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You know what really sucks? This is an especially good Super Bowl matchup. The big-picture stakes: Either the Seahawks will become the first back-to-back champs in 10 years or the Patriots will win their fourth Super Bowl and vault their coach and quarterback to another level historically. The small-picture stakes: No Super Bowl matchup has ever been tighter. We started out with Seattle favored by 2.5 points; now, New England is favored by one.
Of course, we spent the last two weeks talking about cheating and footballs and PSI. Physics professors got involved. Multiple media members embarrassed themselves, breathlessly reported bad info or came off like complete hypocrites, although I guess that’s nothing new. There was one 24-hour span last week, right after Belichick seemingly threw Brady under the bus and a rattled Brady rambled in front of reporters for about 15 minutes too long, when it seemed like the Belichick-Brady dynasty was actually imploding. The weekend rolled around, the moment passed, the entire Patriots team shifted into F.U. mode, and that was that.
Now it’s the Friday before the Super Bowl … and we don’t really know much more than we knew 12 days ago.
We know for sure that Brady likes his footballs inflated to the lowest legal PSI (12.5).
We know that Brady’s 12 footballs were “approved” about two hours before the Colts game, that referee Walt Anderson never wrote the PSI levels of those balls down, and that Anderson may have touched each football like he was feeling melons at a farmers market. That one feels good … I like that one … that one’s fine …
We know that a “person of interest” (a Patriots employee) took the first batch of approved footballs for a 90-second bathroom trip that was found on video within a week … you know, by the same league that literally went out of its way for nearly seven months NOT to find a casino elevator video of a Ravens star punching his fiancée in the face.
We know that it takes about 90 seconds to either take a piss and wash your hands or deflate 11 footballs by just a little.
We know they played the Colts game in 50-degree weather, in a driving downpour, and we know that a recent New York Times article highlighted a physics expert proving that a semi-dramatic weather change would absolutely alter PSI from “legal” to “not quite legal.”
We know game officials touched the footballs before and after EVERY first-half play.
We know they changed to 12 new footballs at halftime, and after they did, the Patriots scored 28 points and sent the Colts packing.
And we know that Bill Belichick and Bob Kraft did their own internal investigations, then put their credibility on the line — in separate press conferences — by insisting the Patriots did nothing wrong and essentially daring the NFL to come after them.
So unless an incriminating email/text message/phone conversation is unearthed, or unless a cheating Patriots employee sells his story for big bucks, we’ll never know what actually happened. That’s my prediction: eternal ambiguity. We’ll never know. Just like we’ll never know whether JFK was really killed by a lone gunman, we’ll never know if David Stern suspended Michael Jordan for gambling, and we’ll never know how they screwed up Taken 3. And for a few days, Patriots fans didn’t totally know what to do. After all, nobody sets out to root for America’s accepted villain, right? Who wants to root for the real-life Cobra Kai? Who wants to come to grips with the fact that, for an entire generation of football fans under 30, Belichick’s Patriots are the modern version of Al Davis’s “Just Win Baby” Raiders?
It takes a few days to adjust … and then it’s fine. You get defensive. You turn into a massive homer. You embrace that us-against-the-world mentality. Over these last 12 days, I heard from more buddies and family members and long-lost friends than for any Patriots Super Bowl since the one in 2002 — people either poking fun at me for supporting “cheaters” or playing the “We’re getting railroaded, WE ARE WINNING AND EVERYONE CAN F OFF” card. Two extremes. No in-between.
And I tried not to let that affect this year’s Super Bag. I really did. But I can’t say that I totally succeeded. As always, these are actual emails from actual readers.
Q: As someone that has read your column religiously for over 10 years now but hates the Patriots (I am a Raiders fan), I’m dying to hear you answer the following questions:
1. What is your honest take of the Deflategate situation?
2. If the NFL had Adam Silver as commissioner, how would he respond?
3. How do you think Goodell will respond, given his egregious missteps recently?
BS: Let’s answer these questions in reverse order. First, Goodell has screwed up just about every “investigation” he’s done — profoundly, unbelievably, and historically — which means we’d have a better chance with Ballghazi if Scooby and Shaggy were involved. So, if Goodell handles this in typically Goodellian fashion, he’ll drag his feet after the “incident” (already happened), say nothing interesting during his Super Bowl press conference other than generic nonsense (it just happened — and yes, he got skewered by ESPN’s Arizona crew for 30 solid minutes afterward), go into hiding for the next two to three weeks (bank on that, too), then belatedly make a disastrous decision in late February that will get annihilated by the media and football fans. And that will be followed by someone protesting (probably the Colts, who definitely lost by 38 points because the footballs were 7 percent lighter than usual) and then a second investigation to make sure that Goodell made the right decision, followed by an “independent” arbiter redoing that decision and everyone remaining unhappy afterward. That’s how he handles things. Basically, I’m predicting that Roger Goodell pulls a Goodell.
If Adam Silver were in charge, he would have said before media day, “It will take me two weeks to figure out what happened, but if we find out that the Patriots cheated, then I’m taking their first-round pick and fining them $1 million. And I might also suspend people. I am taking this VERY seriously. Just, everyone, please be careful — I don’t want our players and coaches accused of cheating without any actual evidence. It’s wrong.” Also, there wouldn’t have been multiple leaks per week to NFL reporters whom the league is trying to butter up again after double-crossing them last summer with Rice scandal info (you know who you are). Silver’s administration doesn’t leak stuff.
My honest, I-swear-on-my-new-puppy’s-life-that-I-feel-this-way take: Brady likes throwing footballs that aren’t too tight, so they prepare them as legally-not-too-tight as possible, and maybe they were smart enough to know that inclement weather would make those footballs even a little less tight. This explanation has ALWAYS made the most sense. If any chicanery happened, here’s your best possibility: NFL referees rarely (if ever) measure the balls (instead doing the farmers market–melons routine), so the Patriots inflated them lower than the limit and hoped Anderson wouldn’t notice. If he noticed, then they would have inflated them more, but he never noticed.
It’s just not that interesting, and since we live in a Conspiracy-Loving Era — believe me, nobody loves conspiracies more than I do — it’s more entertaining to imagine Sully the Ball Boy sneaking into a bathroom and deflating footballs because Brady and Belichick gave him a suitcase of cash and a free Lexus.
