This post does not come from a fan of either the Patriots or the Seahawks. The author has lived and (mostly) died with the Falcons since the days of Steve Bartkowski.
We may have, on Sunday, watched the greatest NFL game ever played. This is not a knee-jerk reaction nor an emotional one. Consider the facts.
We were faced coming in with history regardless of the winner. The Seahawks could have been be back to back champs, joining a pretty impressive and pretty short list: Lombardi's Packers, Shula's Dolphins, the Steel Curtain Steelers (twice), Montana and Rice's 49ers, the Aikman/Smith/Irvin Cowboys, Elway's Broncos, and of course the Patriots.
The Seahawks defense matches up reasonably well with some of the all-time greats. With the win, the Patriots have a resume to enter the argument with any of the contenders for greatest team of all time. Take a look back at the list of matchups. Very few have two teams who can reasonably claim to be the best ever at anything.
“The NHL has botched TV deals, expansion, marketing and franchise relocation. But the game itself, is bulletproof poetry. An amazing night.”
Yes, broadcaster Sean Grande was talking hockey when he said that, but it fits this NFL season perfectly. The league botched the handling of issues large and small: domestic violence, child abuse, deflated balls, horrific officiating, stupid rules, player safety, and a lying commissioner who's established himself as one of the world's biggest assholes. The league is corrupt. The league is greedy. The league does not care one whit about its players or its fans, or anything except the bottom line. And you know what? No one gives a fuck. We bitch, and we mean it, but do we ever for a moment consider the only thing we, as consumers could actually do to make an impact? No. We won't stop watching. We won't stop buying tickets. Because, in Grande's phrase, which I shall continue to borrow, the game itself is bulletproof poetry.
You don't need a recap. You saw it. This wasn't about the commercials, the halftime show, or the hype. This was the two best teams in the league hammering at each other. This was Ali and Foreman in the jungle. This was Bird against Magic. This was every reason we love sports.
Perhaps the best part? No one choked. No one gave the game away. We'll remember the final play call, of course, but here's the thing: it almost fucking worked. Darrell Bevell was inches away from being a genius. Richard Lockette was inches away from being someone you've actually heard of. Russell Wilson was a few inches away from being a legend (and yes, that is what she said). It was a stupid risk, but if it had worked, no one would have cared. Why didn't it? Oh yeah, that guy.
The Cinderella Story
Quick, raise your hand if you knew (before Sunday) that West Alabama University had a football team. Now put your hand down, liar! You need not like or even tolerate the Patriots to love Malcolm Butler. Kicked off his community college team. Worked at Popeye's to pay his way to stay in school. Kept a job even after he started playing ball again, at West Alabama. He returned a kick to win a conference championship while there, by the way. “Obviously that’s not the biggest play that he’s made now,” his college coach told the Washington Post in what may be the single largest understatement of all time. Grades and possible drug problems kept him out of D1 in college. So he's dumb, right? Wrong. Take a look at the play. it was the second of two big plays he made on the final drive, but this, of course, will be the first line of his obituary someday.
It's not just that he made the play. It's that he made it because he is smart, and because he worked his ass off. He worked his way from undrafted free agent to Super Bowl crunch time. You think Belichick has guys on the field who are stupid for long? Ask Jonas Gray. Butler probably can't discuss Shakespeare with us. It's possible that he can't spell Shakespeare. He can, however, read an offense the way Kenneth Branagh can read Henry V. The Patriots' scout team ran it in practice and burned him. He learned. Watch it again. He knows what's coming. He knows almost the instant the ball is snapped. The play was as much mental as physical. You need not love the Patriots to love that.
Four rings. Two losses in which he left the field having given his team the lead. Hall of Fame numbers even without the rings. Has Brady ever played with another Hall of Famer on offense? Moss and Welker are the closest. Montana had Rice. He also had Roger Craig, who's in a different league than any running back in the Brady era in New England. Whether Brady is the GOAT is another column, but he absolutely must be in the conversation. If there's a quarterback Mount Rushmore, you begin by carving in Brady and Montana. Argue about the other two spots.
Belichick also has a resume to match whoever you throw out there: Lombardi, Noll, Landry, Switzer (kidding, just wanted to see if you were paying attention). He's done more with less talent than any of them. This writer will never be a Patriots fan, just as he is not a Bulls fan, a Yankees fan, nor a Tiger Woods fan. But haters don't always have to hate. George R.R. Martin, based on every interview he gives, is pretty much a dick. That doesn't mean Game of Thrones isn't the best show on tv. We can enjoy and admire these Patriots without loving them. Like Brady and Belichick give a fuck about what we think anyway.