The SPORTS PHILOSOPHER says: ‘Redemption time for football’s 007.’

February 4, 2012
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     Ah, the Super Bowl.   The golden calf of American sports.   It is finally here.   Let us all kneel, facing towards Indianapolis, and pray…..

     Why do we care so much about it?

Brady….Tom Brady

Brady….Tom Brady

     That is the question isn’t it; because we sure do.   The Super Bowl is part of our National Religion.   We all care, perhaps too much.   Everybody in America is nuts about this game and can’t wait for Sunday….with the exception of my ex-wife, who is cleverly using the opportunity to go catch a little live dinner theater instead, with her mother, dancing to Sinatra in place of touchdown dances, all much to the chagrin of my beleaguered 15-year-old son who has to go too….I wonder if they’ll be the only people in the whole theater….well anyway.   Other than her, we all care plenty.  

     Maybe it’s the skillful way the NFL markets the damn thing.   Maybe it’s all the wonderful $million-bucks-a-minute TV commercials.   Maybe it’s because it’s ONE GAME, as opposed to basketball and baseball, where a champion is forged in the fiery cauldron of a drawn-out, 7-game series.   I don’t know.   I do know that everyone wants to know who is going to win in advance, even those of you not actually placing a wager.   As for me, I have had a great many people ask me what I think of the Patriots/Giants matchup on Sunday, asking me who will win and why, many of them regular readers of this column.   Perhaps it’s because, being both the Sports Philosopher and a proven-to-be-somewhat-expert football handicapper, people expect me to have all the answers.

     Well I don’t.   Not this time.

     What I do have is an unpopular perspective, an historian’s take, and an axe to grind.

     Here’s the deal.   The New England Patriots are a narrow 2-point favorite over the New York Giants in the big game.   Even the team names scream America, don’t they?: “New” England suggests our 17th-century lust for religious freedom from our mother country.   New “York” reminds us of how we stole New Amsterdam from the Dutch for 24 bucks and a couple of flea-market necklaces, and then renamed the island to sound English.   “Patriots” stands for everything we are as a nation, how we got here, what we endured, how we fought for what we wanted, and how we triumphed over tyranny time and time again.   And “Giants” is what we have become, sometimes giant as in better, sometimes giant as in worse, but always, always, always giant as in bigger and more stupendous than any other nation-state in the history of the world.   Indeed, the Super Bowl has become more than just a celebration of America.   It has become the by-god symbol of America.   Our colossus.   For better or for worse.

     The Patriots started out a 3 and a half point favorite, but the spread has been shrinking steadily for ten days.   Why?   That’s easy.   Virtually every person I have talked to and virtually every expert I have read, practically everyone, is picking the Giants.   They are the sexy pick to be sure.   My friend David told me the Giants should be a 5-point favorite in this game.   My cousin Dana picked the Giants right from the start, and has already anointed New York quarterback Eli Manning as the game’s MVP.   My brother Jeff picked the Giants to win this game long ago, even before they won their last game.   Pull up ESPN, you’ll have a hard time finding a columnist who picks New England.   Even my own dog is picking the Giants (It’s that whole “once bitten, twice shy” thing.).   Hell, I’m surprised New England is favored at all.

     Stranger still is how much everyone seems to suddenly like the Giants and viscerally hate the Patriots.   I hear it all the time.   Brother Jeff told me just the other day how much he loves and admires the Giants and how sick he is of the blankety-blank Patriots.   My sister Marji hates the Patriots.   Her best friend Susan loathes the Patriots.   All my friends seem to instinctively despise the Patriots.   And by extension, the Giants are getting all kinds of love this week.

     And this is what I don’t understand.   Because usually the Giants are just the sort of team we hard-core football fans love to hate.   They are cocky.   They are arrogant.   They talk too much.   They embody that annoying New York persona, as if the whole country revolves around that overpriced, overcrowded, overhyped 24-buck Metropolis.   Their whole defensive line acts as though this game was already conceded to them before it has even happened, as if ordained on high.   Their surly coach, Tom Coughlin (who earlier this year I nicknamed “Enema Face”) makes me cringe every time I see him.   Their quarterback, the annoyingly improved yet still unappetizing Manning, wears almost the same put-upon facial expression as his coach.   Let’s call him “Puke Face”.   The Giants routinely choke away games they should win easily, and win games they should lose by strokes of pure luck.

     Conversely, I don’t know where all this hatred for the Patriots comes from.   Because they embody everything I admire in a football team.   They have plus-side characteristics few teams have.   For one thing, they are virtually the only team in football that doesn’t do embarrassing end-zone hip-thrusting ass-wiggling touchdown dances.   The Patriots simply don’t allow such irritating, me-first hijinks.   The reason they don’t allow it is that their coach, Bill Belichick, is one of the few coaches his players respect enough to do it his way.   Plus they are scared of getting a one-way ticket out of town.   The great Randy Moss found a home in New England when no one else wanted him, they let him stay as long as he did things the Patriot way, the Belichick way, and the minute he reverted back to me-first Randy he was put on the first bus out of town.   That same day.   Chad Ochocinco is on the Patriots this year.   You might not even know that.   If not, it’s partly because he hardly ever catches a pass, and partly because he’s kept his mouth shut.   All year!   Is there any other organization in pro football that could have kept a cork in Mr. 85’s mouth all year?   The Patriots have always done things with humility, panache, espirit de corps, maturity, and a touch of class.   And they rarely make the dumb, just-can’t-happen mistakes that plague virtually every other NFL team, including, I say wistfully and with surpassing envy, my own beloved Chicago Bears.   I really don’t understand why people hate them for their success.   They are what every NFL football team should be.   Personally I like them.   And more to the point, I admire them and respect them.  