Regardless, America wouldn’t have cared about this story nearly as much if any other NFL team were involved. Football teams cheat all the time. (Read this admittedly homerrific breakdown.) Football teams constantly search for edges. (Why does just about every head coach and offensive coordinator STILL cover their faces when calling a play? You think they’re trying to hide a pimple from HD cameras?) The post-Spygate Patriots are like a cheating spouse who got caught, repaired his/her marriage, never got caught again … but anytime anything seems suspicious after that, the other spouse just freaks out and assumes the worst. That’s why this story kept going for two solid weeks.
Q: The section of the Super Bowl mailbag where Simmons makes every tired excuse and rationalization for his Pats cheating again will begin in 5…4…3…2…1…
—Derek, Mission, KS
BS: That already happened. You just missed it. You were probably in the bathroom for 90 seconds.
Q: Do you realize your Patriots can trump the “Nobody believes in us!” card and be the first “Hey, nobody believes us!” team?
—Brett S., Gilberts, IL
BS: I couldn’t be prouder. I always wanted to root for an NFL team that behaves like Ben Affleck during the first 75 minutes of Gone Girl. It’s a dream come true.
Q: For unfounded media speculation, Deflategate is on par with the JFK assasination. We already have 50 conspiracy theories and we’re only missing forensic scientists. After a big FU-to-the-world-victory over Seattle, do you think we’ll see Zapruder-like cell phone footage of Belichick and Brady huddling around 12 footballs that we’ll dissect five million times. Back and to the left! Will Oliver Stone’s last movie be “Deflategate?”
—Mike D., North Brunswick, NJ
BS: Mike D. just stumbled into my worst fear after a Patriots win (if they win) — waking up next week on West Coast time (6:30 a.m. range, after the East Coast workday already started), checking my cell phone and just seeing a string of emails with “TMZ” in the subject heading. Actually, that’s my worst fear every morning, anyway.
(Wait, did I just give my friends a guaranteed way to mess with me in the morning whenever they want? Dammit! DELETE! DELETE!)
Q: Face it, the Patriots are cheaters. What makes it so despicable is that it is so unnecessary. I used to work for Costco and one day store security busted a well dressed woman with a Hillsborough address (that’s Northern California Beverly Hills) carrying a large Louis Vuitton purse. She had put a pack of Duracell batteries in it. That’s your Patriots.
—Otis, San Francisco
BS: You’re right. Messing around slightly with footballs to crush a mediocre Colts team that you would have crushed anyway, or illegally taping Eric Mangini’s sideline signals when he’s Eric Freaking Mangini … I mean, that IS like a rich lady shoplifting a pack of Duracells. Totally unnecessary. That’s why I think they didn’t do it twice. Once, yes. Twice, no.
Q: Face it Simmons, there’s a gigantic turd in the Pats dynasty punch bowl that can never be fished out.
—Tarzan, Los Angeles
BS: (Still hoping it’s a Baby Ruth bar.)
Q: How does it feel knowing your Patriots are bigger villains than the Yankees and Lakers?
—Dan, New York
BS: That’s great company! Forty-three combined world championships! Let’s ask Bills fans: Would you rather be compared to the Vikings and Browns … or the Patriots, Yankees and Lakers? YEAH, I THOUGHT SO!!!!! It’s us against the world, baby!
Q: As a degenerate gambler, what are the odds the Pats say “FU” to everyone and take the field next Sunday to “Sympathy For The Devil”?
—Bill S., Ludington, MI
BS: OK, maybe it’s not always that much fun rooting for the real-life nWo.
Q: Hey Simmons — what is Belichick’s favorite Operetta? Give up? Die Fledermaus.
—Paul, Montclair, NJ
BS: Congrats to Paul for insulting my team (I’m assuming) and my intelligence (because I have no idea what Die Fledermaus was/is). Couldn’t you have just gone with a Tom Cruise movie? By the way, that’s how many emails I got making fun of the Patriots — people even used operetta putdowns. What an unforgettable 12 days.
Q: Before the second Pats-Giants Super Bowl, I emailed you asking what Madonna halftime song would be most appropriate for the Patriots narrative, similar to U2’s “Beautiful Day” in 2001 and Tom Petty’s “Free Falling” in 2007. Your answer, “Like A Prayer,” became a great description of the game-winning Hail Mary that Gronkowski almost caught. (Sadly, that prayer was not answered.) So what Katy Perry halftime song will become New England’s musical parallel this time around?
—Dave B., San Francisco
BS: Great question. And sadly, I have a 9-and-a-half-year-old daughter and knew the answer almost immediately. My best-case-scenario Katy song: “Roar.” Check out these lyrics:
I used to bite my tongue and hold my breath
Scared to rock the boat and make a mess
So I sat quietly, agreed politely
I guess that I forgot I had a choice
(THAT WAS THE PATS DURING THE FIRST FIVE DAYS OF DEFLATEGATE.)
I let you push me past the breaking point
I stood for nothing, so I fell for everything
(YEAH, NFL, WE LET YOU PUSH US PAST THE BREAKING POINT!)
You held me down, but I got up (HEY!)
Already brushing off the dust
You hear my voice, you hear that sound
Like thunder gonna shake the ground
(THAT’S THE SECOND BELICHICK PRESS CONFERENCE.)
You held me down, but I got up (HEY!)
Get ready ’cause I’ve had enough
I see it all, I see it now
(TRANSLATION: WE’RE UP 13-3 AT HALFTIME!)
I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter, dancing through the fire
’Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar
Louder, louder than a lion
’Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar
Oh oh oh oh oh oh
You’re gonna hear me roar
(“ROAR” RHYMES WITH FOUR, AS IN … FOUR SUPER BOWLS!)
So what’s the worst-case-scenario Katy song? That would be “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.),” a song about girls who broke the partying rules on the previous Friday night and … yup … decided to break the rules again. Oh, and it includes this part:
Last Friday night
Yeah I think we broke the law
Always say we’re gonna stop
This Friday night
Do it all again
This Friday night
Do it all again
(Let’s just move on. Quickly.)
Q: You mentioned on a podcast that Manning can’t play whole seasons anymore. Why wouldn’t Manning start pulling a Roger Clemens and take the first 2 regular season months off, then be fresh for the second half?
