And the AFC finale is a foregone conclusion: call it Cannabis Bowl 2013.
Brady vs. Manning + AFC championship game + legal weed = Greatest weekend ever. #Patriots— Obnoxious Boston Fan (@realOBF) December 30, 2012
Fortunately, or unfortunately, the NFL drug policy prohibiting marijuana still applies for players in Washington and Colorado despite recent votes in each state legalizing pot.
But that still might not stop the Patriots, who already have had three players (Brandon Bolden, Aqib Talib - partly before his arrival and Jermaine Cunningham) who served suspensions for violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policy this season. Brandon Spikes also served a suspension during his rookie season in 2010.
We're leaving a big fat rail of coke and a shot of Jack for Santa this year… cookies and milk will just slow him down. #SimpleTruth— brandon spikes (@BrandonSpikes55) December 25, 2012
No one on the Patriots has been suspended for smoking pot this season, which would be a violation of the league's performance-detraction drug policy.
But a trip to the aptly named "Mile High City" and the pressure of having to stop Peyton Manning on the road in the AFC title game on Jan. 20 might be too tempting. Of course, if Bill Belichick ever gave a press conference after spending a few hours in a Denver smoke-shop/cafe, we'd never be able to tell the difference. It might actually fire him up a bit. This game would also add new meaning to the term "let's pack for the trip."
No truth to the rumors they plan on bringing Robert Parish and Bill Lee along for the inspirational and instructional purposes.
There was something in the thin air in Denver before voters there voted to legalize pot. The two most shrewd business moves in America - aside from selling your Apple stock a month ago - took place in Denver in 2012.
In May, John Elway banked the future of the Broncos on Manning over Tim Tebow, flying across the country to lure Peyton to the AFC West. Elway outbid everyone else on the 36-year-old QB coming off neck surgery and a season in rehab. The Broncos signed Manning to a 5-year, $96 million deal, about $40 million of which is guaranteed.
Then in October, just two weeks before voters in the Rocky Mountain State decided to make relations with Mary Jane legal, Manning purchased 21 Papa John's pizza franchises in the Denver area.
That's genius unrivaled in the NFL West of I-495.
As 2012 comes to a close, let's take a quick look at some of the teams who didn't make the playoffs this year - including the Giants, Jets, Bears, Cowboys and Steelers. Quick enough. Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger being chief among the elite QBs who will be watching the postseason from their couch. And that head you see rolling down the street belonged to one of the multiple coaches and GMs who were fired today:
HCs to be fired today include Andy Reid, Pat Shurmur, Norv Turner, Romeo Crennel.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 31, 2012
Here's a quick thought - since the Patriots last won a Super Bowl, three of their six playoff runs have been ended by a Manning. The Jets, Broncos and Ravens ended the other three.
This season's playoff picture looks as sharp as ever in terms of interest and excitement. While the AFC appears to be a pick-em between Brady and Manning, the NFC is wide open.
Will the Seahawks and their rookie QB Russell Wilson be able to win a big game on the road against the Redskins and their rookie QB Robert Griffin III? One thing is for sure, RGIII is the most popular Republican in the Nation's Capital these days. Speaking of genius - Pete Carroll and Mike Shanahan will be matching wits in that one.
The Vikings beat the Packers Sunday so that the Vikings could play the Packers next week. The Falcons have the top seed in the NFC but haven't won a playoff game in nearly nine years.
Then there are the 49ers, who beat New England two weeks ago and will be the likely winner at about 6:15 p.m. on Jan. 20 when the NFC title game concludes on Fox.
We have to get the disclaimers out of the way in the AFC. Yes, the Texans are indeed softer than Josh Beckett's belly, but they should be able to handle the Bengals at home next weekend. That leaves us with the expected rematch between New England and Houston in two weeks. While a 77-0 rout is possible, recent history offers a bit of caution. The Jets eliminated New England 28-21 in Foxborough during the AFC divisional round after the 2010 season just six weeks after the Patriots had dismantled Rex Ryan and Co. 45-3 at Gillette. The Texans have the talent to come into to New England and beat the Patriots in two weeks, it's unlikely they'll have the hearts or minds.
This year's Patriots' team, especially the defense, has solidified during the course of the season. Save for the first half and last couple of plays against the 49ers, New England's defense has incrementally improved each week - with the Patriots pulling players like undrafted free-agent Justin Francis (who had three sacks against the Dolphins and four tackles against the 49ers) out of the NFL ether. The hip injury to Rob Ninkovich looms as a threat, but the bye week might be enough for him to heal. Given the integrity of those injury reports coming out of Foxborough, no one will know for sure what Ninkovich's status is for sure until he's either inactive for the divisional playoff game, suits up or actually plays.
As far as the rest of the AFC, the Ravens present the greatest threat to a New England-Denver championship game because their defense is still laden with veteran stars. The Broncos handled Baltimore fairly easily two weeks ago, which may or may not matter if they play again in two weeks. (See Patriots-Jets-Texans above.) The most intriguing matchup this weekend will be the Ravens and Colts. The Ravens are all about the past on defense (Ed Reed, Ray Lewis, Ray Rice) while the Colts are all about the future on offense (Andrew Luck and next season Wes Welker ?). The comeback of Chuck Pagano was epic and awe-inspiring.