     And now we come to the game itself.   Everyone is picking the Giants.   So I am going to go with New England, in a very tough call.   (Seriously, don’t bet this game.)

     It’s not like the New England Patriots aren’t any good.   People have all of a sudden forgotten that they won 13 games during the regular season, and that they have triumphed ten times in a row.   That’s how much Patriot-hatred there is out there.   This is a very good football team.   Good runners, great blockers, outstanding receivers.   Their offense scores quicker than a Berkeley man at a Stanford sorority.  

     Having said all that, I understand where all this New York support is coming from.   The Giants haven’t lost since mid-December.   Manning is suddenly knocking on the door of the Hall of Fame (gulp).   Wide receiver Victor Cruz is an absolute marvel.   Their team is improving every week.   Their confidence-level is overwhelming.   They beat better teams to get this far (San Francisco, Green Bay) than the Patriots did.   And their arrogant defensive front—men called Kiwanuka, Umenyiora, Pierre-Paul, and Tuck—comprise football’s best pass rush.   They usually back up their braggadocio.   The Giants have a lot of good reasons to think they are going to win.

     And perhaps they do have New England’s number.   They beat ‘em in the Super Bowl four years ago, and they beat ‘em this year in the regular season.   Their fierce pass rush matches up well against the Patriots’ air attack.   So then why is your loyal correspondent picking New England?       

     One reason only:

     Brady.   Tom Brady.

     As in Bond.   James Bond.

     Tom Brady is the 007 of Super Bowl 2012.   Remember those cool 007 movies?   And I refer of course to the Sean Connery James Bond movies, Connery being the only true James Bond.   Anyway, when the fate of the free world seemed in doubt, it took a man with the uniquely dynamic resources of James Bond, agent 007, to save it.   Similarly, I believe that Tom Brady is the only thing standing between New England and certain defeat.

     Is he up to it?   I think he is.   He is, after all, an all-time great with three Super Bowl titles and a hatful of NFL records.   He once threw 50 touchdown passes in a single season.   And when you think about it, he really is the NFL’s version of 007….Bond always got the hottest girls, right?   Brady once dated a gorgeous Hollywood actress and is currently married to one of the world’s most beautiful fashion models.   Bond was always cool and calm in a crisis, right?   Brady is football’s coolest customer in the clutch, especially in the last two minutes with the game on the line.   And like Bond, Brady is dashing and handsome, complete with cleft chin and a nice head of hair.  (Or, in Connery’s case, a nice toupee….) 

     However, Brady’s reputation is in trouble.   The Patriots haven’t won a Super Bowl in seven years.   For most teams, no big deal; for New England, an ice age.   Brady won his first ten playoff games, which is beyond amazing; but since then, he’s “only” 6 and 5 in the post-season.   When the Patriots and Brady lost to the Giants in the Super Bowl four years ago it cost them something unprecedented, a perfect 19-and-0 season.   And in Tom Terrific’s last playoff game, two weeks ago against the Ravens, he wasn’t terrific at all.   In fact he was pretty lousy.   The halo of football’s archangel has slipped, no doubt about it.

     And all that is what makes this particular Super Bowl so epic.   So historically significant.   So titanic.   If the Giants win, that’s two Super Bowls and a ticket to the Hall of Fame for Manning, and lifetime bragging rights for the New Yorkers over the once-invincible Patriots.   The Belichick/Brady Era will be heralded as over, and judged to be akin to the rise and fall of the Roman Empire; once dominant, then cursed by hubris and internal strife to suffer an epic failure, ending in ruins.

     On the other hand, if New England wins, all is right with the world.   That would make four Super Bowls in five chances for Brady, and pretty much elevates him into the #2 spot, right behind Joe Montana, in the pantheon of best players of the Super Bowl era.   And it makes New England the unchallenged “team of the 21st century”.   So far.

     And it shuts up the New York Giants.   With the best mute button there is.   Revenge.    Revenge for four years ago.   Revenge just like in my favorite Bond movie, “Goldfinger”, when the evil Auric Goldfinger himself (whose twisted, icky, pasty-white facial expression is an amalgam of Coughlin’s and Manning’s) ties Bond to a slab and then has his goons use this laser beam to almost cut off his testicles, but then in the end Bond has the last laugh when he stuffs Goldfinger through the broken window of an airplane at 20,000 feet.   Revenge, in sports as it is in espionage, is the best medicine.

     Revenge is on Tom Brady’s side.   But for New England to win, he must have one of his best games ever.   I’m saying yes to that.

     And as for the big picture, as far as I’m concerned, Super Bowl XLVI is a Homeric clash, make that an Ian Fleming-esque clash, between good and evil.

     I’m going with the good guys.   Make Brady’s victory martini shaken, not stirred.   Final score, 31-26.

meet….The Sports Philosopher!!!

Eastland....Brad Eastland

Eastland....Brad Eastland

Brad Eastland is an author, historian, film buff, undiscovered literary giant, and unabashed supporter of class in Sports as epitomized by the New England Patriots.   Brad’s other recent columns for La Verne Online can be found in the Sports Section under ‘The Sports Philosopher’ and also in Viewpoint under ‘Brad Eastland’s View’.    To check out his columns about obscure old movies, click Arts & Entertainment and then click ‘Upon Further Review’.   Brad has also written 4 novels* and over 20 short-stories.   

*To pick up a copy of his recently published novel of life at the racetrack, of triumph, and of utter despair, called WHERE GODS GAMBLE, a tale of American mythology, simply search for it on,, or   And then order it.   And then READ it.   And then tell everyone about it.   He thanks you.




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