—Randy, South Bend, IN
BS: I think we need to be a little more careful with the phrase “Pulling a Clemens.”
Q: Please preempt the obligatory Green Bay fans’ stomach punch loss emails with this:
“HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! TAKE THAT YOU DICKS. NOW YOU KNOW HOW IT FEELS. Sorry about your loss…but not really! Sincerely, Minnesota Vikings fans.”
—Zimtown, Chanhassen, MN
BS: You got it, Vikings fans. It’s the least I could do.
Q: The worst part about DEFLATEGATE is that Packers fans were deprived of Mike McCarthy’s well earned public roasting. He is like a guy who rents a Lamborgini in Germany, gets on the Autoban, then refuses to go over 75 because he is afraid there is a “secret speed limit” for Americans. YOU ARE ON THE AUTOBAN. DRIVE 175 FOR THE LOVE OF GOD.
BS: Biggest winners from the past 12 days: the Colts (total stink bomb, awful coaching, couldn’t have played worse, lost by 38, quit as the game went on, only everyone forgot about them within eight hours); McCarthy (coached the NFC title game with both hands wrapped around his own neck); all the Packers who screwed that game up (Morgan Burnett’s slide, Dom Capers going into the prevent on third-and-19 and generally rolling over during those last three TD drives, Brandon Bostick, Green Bay’s special teams coach for being blindsided by a fake field goal attempt when they were up 16 with almost 20 minutes to go); Roger Goodell; Roger Goodell a second time; and everyone who cleared Russell Wilson to come back after Clay Matthews destroyed him (more on this in a second). But McCarthy was THE biggest winner. We should have spent that whole week after the title games wondering if he had just presided over one of the three biggest chokes in NFL history (and how culpable he was). Instead, just Packers fans were doing that.
Q: I’m 54 and a Packers fan since birth. Nothing has or ever will top the collapse in Seattle. They scored six points off five turnovers. This was football’s version of The Mountain vs. The Viper in Game of Thrones
—Bob B., La Crosse
Q: If either one of LITERALLY two plays work out differently, the Packers go to the Super Bowl and everyone realizes Rodgers is maybe the best QB of all time. I can’t even muster up going crazy; I just feel empty. I’m drinking whatever gets passed to me, and I’m five minutes away from taking a walk to smoke anything that ends up in a 10 foot radius. Please help me out here. Signed, For the Love of God, I’m Too Devastated to Cry.
Q: Should there be a new “Level of Losing” created for Green Bay’s loss to the Seahawks?
—Matt, Richmond, VA
BS: Before we answer that question, I made a crucial fix to Level 1 of that column (“That Game”) after the Vikings blew the NFC title game in January 2010:
Game 6 (of the 1986 World Series) might have been the most powerful Level 1 example, but it wasn’t the only example. The Bartman Game, Byner Fumble, Pedro/Grady Game, Gary Anderson Game, No Goal Game, Darrin Nelson Game and Jose Mesa Game all were Guillotine/Stomach Punch combos for effed-up franchises. (That’s another good indicator, by the way — being able to identify the loss with a short but recognizable phrase.) Limiting Level 1 to the Red Sox was purely an only-child, everything-revolves-around-me decision. I mean, Steve Bartman had to leave the country. That wasn’t a Level 1 defeat? I made a mistake. Really, the equation should look like this: (Guillotine + Stomach Punch) x (already tortured history) x (significance of the game itself) x (catchy moniker) = Level 1.
So that answers our first question: That Packers loss can’t be Level 1–worthy because there wasn’t a tortured history in play. They’ve won a Super Bowl within the past 20 years and the Super Bowl trophy is called the Lombardi Trophy. And yet, that unbelievable Packers collapse and San Antonio’s unbelievable collapse in Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals were waaaaaaay worse than Stomach Punch games — those were guaranteed victories that flipped only because of a bizarre chain of events. Those collapses required multiple mistakes, multiple great plays by the other team, at least one bad break, at least one exceptionally lucky play, and at least one high degree-of-difficulty play. If anything in that chain changes — even one thing — then the original team still wins. Also, you knew during the unbelievable comeback that something HAUNTINGLY INSANE might be happening. That, too.
So I vote for a new Level 2: “The Box.” See, the last few minutes of Se7en also featured bad coaching decisions; terrific execution by the seemingly losing team (Spacey); a chain of events that could have fallen apart had one thing gone differently; and, ultimately, a haunting defeat. A quick recap …
Pitt and Freeman are delighted that they finally caught serial killer Spacey, only now they’re driving him to that undisclosed location in the middle of nowhere, and they know something is wrong, but they can’t put their finger on it, and they get there, and they’re just waiting there, and it’s more and more nerve-wracking, and maybe they shouldn’t have gone there in the first place, and then some car drives up to deliver a package, and everyone freaks out, only it’s just a package, but then they realize it’s more than a package, and now they can’t shake the terrible feeling that there’s something IN the package, only they’re afraid to open it, only Freeman can’t resist opening it, and then Pitt starts screaming “What’s in the box?” while deep down knowing that there’s something truly disturbing in the box. And everything leads to Pitt screaming …
That’s Level 2. The Box.
Q: The invasion of Normandy was essentially the world’s 4th and goal. Without Eisenhower’s leadership, we don’t take that beach. Green Bay needed Eisenhower in Seattle.
BS: Instead, they had Mike McCarthy. Uh-oh, I feel a run of McCarthy emails coming on. You better hold on to something.
Q: I think Mike McCarthy needs a terrible nickname to let everyone clearly know what an unfathomable sissy he is. What about the exact opposite of Riverboat Ron? Since McCarthy would only gamble if a bingo hall give him free bingo on his birthday, he’s Free Birthday Bingo Mike. I’m still in denial that we lost. I cannot even think about it. But I do know there is a special place in hell for my one Bears fan friend who sent me taunting text messages afterwards. If she got cancer of the everything right now, I’d feel it was fair.
Q: After 3 days, I finally named that game: SCARED SHITLESS IN SEATTLE! Mike McCarthy is like a 90 year old grandma in the fast lane of the highway going 20 MPH under the speed limit. Hands clenched tight in the 10 and 2 position while people are passing him in the right lane flipping him off and honking their horns. The Packers had four 4th and 1’s. You know how many Coach Scared Shitless went for? Zero. Not a DAMN 1. Step on the gas Grandma!
