The Best Revenge
Disclaimer for Dummies: The thesis to come is not "The Patriots will go undefeated in 2009." It's not even that they could. In fact, the upcoming season of New England wins and losses - and rest assured, there will be at least one of each - is not salient to what follows. So those fretting about us somehow "jinxing" something can take a seat beside the folks from ganggreen4ever.org (have you heard they've organized now?!), who will no doubt insist that a theoretical mention of a so-called perfect season is tantamount to suggesting its probability or possibility. It is not. (Now take off your Browning Nagle jersey, come upstairs and set the table. Mother's made a roast.)
The New England sports landscape is covered in tombstone temples to crushing heartbreak: Bucky F-ing Dent, a phantom roughing the passer, Magic's baby-hook, too many men on the ice, "a little roller up along first..." and, of course, that time the Lobsters got jobbed by the line-judge - Lady, you ruined Team Tennis for a generation!! In recent times, of course, things are looking up. But let's take a trip down memory lane to one of the ghosts of disappointments past...
After too many years of being in the same division, 'though not the same league (so to speak) as the Yankees, the 2003 Sox go toe-to-toe with Captain Intangibles, his historic lack of range (as "the old Perfesser" would say, You could look it up) and the rest of the Bronx Bombers. With a three-run lead heading into the bottom of the eighth, and Game Seven well in hand, the Red Sox
on the mound. Giving up a hit. And a hit. And a hit. (Um...Grady?) To quote the Boston band 'Til Tuesday, you know the rest - Boone steps up, Wake looks in, the ball sails out, and Mrs. Out-Takes, a relative newcomer to Red Sox Nation, speaks for the rest of us: "It's just so unfair." A brutal loss, absolutely brutal. Un-get-over-able. Or so we thought.
CUT TO: 2004. Boston trails 3-0 in the ALCS, Big Papi, the Stolen Base, Big Papi, the bloody sock and D-Lowe on two days' rest. A week or so later, Foulke underhands to Doug Mientk-alphabet and "Red Sox fans have longed to hear it..." followed by duck-boats, t-shirts, commemorative S.I. covers, the whole nine. All so much sweeter not just because of the historic comeback, not just because of the gut-punch payback, but because of what happened - or, to be precise, what didn't - the year before. We look back, half a *decade * later - amazing, a half decade - and it's like the stars aligned. And as wrenching as 2003 was, so many still say, "Looking back, I wouldn't change it for the world."
How does this apply to football? Well...another New England sports disappointment - this one similarly monumental and soul-crushing - came not too long ago, in The Game that Shall Not Be Named. Potential perfect season, witnessing history, adding to the Dynasty and - the cherry on top - storming up the stoop, kicking in the door and telling Mercury Morris & Friends that it's time for the '72 Dolphins and their quaint little 17 wins to find a new neighborhood. We all know what happened - or, to be precise, what didn't. FLASH-FORWARD TO...
...2009. Brady back, fired up and ready to go. Moss and Welker ingrained in the system. Mayo looking like the real deal. The DL healthy and hungry (in multiple senses of the word). Brady back. Vet signings bolster the secondary. Brady back. Fred Taylor and Joey Galloway added to an already explosive offense. A good, solid draft. (And did we mention Brady being back?)
Now before anyone gets carried away, let's review the disclaimer: Out-Takes honestly believes that an NFL team going undefeated anytime soon is as likely as Keanu acing Shakespeare. It's just too hard, no matter how easy 2007 sometimes made it seem - Buffalo on the road comes to mind, right after Washington at home - and there's too much luck involved. REX RYAN and his unfortunately timed sideline T.O. A win against PHILLY by the skin of their teeth, and another squeaker in the regular season finale. (Who'd they play that night? Oh wait...never mind.) Bottom line: the league is too competitive, parity too prevalent and the chances too great that even elite teams will throw up a stinker one or three times a season. It ain't gonna happen.
So, again, no one's calling an undefeated season. We're just saying, if you're looking for stars to align or for some way to surpass the "What Might've Been" of '07, it's worth noting that, however brutally difficult it would be, however truly impossible...the Patriots organization is about to celebrate its 50th Anniversary. And the Super Bowl's in Miami this year.
A Breath of Fresh Air Out of...um...Cleveland?
Pencil in BRAYLON EDWARDS of the Browns (for now) as one of the few wideouts who isn't wildly oversensitive about, well...pretty much anything. Recently it came to light that the talented, if occasionally stone-handed pass-"catcher," has no hard feelings toward Cleveland's new regime despite this off-season's constant, swirling trade rumors. Frankly, Edwards is one of the few who'd be justified in expressing a little WTF-level frustration. The guy's a top-flight playmaker; he just watched his buddy - the promising, if vexing, TE KELLEN WINSLOW - get shipped out to Tampa by inexplicable second-chance-getter ERIC MANGINI, and his division features a Ravens team fueled by a ferocious D and a savvy sophomore QB in JOE FLACCO, not to mention your Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers.
