All posts by michaelbrianwalker

Currently: math/economics teacher at Ramsey High School, commissioner of both a fantasy baseball league and a fantasy football league Past: Graduate of Midland Park High School Class of 2000 and Colgate University Class of 2004, pricing/yield analyst at AvisBudget from 2004 through 2007, member of MPHS baseball and cross-country teams Fan of: Mets, Devils, Giants Achievements: Named "World's Slowest Eater" by everyone who knows me, played on the 2003-4 Colgate intramural-championship ice-hockey team, two-time IceHouse Adult League Champion, have twice been hit by deer while driving, coached the league-tourney-champion 2008-9 Ramsey Rams JV ice-hockey team (universally regarded by me as the greatest JV hockey team of all time), once ran 6 miles listening to nothing but Lonely Island's "Jack Sparrow" on repeat, picked Gonzaga 10 times to win the championship (yes, I was that guy before it was fashionable to be that guy), stayed for all 17 innings of a 2000 Newark Bears/Somerset Patriots game (and caught my only career foul ball at a pro game during the 16th inning), and have not eaten breakfast regularly since 1996

MLB Rule changes: what stays & what goes?

The 2020 Major League Baseball season has been like no other – 60 games, no fans in the seats, 16 teams in the playoffs, and several other rule changes.  Though the bulk of these rule changes are temporary, the powers that be could ultimately decide to keep some of these rules for future seasons.  As a result, I would like to share my views of which rules I would like to keep and which I would like to toss.  I am going to list these in order from “most strongly want to keep” to “most strongly want to toss”.  Thus, without further ado, here are my thoughts.

MLB makes it official: The three-batter minimum rule is here
Picture via Yahoo! Sports
  1. If a reliever enters a game mid-inning, he must pitch to at least three batters or the end of the half-inning – DEFINITELY KEEP

OK, I know that MLB actually introduced this rule pre-Covid, but, since it officially debuted on the field in 2020, I am addressing it anyway.  Simply put, I love this rule.  I am a baseball purist, and most purists hate this rule.  However, the purist in me believes that starting pitchers should pitch until they are no longer effective, and relievers should do the same.  I do not love that the game has evolved to a point in which the standard is for teams to use six relievers per game.  Thus, I believe that anything that can trim that number is a good thing.  Plus, I think that relief pitchers are the biggest reason why games are longer than they were in previous generations.  Pitching changes lengthen games, and relievers tend to pitch at a slower pace than starters.  After all, starters want to find a rhythm, which is hard to accomplish at a slow pace (unless you are Steve Trachsel); whereas relievers pitch to so few batters that deliberation outweighs any need to find rhythm.  The 2020 “three-batter rule” does not address this second issue, but at least it does address the first in allowing for fewer pitching change.  I like this rule, even if it means an angry mob of situational lefties will be knocking down my door.  Sorry, Jerry Blevins.

Continue reading MLB Rule changes: what stays & what goes?

My Top-10 Sports Jingles of All Time

I love many TV jingles for sports. These are the instrumental pieces that open broadcasts and take us into commercials. To me, a good jingle can make an average game feel good and can make a good game feel great. Additionally, there is a symbiotic relationship between sporting events and their jingles. The more great moments with which I associate a jingle, the greater the jingle seems to me. I love jingles, and I have even been known to download some to put on my running playlists. There is great motivational power in a great jingle. Therefore, I have decided I would like to create a countdown of my 10 favorite sports jingles of all time.

Continue reading My Top-10 Sports Jingles of All Time

Has Any NFL Team Had a String of Three Playoff Losses as Devastating as the Saints’?

Two weeks ago, as most sports fans did, I watched the NFL Draft. Because I was so starved for sports, I actually watched much of Rounds 4 through 7, which I never do. I was desperate for sports. Anyway, at one point in the draft, some of the analysts referenced the New Orleans Saints’ three-consecutive devastating playoff losses. Yes, those losses must have been rough for Saints fans. To put this in perspective, this year’s Saints were legitimate Super Bowl contenders and lost a #3-#6 playoff matchup in overtime to the Minnesota Vikings….and that was probably the least painful loss of the Saints’ three consecutive playoff losses. That tells you something. Of course, when you can name a loss with something as simple as “Missed Passed Interference” or “Robey-Coleman” or something as momentous as “Minnesota Miracle”, you know the loss is bad. This year’s loss was merely “an overtime playoff loss to the Minnesota Vikings”, which does not have quite the ring of the others.