—Kevin, Appleton, WI
BS: Yep, we had a two-way tie in this month’s “Come Up With the Meanest Nickname Possible For Mike McCarthy Contest.” I say you’re both winners — just call the game “Scared Shitless in Seattle” and nickname your coach Free Birthday Bingo Mike. Everyone wins. Buy each other these Brandon Bostick T-shirts and go celebrate.1
Q: Can we stop pretending that Mike McCarthy isn’t just Andy Reid with a Super Bowl win?
—Jamie, Grand Rapids, MI
BS: I stopped pretending a long time ago. Here’s Andy telling a story for Mike that definitely ends with the punch line, “Come on, like I WASN’T going to settle for a field goal there???”
Q: Lions lose in gut wrenching fashion to Cowboys.
Cowboys lose in gut wrenching fashion to Packers.
Packers lose in gut wrenching fashion to Seahawks.
Seahawks lose in gut wrenching fashion to Pats.
Q: Has Detroit’s franchise stink been spiritually transferred to the survivor ala Azazel from the movie Fallen? Beware Seattle.
—Ryan, San Diego, CA
BS: Somebody just won $200 on 45-to-1 odds that Fallen would be the only Denzel movie referenced in the 2015 Super Bag. It’s like betting on the safety.
Q: Diehard Pats fan living in NYC. The northeast is getting slammed with snow right now and I’ve had a little too much much Fireball. But I just watched Bobby Kraft’s surprise press conference for like the 20th time and I am so pumped for this week! He basically just said “prove it”, flopped his balls on Roger Goodell’s desk, and dropped the mic. It was amazing. Besides the 2008 Super Bowl, this has to be the biggest game in Patriots history!?! I’ve hit the boiling point, I don’t care anymore, the Patriots are the heel of this generation. Embrace it, everyone else can go screw themselves! Go Pats!!!!!!!!!
—Sean, Astoria, NY
BS: That easily could have been signed, “Every Patriots Fan, Everywhere.”
Q: Tonight the Nightly News OPENED with five minutes on the Patriot deflategate news conferences. The news on the Saudi king death and the Yemen government falling came after it. It’s official, hating the Patriots is more important then governments and kings. Go Pats!!!
—Joe C, Waltham, MA
Q: It’s 230am and I am still jacked up from Belicheck’s presser. He debunked spygate and deflategate in one press conference and subsequently fired up New England. That “80,000 people” comment on the misbranding of spygate had seven years of spite and venom attached to it. All time great Belicheck moment.. You can’t really think this is the end for Tom and Bill, it can’t be. We’re in FU Mode!
BS: I just wish a controversial movie had come out over Christmas that had two characters repeatedly saying, “Hate us cuz they ain’t us,” that I could embed. Wait, what?
Q: What absurd but incredibly clever new trick Belichick is going to pull off on Sunday? Everyone knows all about his “Ineligible Vereen” formations and Edelman pass plays now. What do you think he will try?
—Jordan, New York
BS: First of all, thanks for leaving out “deflating footballs.” I really appreciate it. Second, I’m predicting a goofy four–tight end alignment with Gronk, Tim Wright, Michael Hoomamamoomo (my Dad’s pronunciation for New England’s third-string tight end) and tackle-eligible Nate Solder on a third-and-1 play with no right tackle and two of those four guys ineligible and all hell breaking loose followed by Collinsworth nearly having an on-air orgasm when the play goes for 18 yards.
Q: I’ve been a loyal reader since the Fall of ’98 when I was a freshman in high school. I thought I’d never see the day when you lost your fastball. Last mailbag, you left Jennifer Love Hewitt off the Mount Rushmore of Women Other Women Irrationally Hate. Bad form Simmons. That missed opportunity was my “Larry Bird wearing a 25-pound back brace” moment. Appreciative for all the memories, but sad at the realization that it all might be coming to an end… all in the same moment.
BS: Come on! I mistakenly assumed that J-Love wasn’t relevant enough anymore. It’s been 10 years since Jack from Cleveland encouraged me to tell my wife that I thought Jennifer Love Hewitt was attractive and that I enjoyed her acting, and when I did, “she reacted like George Brett in the Pine Tar Game.” It’s been three years since Ken in Brighton asked me who the anti-Hewitt was — a.k.a. the female celebrity whom women will irrationally defend if you disparage her in any way. My answer? Khloe Kardashian! That’s right, once upon a time, there was a likable Kardashian! Oh, and J-Love last headlined a show on the Lifetime Channel. Her decade-long run is over — there’s just no way she inspires the same cattiness anymore.
Just to be sure, lemme show this photo of J-Love to the Sports Gal and tell her that J-Love looks “super-hot for a pregnant lady.” (Hold on.) Yup, didn’t faze her. Slight frown followed by, “What’s she doing now?”
By the way, I went to the Producers Guild Awards last weekend and realized that Jennifer Lawrence is the new anti-Hewitt (and probably has been for a while). She gave a speech introducing Lionsgate CEO John Feltheimer, winner of the Milestone Award, and was so funny/adorable/charming/endearing that, by the end of it, everyone in the room would have made out with her except for Sharon Stone (who looked like she was plotting ways to steal J-Law’s hemoglobin and inject it right into her veins). Hey, speaking of things that can cause you to get divorced …
Q: Thanks to three more “early” London games next season, you’ll be able to watch four full NFL games in one day starting at 6:30 am, 10 am, 1:30 pm and 5 pm your time. My question: have divorce lawyers started recruiting you, like how agents recruit big time college athletes about to enter the draft?
—Mark F., Sterling Heights
BS: Absolutely. They’ve been reaching out. And don’t forget — the NFL might expand to 14 playoff teams, which means six playoff games in 36 hours in Round 1. There’s a good chance that Goodell is trying to cause a national divorce epidemic to throw everyone off his decomposing commissioner’s scent. You can’t blame him.
Q: How scared are you that Russell Wilson seemingly claimed Eli’s Lucky Up-The-Ass Horseshoe and became the luckiest QB alive? I mean, you can totally see him somehow escaping a sure sack and throwing a Hail Mary that bounces off three defenders before getting wedged into a receiver’s facemask for the Super Bowl winning score, right?
