Wish I had some quality pictures to show, but I attended my second AFC Championship game on Sunday, January 20th, 2008. the first was the January 2005 AFC Championship game in which the Pats derailed the then-greatest offense of all time; Pats won 20-3. As I've mentioned elsewhere in this blog, I was brought up more a Patriots fan than a Sox fan, so while I don't know nearly as much about baseball or the Sox in general as most die-hards in the Boston area, I know and love my used-to-be-loveable-loser Patriots. Everything that's happened with this team since I was about 13 has been excellent: Kraft, Parcells, Super Bowl 31, Belichick, Brady's emergence, 3 super bowl titles (!!!!!!), best statistical season by both a QB and receiver in 2007, 18-0, maybe 19-0. It's incredible. And I'm including the years in which Kraft first bought the team because ANY fan would be lucky to have a guy like Kraft as an owner, whether the Pats ended up as perennial losers in the playoffs like Philly, chokers like Indy (save for last year after one of the best AFC Championship games ever), or second-place stalwarts like Buffalo in the early 90's.
This is the second time the AFC Championship game has been hosted in Foxboro at Gillette Stadium. It was what I like to call "dick-cold" that day, about 10 degrees with lots of wind, and we were on the side of the stadium affected by that wind. We got there around 2PM, only hung around with another friend I met up with for a half hour, game time at 3PM, and we were home by 9PM. Great day, lots of fun, lots of Pats fans everywhere, and we got to heckle the San Diego fans in the stadium when leaving. After the bitterness and lashing out from San Diego Chargers players, following last year's Patriots playoff win in San Diego during the divisional round, it was nice to see another sub-standard Pats performance be enough to put a stop to San Diego. I'm getting sick of that team, always talking about dirty players on the Patriots or whoever they lost to that week, naming players and supposed actions that the ubiquitous cameras just happened to not pick up on.
And of course, you have to love the national media, peppered with "analysts" who get paid to type up BS. Take Tuesday Morning Quarterback, written by Gregg Easterbrook. Gregg has made it a dirty habit to make a living this football season by taking the whole Patriots camera rule-violation thing to an entirely new level.
A bit of background first: Gregg/TMQ likes to make his column fun and interesting by including little factoids about evolution, the universe, or other non-football related stuff. So his columns end up being about 5000 words long, much longer than most people's attention spans. I have a relatively long attention span, so I make it a point to read every word when he publishes (or used to, anyway). Anyway, this goon includes little snippets about "smart" professional cheerleaders, talks about the football gods and how pleased they are when the cheerleaders wear next to nothing...then talks about how he bought his son a Peyton Manning doll. Does his son read this, a 50s-ish man talking about sexy cheerleaders in what he obviously thinks is an "intelligent" football column? Kind of creepy, for sure. One or two times it might be fun, but to make it a regular thing, a section in your weekly column, putting pictures of near-naked women on the site while you talk about the universe, football, and your love of Peyton Manning? Ugh.
So we know this guy is a Colts fan and that his opinion is biased to begin with. This entire season he has tried to discredit the Patriots at every turn, even though the videotaping rule violation occurred and was picked up on during the second quarter of the first game of the year, a game that was never in doubt.
There's also an idea he repeatedly ignores (never mind the fact that the Patriots are 18-0 SINCE the videotape was nabbed by security): Not only does that film not help a team during a game, but Mangini is the one who admits that he routinely asks coaches for permission to tape from the sidelines. Normally that request is granted by opposing coaches, even though it's against NFL rules. So I guess we only punish a team for violating the rules if one coach cries foul, but we let everyone else do it if both coaches agree. Isn't that a bit like saying, "hey refs, don't call the next holding call against my guy because of the bogus call that went against us in the first quarter...got it? good." Mangini was refused when asked to videotape the Pats during the playoff win in January of 2007 (can you blame Belichick? He was going for his fourth Super Bowl title in six seasons). Mangini apparently got mad, especially after the Pats won, and decided he'd call Belichick out on it the next time they met - week 1 of this NFL season. He apparently saw the cameraman and had security nab it. Good for you, Eric - great work.
A couple of things wrong here: Firstly, as most have pointed out, everyone does this in one form or another, and the Patriots were simply made an example of. I can live with that, espeically now that they have gone out and won every single game this season. Secondly, if Mangini really wanted to damage the Pats, shouldn't he have waited until the second meeting, at Gillette stadium, when I'm sure he knew that at that time, the Pats would probably have a better record than the Jets? If he had caught Belichick at home during a 14-2 or 15-1 run (I'm sure no one imagined a 16-0 record, not even me), that would have been infinitely more damaging to the season and Belichick's legacy than catching him during what ended up being meaningless circumstances. Oh and third? No one likes a rat, and Brian Billick, who's Ravens would play Belichick's Pats later that year, called Mangini out on violating another coach's trust.
Try reasoning with guys like Easterbrook...sorry guys, I guess the money is too green on your side. ESPN loves the controversy and their writers are making too much money milking off of a story that should have died 19 weeks ago. Oh, well - once 19-0 has been completed on Sunday, I'll happily tune out all those media leeches for six months while I celebrate my team's improbable feat.
On another Boston sports note, the Red Sox did NOT get Johan Santana in the Minnesota/NY/Boston trade rumors, but the Mets did. Which means the Yankees didn't. Mission accomplished, Theo and the boys: dangling Jacoby Ellsbury in front of the Twins just long enough to scare the Yankees into believing they might actually DO the trade worked out well for everyone. Now the Yankees, who desperately needed Santana, couldn't get him because they also need to start retaining some in-house talent, and the Red Sox, who have great young talent and do NOT need Santana, look great for the division heading into 2008. The Mets? I'm not sure if the Sox even play them this year in the regular season, but who cares? The Mets (and Sox) have to get to the World Series for it to make any difference that the Mets got him. Now Santana is not only safely in another league for playoff purposes, but the Sox don't even have to face him during the regular season against unless they happen to play the Mets during interleague play. I would have gladly traded Lester and Crisp for Santana, but that just wasn't going to happen, so I'm overall happy with the result. It's, as my buddy PS would say, a HIGHLY better than average situation.