You like dat? Vikings stun Saints 26-20 in OT | Brainerd Dispatch

Continue reading Has Any NFL Team Had a String of Three Playoff Losses as Devastating as the Saints’?

Billy/Brad, I Have Your New “Moneyball” Idea Right Here

On Wednesday night, Jacob deGrom pitched seven dominant shutout innings, striking out 14 Marlins, en route to a Mets victory.  When it was time for Mets manager Mickey Callaway to reach into the bullpen in the Bottom of the 8th Inning, New York held a 6-0 lead.  The first reliever on whom Callaway called was journeyman southpaw Luis Avilan.

Continue reading Billy/Brad, I Have Your New “Moneyball” Idea Right Here

Odell Beckham Jr.: The Second-Most Terrific New York Athlete Ever to Be Traded

Before I address the title of this article, please allow me a bit of preamble.

You might have seen the OBJ trade coming, but I did not.  Yes, there were trade rumors about Beckham at various times over the past two years, but, during this offseason, there was no considerable buzz about such a trade being a legitimate possibility.  Therefore, my brain is still processing the trade.  Do I like this trade or not?  I honestly do not know.

Continue reading Odell Beckham Jr.: The Second-Most Terrific New York Athlete Ever to Be Traded

I Could Not Care Less About February Baseball Injuries

I could not care less about February baseball injuries.  (Side note: I cannot stand when people say “I could care less” when they mean “I could not care less”.)  Allow me to repeat myself.  I could not care less about February baseball injuries.

I make this point because it is apparently a huge story that Mets’ infielder Jed Lowrie is heading for an MRI for soreness in the back of his knee.  Notice that today’s date is February 24.  The Mets’ first regular-season game takes place on March 28.  Thus, we are five weeks from the start of the regular season.  Do I care that Jed Lowrie might miss a few weeks of Spring Training?  Of course not.  As I have discussed in the past, I could not care less about preseason games in any sport.  My main goal for any preseason is to have all of my team’s players be healthy when the regular season starts.

Continue reading I Could Not Care Less About February Baseball Injuries

Coming to Grips with the Rams’ Win over the Saints

There is no worse feeling for the collective of sports fans than the feeling that the wrong team has advanced in the playoffs.  I don’t mean “wrong team” in the “Jaguars over Steelers last year” sense.  Sure, most of us were hoping for a Steelers/Pats AFC Championship game, featuring the two teams most of us thought to be the best in the AFC; but we were happy for the Jaguars for pulling off the upset fair and square.  No, when I say “wrong team”, I mean it in the sense that the wrong team has advanced as a result of something completely beyond the control of the teams in the game.

Unfortunately, this was the case with the Rams/Saints NFC Championship Game.  It is extremely rare for all sports fans to agree on an officiating call, but that is just what happened with Los Angeles and New Orleans.  Everyone knows that the officials should have called either pass interference or unnecessary roughness on Nickell Robey-Coleman, but the officiating crew somehow rendered no penalty.  Meanwhile, a penalty call would have given the Saints a 98% win probability.  In that case, the Saints would have been able to bleed the clock down to 23 seconds or so before giving Will Lutz the chance to kick a game-winning and tie-breaking 21-yard chip-shot field goal.

Of course, the officials missed the penalty call, so the aforementioned scenario did not occur.  The Rams are now heading to the Super Bowl.  As a result, I spent the first several days of last week trying not to think about the Super Bowl.  Just as I have tried to avoid football after devastating Giants playoff losses, I did the same for a few days here because of the Rams/Saints game.  Never in my life have I seen an official’s call so drastically affect a playoff result, and this happened to send essentially the wrong team to the Super Bowl.  Sitcoms and dramas are scripted.  Reality shows are REALLY scripted.  However, sports are not supposed to be scripted at all.  Sports serve as a meritocracy where each team must earn all of its success.  I did not feel that the Rams had earned its trip to the Super Bowl.