—Evan, Tucson, AZ
BS: This might give Grantland’s Bill Barnwell and Ben Lindbergh dueling heart attacks, and it might even cause both of Jonah Keri’s temples to explode, but I am typing it anyway: I believe that luck, as weird as this sounds, is a skill. Whenever I play golf with my buddy Ness, anytime he hooks or slices a drive, it bounces off a tree and lands in a favorable spot. We joke about it every time — I always say that God feels bad because Ness has three young daughters who will torture him through their teens and then eventually make him pay for three weddings, so He ordered all of Ness’s lousy drives to ricochet toward the fairway. We don’t even make the joke anymore when it happens; we just say, “Three daughters!” But that’s a skill. It’s just part of his golf game. He has to get credit for it.
Same thing for Wilson and Eli. They have exhibited the skill, repeatedly, to get super-lucky in big games. It’s no different from Ness’s drives bouncing toward the fairway or my father-in-law winning every time on cheap slot machines. (Also true.) I believe in regression to the mean, and I believe in luck evening out over time, and I believe in repeating myself to make sentences longer. Wilson scares me because of his legs, because he gets a little better when it matters, and because he’s lucky. I don’t like rooting against lucky people.
Q: You are a coward if your end of the column footnote doesn’t change to “I finished 58-0 from week 4 to week 7. Also, neither Tom Brady nor Bill Belichick had anything to do with deflating 11 out of 12 footballs in the AFC Championship Game.”
BS: You’ll have to wait until the end.
Q: I’m a member of the military currently overseas working in my job as a Physician Assistant. Without A DOUBT, Russell Wilson suffered a concussion on the block from Clay Mathews. It’s not even a question in my mind as to whether a concussion occurred, but more of a question of how bad was it. You don’t get hit in the face while looking the other direction, a knee-buckling blow, by a norse god like Mathews and have any other result. That’s why you saw such a shaky Wilson for most the game. Like a fighter dazed by a haymaker, it took him a while to shake off the effects — we barely saw him do anything but hand off, or any read-option with Wilson keeping it till the very end. This also explains his fourth quarter 90+ point burst in QBR once he finally recovered. While I’m not specifically an expert in the field of traumatic brain injury, it’s kind of my job to know a thing or two.
—Jason, “Undisclosed Location”
BS: Check out this Vine and tell me Jason is wrong.
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And check out Seattle’s drives from that point on. First of all, on Wilson’s next drive after that hit, Seattle ran the ball six straight times before the drive eventually ended in Wilson’s awful end zone pick. We didn’t see throwing/scrambling Wilson again for another two quarters — almost two hours after that Matthews hit — and then he started looking a little bit like Wilson again from the 10-minutes-left mark on. Put it this way: There’s just as much circumstantial evidence that the Seahawks hid Wilson’s concussion (or Wilson hid it from them) as there is that Brady and/or Belichick knew those balls were deflated. SO THERE!
Q: Answer honestly. You and Bill Belichick are going to sit down and play a game of monopoly. How comfortable are you with Belichick being the banker?
—Keith, Massapequa Park, NY
BS: I swear on my new puppy’s life a second time that this happened — as I was trying to “honestly” answer this question, the space bar jammed on my laptop and I had to pry it back up with a steak knife. I don’t know what this means.2
Q: Last year, we dubbed the Super Bowl the ‘Doobie Brothers Bowl’ honoring two teams from two states that legalized weed. We need to come up with a nickname for this year’s game that pits a Front Running-Smack Talking-Formerly Sad Sack Fan Base Turned Loud Mouths-with a Two Faced Quarterback Who Sweettalks the Media but Admits to Bullying VERSUS a Ball Deflating, Practice Filming, Won Everything in the Mid 2000s Fan Base and Hasn’t Shut Up Since, Cat Dressed Tight End (not a euphemism) with the Ugg Wearing Douchebag Quarterback. Congratulations Roger Goodell. Everyone hates this game. So what do we call it. Also, kill me ….
—Scott, Chicago, IL
Q: You and Sal want to know which hated Super Bowl 49 team is the one that the rest of America is cheering for? The answer is obvious: Bane.
BS: And that’s another fun plot from Sunday’s game that hasn’t gotten enough attention — has there ever been a Super Bowl matchup with more unpopular teams? Just call it the Haterade Bowl. Sunday’s winning coach should have his players just “pour” an empty Gatorade bucket on him and say it was Haterade.
Q: I know that its at the expense of your Patriots, but isn’t there a little part of you that’s thrilled that Roger Goodell was given one last investigation to botch this season?
BS: Absolutely. Even better, he’s desperately hoping — yet again — that he can get through another press conference/how-is-this-guy-in-charge?/debacle/stammerfest without anyone asking questions like:
“Are you 100 percent sure that your officials measure the PSI of footballs before every game, or do they just touch them like they’re watermelons at a farmers market and say, ‘That one seems fine’?”
“Why in 2015 are teams allowed to keep their own ‘inspected’ footballs for two hours right before a game starts?”
“Why do we allow teams to doctor their own footballs however they want? Do you realize no other professional sport would ever in a million years do this?”
“Why did everyone blame the Patriots for those barely deflated footballs and nobody blamed your officials who touch the football after every play?”
“Can you blink twice, ad-lib a sentence about the Oscars, then blink twice again just to prove to us that you’re not being remote-controlled?”
Q: Is there a chance that you handed Roger Goodell the championship belt for Worst Sports Commissioner too soon? Sure, he’s got domestic abuse, dangerous Thursday night games, new rules that made defense laughable, a hypocritical penalty system, PEDs, concussions, Spygate, Bountygate, Deflategate … OH MY GOD, THAT’S HIS MUSIC! THAT’S VINCE MCMAHON’S MUSIC!!!!!!!!! I just watched an entire stadium of fans from one of America’s founding cities (Philly) cheer for a Russian heel and boo The Rock (one of the most likable and recognizable stars ANYWHERE)! As that happened, the fans at home made ‘CanceltheWWENetwork’ the #1 Twitter trend worldwide and it crashed the Network! It’s as if Vince wanted to remind people how bad he has been! Steriods, domestic abuse, and ignoring safety concerns? Vince has all that and a Gobbledy Gooker! Your move, Roger!
