$0.02: Pats’ proven ability to step up is the difference
On a team that has built a virtual dynasty around controlling the intangibles, one stands out. No matter what the situation, the New England Patriots almost always seem to rise to the occasion. Big game, big play, big call, big throw – it’s rare you see the Patriots fail to come through when needed. They win due to a number of things, including superior scheme, cohesion across the board and good players. But the single biggest trademark of the New England teams of the 2000s has been their ability to do what it takes.In Sunday’s Super Bowl, we’re going to see two teams that match up well, two teams that are hungry, two teams with intelligent coaches on both sides of the ball. If both play as they’re capable, we’ll probably see a wonderful game. One key to watch will be whether Philly defensive coordinator Jim Johnson is able to generate pressure from his front seven on Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Brady rarely has to deal with constant stress in the pocket, and because he’s not the most mobile QB, if the Eagles can get to him on a regular basis you might see turnovers play a role.
That said, I still think New England’s proven ability to rise to the occasion will make the difference. It might only take one play. I think we’ll see Brady, Bill Belichick and the rest of the likeable Pats celebrate their third championship in four years. I’m guessing it’ll be close, something to the tune of 24-20 …I shiver to think of football ending, but a similarly stirring story worth following is unfolding on the men’s World Cup circuit. Bode Miller, as most of us know by now, has held the overall Cup lead the entire season, generating talk of him becoming the first American to win the overall in 21 years. Suddenly, though, his lead is down to less than 100 points. The Austrians have picked it up, nobody more than Benji Raich, the closest racer to Miller right now. Bode took the lead with a fast start, and it looks like he’ll have to finish just as fast now, too …
One-on-one competition like last Thursday’s Australian Open men’s semifinal between Roger Federer and Marat Safin doesn’t come along too often. Safin beat the previously untouchable Federer in five sets, four of which went past regulation (where a player needs six games to win). The match lasted a remarkable four and a half hours, and Safin eventually won the final set, 9-7, to avenge last year’s finals defeat to Federer. To boot, Safin did it on his birthday and went on to beat Aussie Lleyton Hewitt in the finals …In parting, we head to the diamond now, at the indirect calling of Sammy Sosa. The longtime Cubs slugger was traded to the Orioles last week for smallballer Jerry Hairston Jr. and a pair of minor leaguers. Baltimore also picked up $12 million in the deal. The trade basically accents the end of Sosa’s status as a big-time player, and it brought talk of the Hall of Fame when it got announced. Sosa’s certainly a first-ballot guy, but a cautious one at that. Why? He made his mark in the last 10 years by hitting home runs – as did many others – and I think anyone who did that should be carefully investigated when it comes time to talk Cooperstown. The unfathomable leap in dinger numbers is fishy, everyone knows that. But until these guys – dudes like Sosa, Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, Frank Thomas and Juan Gonzalez – start going up for induction into the Hall, it’s not going to be nearly as large an issue.
When the vote comes around, though, it should get more attention. If steroids did contribute to the stats of these players, I guarantee their teammates knew about it. And if that’s the case, a whole of of the game’s integrity will be resting on the willingness of those teammates to break the sacred clubhouse laws and go public. Still, the game should come before those laws, no matter the backlash.If it doesn’t, we could be arguing 50 years down the road whether any players inducted after a certain year belong in the same company as those that came before them. And that would be the ultimate shame.Devon O’Neil can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 231, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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