Image result for rams super bowl 2019

Fortunately though, as last week wore on, I started coming to grips with having the Rams in the Super Bowl.  I know you might be thinking, “Jesus, it’s just a game, Focker.”  However, if I actually had that type of attitude toward sports; chances are I would not spend hundreds of hours per year watching people I have never met compete against each other on the field.  I certainly would not spend multiple hours per week writing blog entries.  Therefore, I did truly need to come to grips with the Rams being in the Super Bowl, and I was somewhat successful.  My consolation has come from this simple fact: After the missed call, the Rams STILL had to do a whole lot to win the game.

We are all correct when we cite the “98% win probability” number as reason why this missed call should not be treated equally with the multitude of other missed calls in NFL games.  However, many people act like the missed call handed the Rams the win.  That is not the case.  With the non-call, the Saints’ win probability fell to 78%.  After the non-call, my thought was “Let’s hope the Saints hold on to win anyway, so that this call does not matter”, not “Oh my God, the refs just took the Saints’ win and gave it to the Rams!”

After the missed call and Will Lutz’s subsequent go-ahead field goal, the Rams still needed all of the following to happen:

  • Jared Goff needed to lead a last-minute drive into field-goal range in one of the toughest road venues in sports
  • Greg Zeurlein needed to kick a game-tying 48-yard field goal
  • The Rams needed to win the overtime coin toss, since we all know that, if a team has a Hall of Fame quarterback (like Drew Brees), that team will score a TD on the opening possession of OT.
  • Oops, the Rams lost the toss but forced that Hall of Fame QB to throw an interception.
  • The Rams needed to drive to at least the Saints’ 33-yard line so to minimize the risk of a missed FG giving the Saints great field position.
  • Oops, the Rams stalled, and Sean McVay showed enormous spheres by letting Zeurlein kick a 57-yard FG (as I implored McVay to punt), which was good by several yards.

 

I should also note that, if the officials had made the correct call on the disputed play, the Rams would have likely ended up with the ball at their own 25-yard line with 20 seconds to play.  They would have needed to gain 35 yards to set Zeurlein up for a 57-yard game-tying field goal, which he clearly could have made.  Could the Rams have gained those necessary 35 yards on consecutive sideline passes before letting Zeurlein tie the game?  It is not likely, but it is also not impossible.

Image result for nfc championship 2019
Image via The SoBros Network

Anyway, whether that last scenario works for you or not, the fact remains that the refs did not hand the Rams a win.  The refs merely upgraded the Rams’ chances from “long shot” to “unlikely”.  Kudos to the Rams for taking advantage of a slight opportunity.

Lastly, I should note that one could consider the missed penalty call a lucky moment for the Rams.  Whether we like to admit it or not, many of these nail-biting games come down to luck.  No, luck does not always involve a missed penalty call, but luck could be a bounce of a fumble, a made or missed FG, or a lucky catch.  Just look at the Chiefs/Pats game.  Dee Ford being offsides had nothing to do with what should have been a game-sealing Chiefs interception, but the penalty gave the Pats a second life.  Because of a guy lining up a few inches offsides, a different team is now heading to the Super Bowl.  It happens.  Actually, speaking of the Pats, look at the first Giants/Pats Super Bowl, and look at the Patriots/Seahawks Super Bowl.  In both games, the Patriots were victimized in the last minute by incredible catches with elements of luck (David Tyree’s Helmet Catch: combination of skill and luck, Jermaine Kearse having the ball fall in his lap: mainly luck).  In the former case, Eli Manning used Tyree’s catch and several other clutch throws to give the Giants the win over the Pats; in the latter, Malcolm Butler’s interception kept Kearse’s catch from leading the Patriots to defeat.  Of course, for another modern example of luck, we know that the Eagles beat the Bears this postseason by a fraction of an inch on a “double-doink”.

Over the years, we have had many, many NFL teams win playoff games by the slimmest of margins, and those games are always the most bitter of pills for the losers to swallow. Unfortunately for the Saints, they have been eliminated in consecutive seasons by those slim margins in as devastating fashions as possible.  The Saints are not the first deserving-to-be-there team in history to watch the Super Bowl from home, and they will not be the last.  They are not even the only current team feeling that way, as the Chiefs are in the same boat.