—James Rodgers, New York City
BS: I tweeted this on Sunday night: “the Philly fans flipped over the Roman Reigns bandwagon and set it on fire.” But here’s the crucial difference: McMahon HAD a remarkable run. This might be a slump and only a slump. Goodell has never, at any point, had any type of a run. He’s your Vegas buddy who keeps leaving the blackjack table to take out more money from the ATM — only for eight solid years. Roger’s “worst commish” title is more than safe.3
Quick Rumble story: The Simmons family threw 30 numbers in a hat, then took turns picking them for our first-ever Royal Rumble pool.4 Everyone threw in 20 bucks, making it my son’s first gambling experience. As we neared the end, my daughter had Roman Reigns and my son had everyone else. My wife was finished, and I didn’t have anyone left, but no. 28 was my last number. So they count down to no. 28 … and it ended up being Cesaro. My son started laughing like a maniac and screamed, “You’re done! Thanks for the 20 bucks!” I’ve never been prouder. Gambling! I think he’s hooked. He’s only 7 — what could go wrong?
Q: Read this. Essentially, since 2010, the Patriots have fumbled the ball 1/187 plays; the next best is 1/140, and the other 31 teams range from 1/76 to 1/140.
BS: And then read this FiveThirtyEight piece. That Sharp Football Analysis article was debunked, redebunked and unbunked on every corner of the Internet. But let’s keep forwarding it around. I’m starting to get ornery.
Q: Here’s the problem with Spygate: People outside of New England in the years since don’t actually remember what happened. No amount of My Cousin Vinny references will clear this up, but someone needs to write a real article about Spygate this week. FU, idiots.
—Jay Scott, Northampton, MA
BS: Forget the article; you can do it in one paragraph. What actually happened: In 2006, the league sent out a memo that teams were no longer allowed to tape opposing coaches’ signals from the stands; the Patriots ignored the memo when they played the Jets in 2007; they got caught with someone taping from the stands; as a penalty, they lost a 2008 first-round pick and paid $750,000 in fines; and they handed over six other tapes to Goodell, who destroyed them for reasons that remain unclear and handled the investigation in a typically confusing/bumbling/inexplicable way that became his trademark. That was Spygate. We thought about doing a 30 for 30 about it once; there wasn’t even enough for a 30 for 30 Short. “Spygate” = fantastic name, boring scandal. Hence, the embellishments as time has passed.
Q: Wouldn’t it be great if President Obama treated a White House press conference like Belichick? A reporter could ask, “Is there a reason that the United States didn’t send a high level official to the march in Paris attended by other heads of state like Netanyahu, Abbas, and Merkel?” and Obama could just respond, “We’re on to immigration.”
—Eric, Los Angeles, CA
BS: You just described Goodell’s latest lost opportunity to win America back — if he’d come out for today’s Super Bowl press conference and just done a dead-on Belichick impression for the entire hour. The Internet would have eaten it up. The NFL should reprogram his hard drive and have him do that one of these times. By the way, I agree with a reader named Rob from Australia — if the Patriots win on Sunday, Belichick has to say “On to Disney World.” He just has to.
Q: How will you feel if Peyton Manning and Kobe Bryant both retire? Who is there left for you to hate?
—Tyler, Fort Worth
BS: To be fair, I don’t HATE anyone. It’s sports. But when I wrote my sports-hate column in 2009, my Big Three was Kobe, Manning and A-Rod. Those were three of the biggest sports-hate icons of the past 20 years, along with Bonds, Favre, Clemens, Tyson and post-dog-fight Mike Vick. Now they’re gone. All of them. I actually envy all the non-Boston fans who sports-hate Belichick and Brady so much — those are the last two sports hate icons. The rest of us are stuck with the likes of Eli Manning, the Sedin Sisters and Corey Perry.
Quick tangent: My 2015 sports-hate list is made up of 90 percent hockey players. That’s been one of my favorite things about owning L.A. Kings season tickets — hockey players are so much more detestable in person than on TV. You can really feel the venom in the stands. I mean, I don’t even sports-hate Corey Perry; I actually HATE Corey Perry. Here’s a typical Perry play:
Did you see that? Classic Perry — he does just enough to be an unredeemable dick, but not quite enough to be kicked out or thrown in jail. And he always seems stunned that someone got hurt even as they’re trying to pull his severed stick blade out of their kidneys. I can’t get involved in enough “Per-ry sucks!” chants at Kings games; I’ve even made my daughter start a couple of them. She hates Perry, too. Everyone hates Perry. You suck, Corey Perry. You really do. You suck. You suck, you suck and you suck. Hockey is the best. Remind me to write a “My 25 Least Favorite NHL Players” column soon.
Q: If Rita Benson LeBlanc can convince a court that her grandfather is mentally unfit to own and manage the Saints, how long before Washington football fans set up a kickstarter to hire her lawyers?
—Jeremy, Cambridge, MA
BS: Congrats to Deadskins fans; you narrowly edged Knicks fans and Lakers fans in the mailbag race to send me the most variations of the “How do we hire Rita’s lawyers if she wins?” jokes. Yet another huge honor for Daniel Snyder, the Corey Perry of NFL owners. Look out, Washington fans, he’s coming again!
Q: Do you remember that time when the Patriots cheated the salary cap, gaining an unfair advantage over the rest of the entire league by being able to sign good, key, players so that they can win Super Bowls? And then outside of a few written news articles, no one really cared? … Oh shoot, wait, my bad. I’m sorry, that was the suddenly forgetful Jerry Rice’s 1990’s 49ers and John Elway’s back-to-back SB winning Denver Broncos.
—Ryan Doyle, Chicago
Q: Pause this onside kick video at 18 seconds. Hauschka is clearly offside. His left, non-kicking foot is planted ahead of the line of scrimmage at the 35.5 yard-line before his kicking foot has made contact with the football. This clearly gives Hauschka an advantage, as he now has the ball straddled and just has to push it instead of kicking it. How didn’t any of the refs see this? Three refs are literally staring at it!
BS: CHEATERS! CHEATERS!!!!!!!!
Q: I just listened to the BS Report with your dad and J-Bug while wrapping things up at the office. It fully completed my transformation into F-you mode. F*ck Seattle, f*ck John Harbaugh, f*ck the Colts as a Team, organization and as a motherfucking crew, and if you want to be down with them then f*ck you too.
