UGG? More like, "Ugh!" The NFL season begins Wednesday night and for the second time in five years the Giants have crashed the party. At least Tom Brady is ready. Another stellar sales pitch from America's Alpha Dog hit You Tube Tuesday. 35 never looked this good. Seriously, Peyton Manning is 36 going on 50. That's Alpha Dog vs. Huckleberry Hound. Eli, meanwhile, has been playing dog catcher. Alpha Dog looks sharper and more handsome/gorgeous in each successive ad campaign. And the kid in this soft-shoe spot - well let's just say he has better hands catching that invisible football than Wes Welker did on his final try with the real ball last season.
Yes, we're going there.
The Giants will be celebrating Alpha Dog's elusive fourth (Or is it fifth?) Super Bowl ring - the one that sailed high and slipped through Welker's hands at the 21-yard line last February in Indianapolis when the Pats were winning 17-15 with 4:00 left to play - before beginning their defense of the NFL crown tonight against the Cowboys.
Depressing. "Kickoff Nightmare in America" starts at 7:30 p.m. on NBC. This party will be a painful reminder of what shoulda/coulda/woulda been in Foxborough. The return of the NFL means so much joy and happiness for those of us lacking real lives - or for those who want to escape the reality of their all-too-real lives. The pre-game ceremony and hoopla is "Must-Not-See TV" from Hartford to Bangor.
There's always another night of political convention coverage. Unless we can get Clint Eastwood and Tim Thomas to square off against Betty White and Michael Jordan in a heated game of musical chairs - it's just not worth watching.
The "Best of Red Sox Small Talk" and "Charlie Moore Outdoors" never looked so good.
Welker's non-catch is the Crazy Uncle Joe that's hanging around the Patriots this season. Let's try get it out of the way today so that the focus on Sunday can be nothing but blue skies, happy thoughts and Gronk's latest hangover.
Sure, the ball was high. But that catch had to be made. The Giants had one timeout left at the time. A post-catch realistic worst-case scenario: A 20-15 Patriots lead after a 30-something-yard field goal with the Giants getting the ball back inside the two-minute warning with no timeouts. A post-catch realistic best-case scenario - Alpha Dog takes a knee at the 3 as the clock expires.
Before the long knives come out for any criticism of Welker, let's revisit the post-Super Bowl quote sheet to hear from Welker's harshest critics:
"That is one I'll have to live with." - Welker.
"I just have to make the play. It's a play I've made 1,000 times in practice and everything else." - Welker
"Ninety-nine percent of the time, he makes that grab. It's football. Nobody's perfect." - the late, great Deion Branch.
"#@%& him." - Gisele.
Well maybe that's what she said when the camera was off. When the camera was on - she delivered that memorable rant against anyone and everyone wearing a uniform number in the 80s.
"“You (have) to catch the ball when you’re supposed to catch the ball. My husband cannot (expletive) throw the ball and catch the ball at the same time. I can’t believe they dropped the ball so many times.”
It must have been a fun trip to Costa Rica. Looking back, Welker dropped five passes - during the Patriots' first 18 games of last season, none on throws traveling more than 10 yards past the line of scrimmage, according to ESPN. Astonishing. He certainly saved the worst for last.
Welker had 122 catches for 1,569 yards and nine TDs in the 2011 regular season and caught seven passes (he was only targeted eight times) for 60 yards in the Super Bowl. He's caught 18 passes for 163 yards in two his two Super Bowl losses to the Giants. Solid numbers. He's projected to make around 100 catches this season.
All of that - and yet he remained unsigned over the summer - taking the team tender offer of one year at $9.15 million. If the Patriots want to franchise him again next season, it will cost them about $11.49 million. Hardly chump change, but mere lunch money when compared to the six-year, $54 million ($18.17 million guaranteed) hauled in by Rob Gronkowski or the five-year, $40 million deal ($16.4 million guaranteed) thrown at Aaron Hernandez.
Welker is no Buckner/Stanley/Schiraldi/Gedman/McNamara. He's much more like an Asante Samuel - who still wanted $50-something million (and got it from the Eagles) after missing his chance to put away the Giants back in Glendale.
Had Welker made his catch and iced Bob Kraft's fourth Super Bowl banner - it's unfathomable to think that the Patrioits would not have given Welker the two-year, $21 million guaranteed deal he sought before those neogotiations had collapsed. The acquisition of St. Louis Rams receiver and Josh McDaniels disciple Greg Salas - as a lower-grade version of Welker - is just the latest sign that Wes may be no more in New England once the Patriots leave New Orleans with the Super Bowl trophy - or somehow lose to the 49ers trying. Welker will remain Brady's top target and safety valve until someone else (see Hernandez) becomes his favorite receiver/the guy who's open.
There are no hard feelings in the huddle, on the surface anyway. Gisele and Alpha Dog survived their trip to Costa Rica with Welker and now-wife Ann Burns unscathed. Alpha Dog's also been been selling candy, cars, sporting goods and, of course, Uggs. Alpha Dog wasn't close to being the leader of the pack when it came the post-season AFC championship hangover. The Summer of Gronk has continued into the Fall of Gronk - which may indeed lead to the fall of Gronk.
There's exposure, overexposure and Gronk nude on the cover of ESPN The Magazine. At least he kept it rated G at "Bob Kraft's Summer Beach Party." It's good the Patriots didn't take that crushing loss to heart and Gronk's not letting anything go to his head. You might have thought they won the Super Bowl given all the fun and games. Those "AFC Championship" t-shirts just don't feel the same.
Gronkowski adorned the NFL preview issue cover of Sports Illustrated - unless you were living in parts of the Midwest - and the inside story told us that the party shows no sign of stopping. Gronk continues to be the biggest Big Kid on the block. Who needs to grow up when you're Brady's No. 1 target in the end zone?
Here's a sobering thought concerning New England's Favorite Party Animal. Gronk's "Folk Hero" status is going to last only as long as he keeps catching touchdown passes and spiking the ball to China. As Boston sports fans continue to shelter themselves from the fallout of this year-long Red Sox Nuclear Winter, we've been reminded how fleeting fame can be in this city. Gronkowski is beloved, adored and has given the term "Happy Ending" a whole new meaning in Patriot Nation. (A quick moment of silence for the career of adult film star and Gronkowski Twitter pal Bibi Jones - who announced her retirement in the offseason.)
But Gronk, Welker, Alpha Dog and the rest of the Patriots are on the clock. There are rumblings of "16-0" - thanks to lack-of-strength of schedule, if nothing else. There is no margin for error in Foxboro in 2012. The Giants demonstrated last season that 9-7 and getting hot at the right time is all that is needed to secure an NFL title. There isn't that luxury for the Patriots. This year, not only is there no Bruins Stanley Cup banner raising ceremony to numb the pain of the latest Red Sox collapse, there will likely be no Bruins - at least for a while. The Celtics are gearing up for another (Eastern Conference) Finals appearance. Dwight Howard and Kevin Durant will be facing LeBron in the NBA Finals on alternating years through 2016.
It's all on the Patriots this fall to win early and often.
As soon as the Giants finish raising that damn banner.
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