The closer the game, the more likely it is that a bad bounce or bad call will greatly swing the result.  Sports can be cruel.  In this case though, the Saints still had a 78% chance of winning after the bad call.  How much does this assuage my initial negative reaction to the game?  I do not know.  If the refs had made the right call, we are probably watching the Saints on Sunday, February 3.  However, I keep telling myself that the Rams did what they had to do to win the game.  I think I have come to grips with the Rams’ victory, and I hope you have too.

Mariano Rivera and the Rest of My Fictional 2019 Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot

Loyal BTB readers, I know that you have a burning question.  “Have the BTB editors been given official Hall of Fame ballots for 2019?”  Somehow, the answer to this question is “No”.  I would like to think that my ballot was lost in the mail.  I did move in August, so maybe the Hall of Fame has not been able to track me down at my new address.  Nevertheless, you readers all deserve to see my 2019 fictional ballot.

Last year, I wrote a post explaining how I view the “steroid guys”.  As a result, you probably know that I am voting again this year for Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, and Manny Ramirez.  Last year, I also wrote a post detailing the rest of my Hall of Fame vote .  Because I do not believe in dropping people off my ballot from one year to the next, you know that I am also voting this year for Larry Walker, Fred McGriff, Edgar Martinez, and Mike Mussina – all of whom were on my fictional 2018 ballot and are eligible for election this year as well.  Thus, you already know eight of the ten people for whom I am voting this year.

Fortunately, the voters did much good last year in electing Vladimir Guerrero, Jim Thome, and Larry Wayne Jones to the Hall.  You know that I did not agree with Trevor Hoffman receiving the nod, but, given that he had earned 74% of the vote (75% is needed for election) two years ago, I knew that it was a foregone conclusion that “Hell’s Bells” would ring in Cooperstown in 2018.

Image result for trevor hoffman
Image via Sports Illustrated

Last year, I lamented the fact that, because all of the “steroid” guys have been clogging up the ballot for so long, there have been many years in which more than 10 deserving players have appeared on the general ballot.  Given that voters may vote for no more than 10 players per year, voters have been forced to leave off people for whom they would actually like to vote.  In that vein; last year, I wanted to put 12 people on my ballot, so I had to keep two of them off the list.  Thus, I decided to leave Curt Schilling’s and Jim Thome’s boxes unchecked.  My logic with Thome was that; while he is a definite Hall of Famer; 1) I did not feel that he needed to be a first-ballot HOFer, and 2) Since it was his first year on the ballot, I would have many more opportunities to vote for him.  (To the contrary, I did vote for first-year Larry Wayne, as I felt he was a true first-ballot guy.)  As for Schilling, I simply felt that he was the least qualified of the non-first-ballot guys.

As a result of the Jones, Guerrero, and Thome elections; we traveled through 2018 with 9 remaining guys on the ballot whom I have thought deserve to enter the Hall.  Therefore, if 2019 were to have brought no more than one deserving candidate, my logjam would have disappeared.  Unfortunately, I missed this mark by one.

The 2019 ballot has brought us two people – Mariano Rivera and the late Roy Halladay – whom I consider clear Hall of Famers.  In last year’s anti-Hoffman explanation, I did note that Rivera is the only modern closer for whom I would ever vote.  Had Rivera had a ho-hum postseason career; I would not have voted for him, but his postseason career is legendary.  The guy had 42 postseason saves, many of which were of more than one inning (141 innings pitched in 96 appearances), and an 0.70 postseason ERA.  I repeat, “an 0.70 postseason ERA”….over 141 innings…..in the postseason.  You know, against the best teams in baseball on the biggest stages.  141 innings equates to 2/3 of a regular-season load for a reliable starting pitcher.  Can you imagine a starting pitcher posting an 0.70 ERA up through the trade deadline?  Think of how excited we were about Jacob deGrom’s 1.6 – 1.8 ERA at various times last year.  Rivera’s numbers are incredible.