—Representing all Pats Fans, Nate in Upstate NY
BS: Where can I preorder the 2015 Super Bowl video, Hit ’Em Up: The 2014 New England Patriots? Do they have to win the game first? Can I preorder it anyway? Hold on, I drank too much water today — I have to go deflate 12 footballs in my bathroom. The readers are taking over. I’ll be right back.
Q: I was browsing Twitter and saw that Marcedes Lewis had a kid with an adult film star. What will be more embarrassing for this kid down the road — that his mother did porn for a living, or that his dad played for the Jacksonville Jaguars?
—JJY III, The Lake, PA
Q: Do you think Seattle’s equipment manager could deflate Kam Chancellor by a few PSI before next Sunday?
—Nick O., New York
Q: Is there enough Deer Antler Spray in circulation currently to get Richard Sherman healthy for the Super Bowl, or did Ray Lewis consume all of it to make it thru the 2013 playoffs?
Q: Can someone tell Gronk to throw Richard Sherman out of the f****** club?
Q: As a punishment for Deflate-gate, I think Boston should have to forfeit its Olympic bid. Seriously, can we forfeit our Olympic bid?
—CJ, Needham, MA
Q: I love the irony of having Richard Sherman whine about how cozy Robert Kraft and Goodell are when half his teammates have been suspended for “Adderall” over the last three seasons. I say this as a diehard Bills fan who fully believes Belichick is the Antichrist.
Q: Which would draw better TV ratings in 2015: the Pro Bowl, or Roger Goodell in a dunk tank where you get 3 throws for 10 bucks?
BS: I’m back. Thanks to the readers for holding the fort. And for the record, a three-hour telecast of Goodell getting creamed in a dunk tank would be the 109th-greatest dunk-tank moment of all time, behind the 108 different times this happened with a ’70s or ’80s babe on Battle of the Network Stars when they were looking for any excuse to get them wet in a bathing suit. Here, watch. These three minutes single-handedly put me into puberty.
Q: Regardless of what is said during Super Bowl Week, Seattle will always love you. When Sonicsgate happened, you were the only national columnist that stood up and said, “This is a travesty.” You called Stern out on this TO HIS FACE and gave us a spot on your website to vent our pain (you even ran my email.) You were in on Russell Wilson before anybody and knew from Day One he was President Jesus. So despite whatever happens, you’ll always have a special place in the hearts of Seattle fans. Thanks for everything, and f--- the Patriots.
BS: Thanks, Brian. I love Seattle as well. It’s my favorite non-Boston city. I would live there if it didn’t rain so much and if the Sonics were still there. Thanks for the email, and f--- the Seahawks.
Q: There are NFL-print Bounty Paper Towels. I repeat, NFL-print paper towels for “big messes”. I’ll let you take it from here.
BS: The official sponsor of the National Football League … literally and figuratively!
Q: The Outfield’s “Your Love.” So fitting — Patriots fans singing in unison to a song about… CHEATING!
—Joe G., Long Island, NY
BS: That’s not a song about cheating! Hold on, I’m looking this up.
Josie’s on a vacation far away
Come around and talk it over
So many things that I want to say
You know I like my girls a little bit older
I just wanna use your love tonight
I don’t wanna lose your love tonight
(Oh no! Wait, maybe this is a misunderstanding.)
As you leave me, please, would you close the door?
And don’t forget what I told you
Just ’cause you’re right, that don’t mean I’m wrong
Another shoulder to cry upon
I just wanna use your love tonight, yeah
I don’t wanna lose your love tonight
(Why? WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY? Only one thing can salvage this karmically — if Katy Perry covers “Your Love” during the halftime show. Name your price, Katy. We’ll start a Kickstarter fund right now.)
Q: What would be the most appropriate thing to happen in the Super Bowl to end the Year of Goodell? Bad call? Halftime controversy? Power outage? Deliberate injury leading to one team winning?
—Rob, Abbotsford, BC
BS: Another great question. We’ve already had seasons tainted by bounties, domestic violence, blackouts, impostor refs, PEDs … I mean, what’s left? Just gambling and concussions, right? So what about a blown-out version of Wilson’s may-or-may-not-have-had-a-concussion subplot from two weeks ago? Here’s how it would go:
Late in the fourth quarter of a classic nail-biter, either Wilson or Brady gets crushed on a hit and is clearly concussed, somehow passes the sideline concussion test, comes back to win the game in dramatic fashion, wins the Super Bowl MVP, then tells the Disney cameras, “I’m going to Dez Bryant’s house!” They rush him to the hospital for “precautionary measures.” Two days later, we find out that, yes, he suffered a severe concussion. That leads to the usual Goodell crisis formula — a rash suspension, a protest, an independent investigator, and then the rash suspension getting eventually overturned in a report released seven minutes before the Final Four starts. Send this man another $44 million.
Q: Why do I see Deflate Gate playing out like the Congressional Hearing in The Godfather II? The Senators, in this instance Goodell and the NFL, think they have Micheal Corleone, Bill Belichick, dead to rights. Almost smug in watching them twist in the wind. But then whoops, they mess up the investigation and it falls apart. It will end with Robert Kraft/Robert Duvall yelling for an apology as Peter King, Chris Mortensen, Mike Florio and assorted NFL suits quickly grab their papers and hurry out of the room.
—Alex Esposito, Ottawa
BS: With apologies to everyone who compared Belichick to Worm from Rounders (“I’m always gonna look for that edge”) or Belichick to Darth Vader (with Brady as Luke), I’m partial to all references from The Godfather: Part II here if only because Belichick is the Michael Corleone of NFL coaches, Pete Carroll was once Fredo (in New England), and Belichick’s second press conference definitely set up a post-exoneration press conference with his consigliere, Robert Duvall (played by Jonathan Kraft), screaming, “THIS COMMISSIONER OWES MY COACH AN APOLOGY!”
And yet, it’s not the BEST possible movie clip. Here, look.
Q: How great would it have been if Belichick went full villain on us for the Deflategate press just recited the Bad Guy speech from Scarface? “Say good night to the bad guy! Come on. The last time you gonna see a bad guy like this again, let me tell you. Come on. Make way for the bad guy. There’s a bad guy comin’ through! Better get outta his way!” It would have been the greatest press conference ever! Right?
BS: Come on, like I wasn’t going to hire an animator to see what a Belichick/Montana speech might look like? Please, if you like the NFL, you like Scarface, and you don’t mind NSFW language, press “play” on this embedded link.
