Sunday, January 11, 2004

Is this what it's come to? What happened to our Patriots of yesteryear? The Patriots of Rod Rust, Billy Sullivan, Chuck Fairbanks announcing he was leaving the team on the eve of a playoff game. The Patriots who wandered Boston and Cambridge, playing games at Fenway Park, Harvard Stadium and Nickerson Field before finally landing in Foxboro? They played there for 30 years in a glorified high school stadium that had three names (Schaefer, Sullivan and Foxboro), before finally being put out of it's misery after the legendary Snow Bowl game in 2001.

Now, everything has changed. The Pats are actually EXPECTED to win the Super Bowl. Anything less, even reaching the AFC Championship game would be a huge disappointment! They play in a state-of-the-art stadium to sold-out crowds and have a 40,000 person paid waiting list in case anyone decides to give up their season tickets. They have the Coach of the Year and their director of player personnel, Scott Pioli is widely regarded as one of the best in the game.

Last night's epic 17-14 win over the Tennessee Titans was one more example of the Patriots new magic. The Titans were called for penalties at critical moments. Their team is the one that couldn't stop the Pats when it counted. And at the end, in a quote that could have easily been attributed to a bitter Patriot in years past, Titans guard Zach Piller said, "Everyone was talking about their defense. I thought it sucked." It was good enough to send your butt home on the next flight to Nashville, Zach. Have fun watching the rest of the postseason on TV.

Of course, what more can be said about New England's hero, Adam Vinatieri? The hero of the Snow Bowl and Super Bowl XXXVI had appeared to lose it a bit this season. He wasn't as automatic as he used to be. But when the game was on the line, tied with just over four minutes to play, Vinatieri kicked a 46-yarder through the brutal single-digit cold and once again provided the winning margin for our team.

One more thing about the game. I want to salute the Patriots fans who sat out there at Gillette Stadium in the worst cold snap New England has experienced in a decade. While I watched the game in the comfort of my friend Bill's house, those lunatics sat outside for hours, cheering on the home team. The amazing thing was that no one seemed to leave! The stadium was just as full at the end of the game as at the beginning. And I'm sure that those of you who dropped a bundle on cold weather gear this week will be glad you'll have another chance to use it next weekend at the AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts.


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