Additionally, do these three names ring a bell?  “Sandy Alomar”, “Luis Gonzalez”, and “Roberts Steal”?  They represent three of Rivera’s four blown postseason saves, and they are so well-known because it was such a rarity for Mo to blow postseason saves.  (Note: Mo’s fourth postseason blown save was in Game 5 of the 2004 ALCS, where he entered with 1st and 3rd and nobody out and allowed only the inherited runner on third to score.  As I mentioned in my “Jeurys Familia” article, why this blown save is given to Rivera and not the guy who put the runner on base is beyond me.)  Additionally, Luis Gonzalez handed Rivera his only postseason loss.  Therefore, among all the times Rivera entered tie games, he did not lose any for the Yankees.  (Note: the Yanks did ultimately lose the other three games in which Rivera blew saves, but the Yanks lost each of those games after the book was closed on Rivera.)

For the Yankees’ run of dominance from 1995 through 2012, there was no psychological edge in baseball greater than the Yankees knowing they had Mariano for the 9th and maybe 8th innings of postseason games (actually Mo was working the 8th innings in 1995 and 1996, but this is not the best time to be bringing up the guy who was working those 9th innings).  The Hall of Fame is about more than just numbers.  It is about dominance, especially on the big stage; and it is also a home of legends.  Mariano Rivera fits those criteria to a “T”.

Image result for rivera
Image via CBS Sports

Anyway, with Mo earning the 9th spot on my ballot, I find myself in a tough position for the final vote.  Do I check Curt Schilling’s name or Roy Halladay’s?  For that answer, I will use the same logic I used last year.  While Roy Halladay is a Hall of Famer to me, he does not need to be a first-ballot guy.  Therefore, I am going to vote for Schilling, whose ballot days are closer to expiration.  I explained Schilling’s candidacy last year, and I will save my Halladay explanation for next year, when I can hopefully make room for him on my ballot.

Additionally, this year’s ballot has four other new guys whom I do not consider definite “No”s: Todd Helton (More than likely a future “yes” for me), Andy Pettitte (Likely a “no” as per my “Tier III” steroid rules), Lance Berkman (Leaning toward “no” but need to examine more closely), and Roy Oswalt (Almost certainly “no” but also need to examine more closely).  Similarly, there are two viable holdovers from previous ballots whom I have never truly considered due to lack of available spots.  Because I did not previously vote for these guys, I likely still will not, but I do not want to rule out these two individuals, Scott Rolen and Andruw Jones.  I will go into deeper analyses on these players next year, when hopefully I am writing about my REAL ballot!

Image result for andruw jones
Image via Talking Chop

Lastly, as a Yankees hater, it is fun for me to see Travis Hafner, Kevin Youkilis, and Vernon Wells as first-timers on this year’s ballot.  First-timers on this year’s ballot are guys who last played in 2013, and would you look at who employed all three of those guys when they realized it was time to hang up their spikes?  The New York Yankees.  Too bad Lyle Overbay wasn’t even good enough to make it on the ballot.

That said, a much more prominent member of the 2013 Yankees did make it onto this year’s ballot, and he was the last player to wear #42 outside of April 15.  Mariano Rivera absolutely needs to be inducted into the Hall, and let’s hope that the voters elect several other guys on my list so that I can clear up this year’s logjam and avoid any in the future.

 

 

 

 

Do I Suffer from Patriots Stockholm Syndrome?

The date was February 1, 2004, and the Carolina Panthers and New England Patriots were facing off in the Super Bowl.  I sat with 4 friends who were Patriots fans, and I was the sole person rooting for the Panthers.  The Pats had already won the Super Bowl two years prior, and the Panthers had never won one.  The game was exciting, but the Pats won on a last-second Adam Vinatieri field goal.

Fast forward a year…

The date was February 6, 2005, and the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots were facing off in the Super Bowl.  Although I strongly dislike the Eagles, I was pulling for them that day.  After all, they had never won a Super Bowl, while the Pats had won two of the past three Super Bowls.  After that day, the Pats had won three of four Super Bowls, and the Eagles had still never won one.

Anyway, most of you readers are probably thinking, “Big effing deal.  Anyone who isn’t a Patriots fan always roots against the Patriots.”

Well, allow me to explain the big deal.  After that Patriots/Eagles Super Bowl, things started to change for me.

The following year, Jake Plummer’s Denver Broncos took care of business against the Patriots in the Divisional Round, and it did not sit well with me.  By that point, I had begun to feel that the Patriots were “supposed” to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl every year.  All of a sudden, I actually found myself feeling bad for Patriots fans who had to experience losing a playoff game for the first time in 7 years.

