.
The Pats were fans favorites when they began their current run at the end of the 2001 season — well, favorites everywhere but Oakland.
That’s the year of the infamous “Tuck Rule” playoff game.
While this year’s New Orleans Saints fans are understandably upset over the non-call at the end of the NFC Championship game that propelled the Rams to this year’s Super Bowl, the Patriots also had a controversial call that led to their Super Bowl breakthrough that jumped-started the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick run of success.
Playing against Oakland on Jan. 19, 2002, in brutal New England weather, the Patriots trailed 13-3 midway through the fourth quarter of the AFC semifinal playoff game against the Raiders when Brady led the Pats on a 67-yard touchdown drive.
With time running out, Brady was spearheading another drive when he went back to pass, pumped the ball as he was going to throw and was hit by Oakland cornerback Charles Woodson.
The ball came loose and was ruled a fumble that Oakland recovered, seemingly icing their win.
But since it was ruled a fumble, the play was reviewed and referee Walt Coleman reversed the call saying it was an incomplete forward pass.
The Pats kept the ball. Adam Vinatieri kicked a game-tying field goal and kicked another in overtime for a 16-13 New England victory.
Outside of Oakland, it was an unpopular ruling but still a popular win over Al Davis’ Black and Silver squad.
The Pats went on to beat Pittsburgh in the AFC championship game and the “Greatest Show on Turf” St. Louis Rams, 20-17, on another Vinatieri game-winning field goal in the Super Bowl on Feb. 3, 2002, in New Orleans.
The teams went in opposite directions after that — the Rams floundering for years until young coach Sean McVay, who was a four-year starting quarterback for Atlanta’s Marist School War Eagles, righted the ship last year while the Pats went on to win two of the next three Super Bowls and five overall since the XXXVI game.
The Patriots could have won three more — two against the Giants and one against the Eagles — if their defense hadn’t let them down. That’s my concern this time around, too.
Now the tables are turned.
The Rams are back in California – the popular upstarts with a young, California-bred (Novato, Cal Berkeley) gunslinger, Goff, running this new edition of the “Greatest Show on Turf.”
They are also the team to benefit from a controversial call.
Is that an omen? I hope not in this Super Bowl re-match that's 17 years in the making.
If the Patriots’ defense can slow down Goff and the surprisingly rejuvenated C.J. Anderson to keep the game close (that’s a big “if”) and Brady gets the ball with two-minutes to go and the game on the line, I think TB12 will make another run into the record books to become the first quarterback to bring home six Super Bowl wins.