Nevertheless, according to CALVIN WATKINS of AOL Sports FanHouse, Edwards had this to say about his name being scuttlebutted around the league the last few months: "Trades happen." Wow. An NFL receiver not taking umbrage and/or shots at even the slightest slight, misperceived or otherwise? We love it. (Speaking of taking shots, Watkins does a terrific job, but "Sports FanHouse?" Really? Did we miss the part where AOL got toppled by a BOYS LIFE MAGAZINE coup d'état? Does their site link to downloadable stickers and PDF player cut-outs we get to color in with magic markers?) But back to Braylon...
"I never took it personal. [Cleveland's front office] thought highly enough of me to ask for a lot and in doing so, the Giants couldn't give the Browns what they wanted. It's a business."
Bravo, Braylon. And congrats. Looks like passes aren't the only things you're willing to drop.
~ We're just a few days shy of July 20th, a date TMZ and other culture vultures have circled on their calendars, all due to one compelling trainwreck of a six-word phrase: "MICHAEL VICK, you're free to go." (Runner-up: "LEVI JOHNSTON is shopping a tell-all.") Once Vick exits Federal custody, ROGER GOODELL gets his shot at testing the puppy-abuser's threshold for remorse. Out-Takes's best guess? An eight-game suspension due more to having deceived the league office and operated a gambling ring than any kind of ruff treatment. ("Ruff treatment" brought to you by the Foundation For Things Only Mom Will Like. "'Ruff treatment!' I get it! Clever!")
~ With their recent signing of oft-injured vet safety MIKE BROWN, formerly of the Bears, SCOTT PIOLI and the rest of the Kansas City brain trust continue to mold their team into "New England, Points West." Out-Takes loves this low-risk, high-reward signing, even if Brown's major surgeries do outnumber Favre's fake retirements. Speaking of Chicago defensive backs, ex- or otherwise...
~ Bears corner CHARLES TILLMAN recently expressed what we consider a half-truth (but not in the traditional sense of the hyphenate). Apparently he's hoping the Vikings sign BRETT FAVRE because - quote - "you play to go against the best." Our shot-in-the-dark, slip-shod analysis:
Tillman's telling the truth about the first part - what NFC NORTH corner wouldn't *want Favre circa '09 across the LOS? - and lying his tail off about the second. Favre's kids and the population of Kiln, Mississippi don't consider him "the best" anymore, unless they're talking about wishy-washy retirement-fueled media coverage and/or hilariously pushing Jet fans ever closer to the edge. (Chad Pennington says hi.) So either Tillman's stretching the truth or he's a "retro-phile," which we define as one who prefers to live approximately a decade and a half behind the rest of us. Attempts to reach the Chicago DB for comment were, oddly, rebuffed. We assume he was too busy listening to the Cranberries' "Linger" over and over (you preferred "Whoomp! (There It Is)" by Tag Team?), and flipping between wall-to-wall OJ coverage and a *My So-Called Life-a-thon.
~ Earlier this month, as part of the inaugural NFL-USO Coaches Tour, a handful of current and former head coaches spent several days visiting our troops in the Persian Gulf: JON "the Bucs loss is the viewing public's gain" GRUDEN; JEFF FISHER, master purveyor of all things porn 'stache; Giants head coach TOM "Gruff but I make up for it by being unbearably prickly" COUGHLIN; ex-Steelers chin-jutter BILL COWHER (and his cardboard sign: "D.C. 2010 or Bust!") and Ravens HC JOHN HARBAUGH. (Too young to warrant a nickname - hazing and all.)
These five coaches share many things in common, not the least of which are a laudable sense of patriotism and a jam-packed schedule. Meeting with troops and touring military bases in Mosul and Kirkuk, they did their part in buoying the spirits of the men and women who keep ours feeling secure. Giving up precious off-season time - with family, to decompress, whatever - to jet off to a war zone in one of the hottest freakin' spots on Earth, well...it doesn't compare to the sacrifice of the folks they went to honor, but it certainly merits a thumbs up or two.
So, good on ya, to all involved, especially that special subset known as Pats Fans in the Persian Gulf. Get home safe and soon. In the meantime, know that Out-Takes would love to hear from you. You know where to find us. Oh, and one more thing - as a certain PFW IN PROGRESS radio "personality" (we use the term loosely) would say, Thank You for your Service...and would any of you like to buy a painting of a kitten?
John Cockrell is a screenwriter, whose other work has run the gamut from "Sesame Street Parents Magazine" to Playboy TV's "The Weekend Flash." (He figures everything else is pretty much in-between.)"