The year after that; as the Patriots took on the #1-seed 14-2 Chargers in the Divisional Round, I began the game rooting for the Chargers.  However, as the game wore on, I found myself changing to root for the Pats.  When the Pats ultimately pulled off the upset, I was happy.  The next week, when the Pats traveled to Indy for the AFC Championship, I knew that I wanted Peyton Manning to advance to his first Super Bowl….yet, lo and behold, as the Patriots were coughing up a 21-3 lead, I found myself unhappy.  When the Colts won the game, and the Pats walked glumly off the field; I was very disappointed.

Image result for patriots colts 2007

Then, the next year, the you-know-what hit the fan for non-Patriots fans.  Week 1 brought Spygate, and the Pats – armed with new acquisitions Randy Moss and Wes Welker – went on a rampage through their schedule.  Most fans treated the Pats as Public Enemy #1 as the team stormed to an undefeated regular season and set the single-season scoring record.  I, on the other hand, loved everything the Pats did.  I rooted for them all season long, with a few very notable exceptions.  I obviously pulled for the Giants in their thrilling Week 17 loss to the Pats and in their legendary win in Super Bowl XLII, one of the greatest moments of my life.  For most people, the thought of shattering Brady’s and Belichick’s hearts was a dream come true.  For me, I was thrilled to win an incredible Super Bowl, and I loved and still love that the Giants are the team that knocked off the only 18-0 team in league history.  However, I did not get satisfaction from Brady’s and Belichick’s pain.  My joy came completely from the Giants’ amazing accomplishments.

Back to the Pats now…Since that glorious day 11 years ago when David Tyree pressed a football against his helmet, there have been only three games – all against the Giants (including the Giants’ wondrous second Super Bowl win over the Pats) – when I have rooted against the Pats.  While Spygate and then Deflategate have led many to believe that the Pats are the ultimate cheaters, I always find myself saying, “What they are doing worse is no worse than what other teams are doing.”  I have had multiple people bring up the fact that BenJarvus Green-Ellis never ever fumbled with the Pats but fumbled a bunch when he went to Cincinnati.  Obviously the Pats are up to no good, these other people think.  However, I never think the Pats do anything wrong.  Heck, I wrote a really long post last January as I became waaaay too excited about the Patriots’ greatness over the years.  I never think the Pats do anything wrong.

Am I thinking logically?  I have no idea.  It is as if the Patriots kidnapped me during their 2001 Championship season (the one time when most of America was actually rooting for the Pats), and, by 2005, the team had convinced me that everything with the Patriots is a good thing.  By 2007 with Spygate, the Pats had convinced me to defend them at any cost.  As I look back, I wonder, “Do I suffer from Patriots Stockholm Syndrome?”  I rooted against the Pats in consecutive Super Bowls 14 and 15 years ago, but I have defended them and sympathized with them every step of the way – through wins, losses, and scandal after scandal – since then.  I think that is textbook Stockholm Syndrome.

Let us now evaluate whether or not I have fallen prey to this syndrome.  There are three main reasons why I think I have developed such an affinity for the Pats – Routine, Nostalgia, and Respect.  Perhaps I have followed these reasons rationally, or perhaps the Pats have brainwashed me into it.  Here we go…

  • Routine: I do not like change. I am not OCD about scheduling, but I do like to have some consistency in my days and weeks.  I like to run at 5PM; I like to eat Moe’s on Tuesday nights (and sometimes Thursday nights….and sometimes Friday nights too); I like to start listening to Christmas music on November 18; and I like to eat Thin Mints and listen to The Road to El Dorado soundtrack (Elton John) during the first weekend of the NCAA Basketball Tournament.   Normal stuff.  Therefore, I like to have the Patriots involved with the Divisional Round, AFC Championship, and Super Bowl.  After all, this weekend will be the Pats’ 13th AFC Championship game in 18 seasons, and the team has played in 8 of the past 17 Super Bowls. Seeing Kraft, Belichick, and Brady on those January and February weekends feels just as right as Moe’s and Thin Mints do at their respective times.