Q: What’s the over/under on Seahawk sack and/or touchdown celebrations that involve inflating/deflating a football?
—Ken N., New York
BS: It’s the same as the over/under for Seahawks who will fail a PED test after the game: 0.5. That reminds me, here are my favorite Super Bowl props:
Prop: Tom Brady over 25 or more completions (+120)
Prop: Tim Wright over 0.5 receiving yards (+115)
Prop: Michael Hoomanawanui over 6.5 receiving yards (+130)
Reason: Lump these three together. Why? The Seahawks come out with their chests puffed in their 4-3, steer clear of any gimmicks, dare you to throw deep and dare you to beat them with 15-play drives. Well, Brady loves long drives. He loves picking teams apart. Watch for various multiple-TE packages that spread Gronk wide, watch for those not-illegal-receiver formations that fooled Baltimore, and watch Seattle’s secretly-not-that-good pass rush giving Brady too much time. This feels like a “Brady throws 40 times to nine different receivers” game to me.5 You heard me right — I am excited that my 37-year-old QB might throw 40-plus times against an excellent defense in the biggest game of the season. No, I’m not drunk.
Prop: Luke Willson over 35.5 receiving yards (-130)
Prop: Marshawn Lynch over 21.5 receiving yards (-110)
Reason: Both numbers are 15 to 20 yards too low. Also, you know how the Patriots have gotten killed by the wheel route all season? Well, go to the 43-second mark of this clip from the Packers comeback. The Seahawks LOVE running that play with Lynch. I’m starting to get nervous.
Prop: Gronk will have over 22.5 more receiving yards than Doug Baldwin (-115)
Prop: Al Michaels will call a Gronk TD “A Gronking to Remember” (+750)
Reason: Only because Belichick booked Baldwin a one-bedroom suite on Revis Island and put a “DO NOT DISTURB” sign on his door. I may or may not have made up the second prop.
Prop: Brady for Super Bowl MVP (+180)
Prop: Lynch will grab his crotch after a TD (+250)
Reason: Same for both. The Pats aren’t beating Seattle unless Brady has a great game, and Lynch isn’t scoring a TD without grabbing his crotch. So if you believe that either event is happening (Pats victory or Lynch TD), why not grab the extra odds? And wouldn’t you want to yell the words, “YES! CROTCH GRAB! I WIN!”? By the way, I did NOT make up the second prop.
Q: A friend just sent me this old Marino commercial and the first thing I thought was how you could send in your Super Bowl pick, think twice about it, then yell “F--- it! Send it in!”
—Chris P., Toronto
BS: I’m right there with you. Hold on, one more email.
Q: Definitely just made the stupidest/best prob bet for the Big Game … on Katy Perry’s cleavage. The “yes” to “Will she show cleavage?” Is -800. I bet the “No” at +450. This is a win-win for me, because if she doesn’t show her majestic mammaries, America cries while I laugh my way to the bank. If she does, everyone wins, and I am out way less than my average weekend night!
—Scott B., Fort Lauderdale
BS: Yep, these are my readers. Let’s get to my big Super Bowl pick …
Patriots (-1) over Seahawks
Are we SURE Seattle’s defense is that good? The Seahawks aren’t playing at home. Their fantastic secondary suddenly has Earl Thomas playing with a dislocated shoulder and Richard Sherman playing with a mystery elbow injury. They slowly rebuilt their badass defensive reputation after back-to-back losses to Tony Romo (Week 6) and Austin Davis (Week 7) by beating Cam Newton, Derek Carr and Eli Manning, losing to Alex Smith, then beating Drew Stanton, Colin Kaepernick (twice), Mark Sanchez, Ryan Lindley, Shaun Hill, Newton again, then a one-legged Aaron Rodgers. Their pass rush is pretty good, but not great; it’s certainly not on the level of the 2007/2011 Giants. Even when they were at home, when Manning and Rodgers needed to drive on them for game-tying drives this season, they did it pretty easily.
I don’t know if this year’s Patriots could beat last year’s Seahawks … but they can beat this year’s Seahawks. They won’t make dumb mistakes like Carolina did. They won’t wuss out on fourth-and-1 and fourth-and-goal like Green Bay did. They won’t let Wilson’s legs beat them. They’ll win the special teams battle against Seattle’s secretly flimsy special teams. They won’t allow Seattle’s pass rush to knock Brady around. They should be able to rip off long drives, protect the ball and keep Wilson and Lynch off the field … IF Brady plays well.
Which brings me to my three biggest concerns: New England’s own shaky pass rush (perfect for Wilson to buy some time and do Wilson things), Lynch activating Beast Mode (just a tough matchup for the Pats in every respect), and Brady not totally being Brady (very possible). See, there’s a not-quite-good-enough Brady performance always lurking; we saw it during the second Giants Super Bowl, and we saw it during that terrific Packers-Pats game in November. It’s what happens when your QB hits his late thirties — when you’re asking him to throw 35-40 times a game to win, you know you’re getting a couple of ground balls, one wobbler, one awful pick and one wide-open deep pass that’s 2 yards too long. That’s what Seattle is banking on. Pressure over time. They don’t care if he’s Tom Brady. They care that he’s 37 years old. And that he doesn’t throw no-hitters, or even four-hitters, anymore.
And that’s all fine. But here are the stakes for Sunday: If the Patriots win and Brady plays well, he’s the greatest QB of all time AND he shoves the last two weeks in everyone’s face. Normally, Super Bowls don’t hinge on one player or one question because too many people affect a typical football game. But this game actually does hinge on the question, “How great is Tom Brady at age 37?”
My answer: not totally great, but great enough. I could totally see him standing on that platform on Sunday, four months after that disaster in Kansas City, fighting off tears and holding that Super Bowl MVP trophy. I could see Goodell quickly handing that Lombardi to Kraft and fading into the background before the boos get any worse. I could see Belichick answering Bob Costas’s first question by saying, “We’re on to next season” and giving that little shit-eating Belichick smirk. And I could see everything getting undermined the following day by some “new” revelation to Deflategate that gets debunked three days later. That’s my favorite football team, the New England Patriots, the perfect champion for a truly effed-up season.
The Pick: Patriots 27, Seahawks 19
Last Week: 1-1
Regular Season: 159-93-46