I wasn’t really excited over Super Bowl LI before last Sunday. The thing I was looking most forward to that day was a road race, my 49th New York Road Runners’ race over the last 3 1/2 years. I ran the Gridiron 4 miler in Central Park that morning, and ran 7,040 yards — the equivalent of 70 or so football fields. I’m training for another marathon, the New Jersey Marathon in April, so this was an important tuneup for me.
There’s a spot on the course where you go in one lane around the two-mile mark to support the New England Patriots, or the other lane to support the Atlanta Falcons. I, of course, went in the Falcons lane (I’m so anti-New England I don’t even trust the Gorton’s Fisherman!), as did 59 percent of the 5,000 or so runners that day. And It looked to me like about 2/3 of the crowd were getting in the Falcons lane, at least in the back of the pack!) A lot of people wore their football jerseys while running — mostly Giants jerseys.
The most exciting thing about the then-upcoming game to me was the fact that the Roman numerals for this year’s game are also the first two letters of my first name. And I thought the highlights of the day were going to be eating Kentucky Fried Chicken (a rare treat for me these days!), drinking Sierra Nevada beer, and yakking with Squawker Jon, who came over to Casa Swan for the game.
And let’s face it, the game was a boring blowout for the first three quarters. I was starting to fall asleep on the couch once the Falcons amassed a 25-point lead. Then Tom Brady got in gear. First, he got touchdown towards the end of the third quarter. But the Pats missed the extra point, so it seemed pretty hopeless.
But Brady and the Patriots kept on going. There was a field goal early in the fourth quarter, and then a second touchdown with six minutes to go, with a two-point conversation to make the score 28-20 Atlanta. I said to Squawker Jon then, “The Patriots are gonna win this. And they deserve to.” He pooh-poohed and naysayed. But the momentum was on the Patriots’ side. The Falcons collapsed just when New England got hot.
You know the rest: Brady connected with James White for yet another TD, the Patriots got yet another two-point conversion, and won the game, and their fifth Super Bowl, 34-28 in the first-ever Super Bowl overtime.
And for once, I didn’t feel sick to my stomach when seeing New England win again. The way I look at it is this: when you are down 25 points with 18 minutes to go, and you come back and win, you deserve it all, and the other team deserved to lose. The Falcons allowed 31 unanswered points. Sad!
I have been a longtime Tom Brady hater, but I have to say that I respect the hell out of Brady for what he did. If there were any doubt, this seals him as the greatest quarterback of all time, and arguably the greatest football player of all time. That was Michael Corleone-esque coolness in how he methodically destroyed Atlanta.
We learned after the game that Brady’s mom had been battling cancer this season. So not only did he have the humiliation of the four-game Deflategate suspension, but he also had worries about his mother this season. I know that Bill Belichick bristled at the suggestion that Brady somehow had extra motivation this year, saying this:
“With all due respect I think it’s inappropriate to suggest that in Tom’s career he’s been anything but a great teammate, a great worker and has given us every single ounce of effort, blood, sweat and tears that he has in him,” Belichick said. “To insinuate that this year was somehow different, that this year he competed harder, did anything to a higher degree than he has in the past is insulting to the tremendous effort and leadership and competitiveness that he’s shown for the 17 years that I’ve coached him. “It’s been like that every year, every day, every week, every practice. I don’t care if it’s in May, August or January – Tom Brady gives us his best every time he steps on the field.”
But I do think it was the Revenge Tour. FS1’s Shannon Sharpe made some great points when it came to Brady and what he was doing this year. Sharpe said he tells athletes when it comes to naysayers, “Don’t do it to prove them wrong. Do it to prove you right.” I’ve got to keep that in mind when it comes to my marathon training. Yeah, I’m deriving motivation from Tom Brady. Never thought I’d say those words! Don’t worry — I haven’t gone over to the dark side. But if you like sports, you have to tip your cap to what he did. I know I do.