 

  • Nostalgia: Maybe it is because I have a good memory, but I am a very nostalgic person. I can get nostalgic about a week ago, so you can imagine how much nostalgia I have for the entirety of the Pats’ run since 2001.  I have discussed the “Routine” issue, and the Pats have been part of my routine for that long.  I watched them win their first Super Bowl while I was a sophomore in college; I watched them go 18-1 and lose to the Giants in my first year as a teacher; I watched a Pats team with Kenbrell Tompkins as its main receiving threat come within one win of the Super Bowl in the year when I first met the venerable BTB editors; and I listened to Bill Belichick’s “Mona Lisa Vito” press conference before going to see American Sniper (and being enamored by both Sienna Miller’s attractiveness and the fact that Todd and Sack from Wedding Crashers were reunited) in the theater.  Therefore, when I watch a Patriots game, I am flooded with nostalgia from my last three years of college, three years working for AvisBudget, and 12 years teaching at Ramsey High School.

 

  • Respect: I cut my teeth as a sports fan while watching the dominant Devils teams from 1993 forward. The cornerstone of those Devils teams’ successes was that nobody was bigger than the team.  GM Lou Lamoriello had no qualms with letting talented players go if those players were to act selfishly or do anything against team protocol.  Those teams had three Hall of Famers (Martin Brodeur, Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer) and possibly a fourth (Patrik Elias), and all of those players put the team above individual goals.

 

It was a delight to watch the Devils ride this disciplined approach to 20 years of dominance, and the 2001-2018 Patriots are the football equivalent of the Devils.  Actually, to be fair, the Pats have outdone the Devils, considering that the Devils 1993-2012 Devils won 3 championships, appeared in 5 Stanley Cup Finals, and appeared in 6 Conference Finals; all numbers that the Patriots have comfortably beaten (using the hockey equivalents).  That said, Brady and Belichick have made an art form out of bringing me-first players to New England and turning them into team players.

Image result for randy moss patriots

Also, just as the Devils received large championship contributions from unheralded players like Jay Pandolfo and Randy McKay, the Pats always make the most of players who are slightly less talented than their peers around the league.  Look back over the past 18 years, and you will see huge contributions from James White, Jabar Gaffney, David Patten, Malcolm Mitchell, Danny Amendola, Legarrette Blount, and (of course) Julian Edelman.  I have always surmised that Belichick’s theory is to use guys who are 5% less talented than most of their peers around the league, because these less-talented players will work 10 times harder on and off the field than the more talented guys without rendering any of the headaches.  (See “Brown Antonio” and “Beckham Jr. Odell”.)

Additionally, while a team can win a Super Bowl in a season in which its players do many choreographed touchdown dances (see “Eagles, Philadelphia”), it remains noteworthy that the Patriots do not take part in such elaborate numbers.  Think of James White and Julian Edelman dominating in the comeback win over Atlanta two years ago, and you do not recall eccentric touchdown celebrations.  I am not anti-celebration, but it is nevertheless refreshing to watch a team whose players direct all of their on-field effort toward winning.

I also have great respect that, in so many years, we wonder if the Pats are done.  We wonder if Brady is too old or if is supporting cast is too weak….but the Pats always find their way to 11 wins.  It is incredibly impressive.  Perhaps I also have a soft spot for Belichick, because his defense was so dominant in the Giants’ Super Bowl XXV win over Buffalo, my first thrilling moment as a sports fan.

Anyway, I have now officially finished detailing the three reasons – routine, nostalgia, and respect – why I pull for the Pats.  I had hoped that this self-evaluation would give me insight into whether I am still rational or am suffering from Patriots Stockholm Syndrome.  Unfortunately, I still do not have an answer, so you will have to judge for yourselves.

All I do know is this: I love Patrick Mahomes.  I loved watching his father pitch for the 1999-2000 Mets; I put $20 on the KC QB to win MVP (at 80:1 odds in August); and watching Mahomes play quarterback is a beautiful, Heavenly experience.  I want the Chiefs to win their first Super Bowl in 49 years, and I want Andy Reid finally to earn his first ring.  This all sounds rational to me now, but why do I sense that I will probably still end up rooting for the Patriots on Sunday?

Do I suffer from “Patriots Stockholm Syndrome”?