Over the past two months, I’ve written less than normal.
I think it’s because I tore writing muscles leading up to Oct. 3. That was the night Tom Brady came back to Gillette Stadium to play the Patriots.
We knew when Brady went to Tampa that he’d visit Foxboro in 2021. We knew when the schedule was released in May the exact date of his return. And -- I’m being honest here -- it was like having an arrival date for a catastrophic hurricane.
All we had to do at our shop was produce stories, podcasts and TV shows that would accurately represent the most storied 20-year stretch by one franchise in American sports history. From the improbable beginning, through the rise from Cinderella to supermodel, through the 2009 decline and the 2010 rise, the tragedy, controversy, unscriptable drama and inscrutable conclusion that came in early 2020 as a 100-year pandemic began. That’s all.
A lot of great writers, analysts and reporters were going to take the measure of all of it leading into that game. But I’d been blessed to sit ringside for the whole thing. I analyzed it in real-time. I knew where heads were at when shit went down. We needed to be better than boiler-plate and not apply buff-and-shines to the storylines.
Kinda daunting. I mean, I like steak-and-cheese subs. But this was like looking at a 20-foot steak-and-cheese that I knew I had to eat. At that moment, you’re not thinking how delicious it’s going to be. You’re just thinking, “This is gonna hurt.”
October approached. The clouds gathered offshore. The eye of the storm formed.
A random mention of "Brady" or "Buccaneers" could elicit a physical reaction. Stomach tightening. Shoulders tensing. Deep breath through the nose. Release. “Just do your job. Don’t think, ‘I have to ...' think ‘I GET to!' ”
The hurricane came. It was pretty spectacular. We all made it through. The roof held. Minimal damage. We covered all 2021 bases. We went back to 2001 mining old stories on microfilm at Framingham Public Library to tell the 10,000-word story of Brady’s initial rise. Everybody all week busting ass on specials and pod and content. Then a gripping game. Then done. Closure.
For me, it was good to have that once-in-a-career chance/obligation to cleanly vomit out everything I’d learned and observed about the Brady-Belichick Era. Maybe I’d revisit it all again someday. But for the rest of 2021? Mac Jones and the Rebuild.
Two months later? WHAT THE F*** IS THAT FORMING OFFSHORE?!?!?!
That’s just a Patriots-Bucs Super Bowl in Los Angeles in February. A Category 74 Hurricane. Nobody is expected to survive. Yay!!!
The reasons for my personal sense of dread -- which I will put aside, I promise -- aren’t shared by most. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be personal. Most people across our fractured nation probably feel like Mike Tanier, a frenemy who loathes the Patriots and the hagiography surrounding them.
In Wednesday’s New York Times, Tanier had a column under the headline, “Is There A Way To Stop A Tom Brady-Bill Belichick Super Bowl?”. Tanier notes that stat-based models have the Pats and Bucs on a collision course in Super Bowl 56.
Here’s part of Tanier’s well-written but guaranteed-to-piss-you-off column.
A championship clash between the greatest player of the 21st century and his former mentor should be an objectively compelling sporting event with universal appeal. Unfortunately, Super Bowl hype is as noisy and persistent as a neighborhood full of leaf blowers, and both Brady’s faraway news conference stare and Belichick’s impatient growls lost their limited charm over the decades.
In the absence of fresh personalities and storylines, Super Bowl week faces the prospect of ceaseless contrived debates about whether the quarterback or coach “deserves credit” for all those past championships. There could be strained efforts to heap new superlatives on men already spoken of in near-messianic terms, and a queasy feeling that everyone west of Interstate 91 will be obligated to smile uncomfortably while Boston-area fans whip themselves into an ecstatic frenzy.
Know who hated Tanier’s take? Stephen King. The high priest of horror.
The Mike Tanier piece in today’s NY Times sports section -- about a possible Super Bowl matchup between the Bucs and the Patriots -- is bilious in the extreme. Most of us would enjoy a big game featuring those two teams. And come on! It’s only football.
“Only football ...” Right. Like it’s only fictional Maine towns that get terrorized by balloon-toting clowns lurking in sewers or rabid Saint Bernards or reanimating cemeteries.
It’s not “only football ...” This shit’s REAL Stephen!!!
God help me.