Finally, we get to the Patriots. New England is the most scrutinized and criticized 12-win team in the NFL. For the better part of the last two seasons, fans, media and even players have been keenly focused on everything that's wrong - starting with an inability to beat the Giants. Thankfully, the Giants won't be around to kick them anymore this season.
Then there are the haters. If things don't go up in smoke in Denver and the Patriots manage to win Super Bowl XLVII, the haters can still add asterisks for the PED suspensions and the fact that they didn't beat the Giants.
This season's No. 2 seeding and the all-important bye week that comes with it was a late and unexpected Christmas gift for the Patriots. Tom Brady is 35. Time is winding down on that fourth Super Bowl ring. This may be his last best shot. Even the likely visit to Denver is not an insurmountable obstacle on the road to New Orleans. Brady has been playing as angry as ever of late. And we learned that Rob Gronkowski's one arm was better than Miami's 22 arms Sunday. With a couple of weeks of practice and a warm-up game against the Texans, a Brady-led offense featuring a healthy Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd as receiving threats and either Stevan Ridley (assuming he doesn't fumble) or Frodo in the backfield, would be formidable even for Von Miller and Friends at home. 2013 may be the Year of the Hobbit indeed.
So as long as the defense plays as well as it has of late and Brady and the offense can play turnover-free football, establish the no-huddle earlier, not leave things up to the kicker and get out of the first quarter without having to play from behind, the playoff run should be a breeze.
Much easier said than done.
You might want to spark one up just in case.
What a day for football! Join us as we discuss what's happening and all the possibiities throughout the Patriots-Dolphins game.
That question has dogged the Patriots for the past 11 months. The Patriots took the easy way out when they franchised Welker for $9.515 million in 2012. The Patriot Way prevailed. The team figured the wide receiver had maxed out on his productivity. After all, last season, he caught 122 passes for 1,569 yards and nine touchdowns. Welker is going to fall short this season - just barely. Heading into Sunday's game against the Dolphins, Welker has only 110 catches for 1,260 yards and a measly five touchdowns.
But Welker's numbers are carrying as much impact this season as they have in any since he's been in New England. His presence on the team, as the resident wily veteran - even as Deion Branch and Donte' Stallworth move on and off the roster - and go-to guy for Tom Brady has increased his value beyond the mere matrix of the NFL salary cap. He's not so much a product of the system, as he is a main ingredient. This season, Welker became first NFL player in history with five 100-catch seasons. Marvin Harrison, Jerry Rice, and Brandon Marshall have four. He's also booked his fifth 100-catch, 1,000-plus yard receiving season in New England since his arrival in 2007, missing only 2010. Even during the Randy Moss era, Welker had more catches in the three full seasons they played together full-time (346-250), while Moss barely outdistanced Welker in overall yardage (3,765 to 3,688) due to his presence as the lone deep threat.
The most important number for Welker - aside from any figures he can put in the post-season or in the Super Bowl - is $11.418 million (or 120% of his current salary). That's the franchise-tag salary cap hit the Patriots would have to take if they decided to franchise Welker again this offseason. While that number on its own merits is quite menacing for a team that loves to put a low-end price tag on every position but the star quarterback, it's even larger when combined with the $22 million cap hit the Patriots will take courtesy of Brady thanks to his previously-restructured contract. Those two alone would account for roughly a quarter of the team's projected cap in 2013.
How un-Belichickian is that?
The Patriot Way, or more specifically everyone's way, is to remove all emotion and sentimentality from any and all contract negotiations. The notable exception was Tom Brady's most-recent contract extension, which came to a sudden conclusion the hours following Brady's auto accident and much-closer-call-than-we-all-want-to-think about on Commonwealth Ave., on Sept. 9, 2010. There's no doubt that Brady and the Patriots came to a halting realization about how much they both mean to each other and what would/will happen to the team once Brady is no longer playing quarterback on that day. While the contract was all-but-finalized before the accident and Brady had spoken the previous day about how he wanted to seize the day and take a "different approach" to life, the timing of his accident and closing of the deal were not simple coincidence.
If you look at the numbers, it makes little sense for the Patriots to either franchise Welker or try to outbid the likes of the Texans, Bengals, Colts (all of whom should have very able QBs and more than $20 million of available 2013 cap space) or perhaps even the Giants (assuming they don't re-sign Victor Cruz who is making a mere $540,000 this season). Slot receivers are plentiful and, as impressive as Welker's career has been in New England, his most notable post-season moment was his drop/non-catch/bad-Brady-pass that would have closed out New England's victory in Super Bowl XLVI. The monstrous chunk that a Brady and market-value-Welker would devour from the team's salary cap could be simply too much for this team to handle given its Moneyball-esque devotion to valuing positions as opposed to players.
There is always the option the team could re-sign Welker to a longer-term deal at a lower annual cost or offer him a deal structured to limit the cap impact until the Brady hit is lessened. But Welker got burned by the Patriots when he took his "#leapoffaith" and signed his tender on May 15 and followed it up with this infamous tweet:
I signed my tender today. I love the game and I love my teammates! Hopefully doing the right thing gets the right results. #leapoffaith— Wes Welker (@WesWelker) May 15, 2012
He might not be in the mood to do the team any favors when it comes to saving money.
Welker's role and future came into question earlier in the season after he had just eight catches in New England's first two games. He's 31 and his body is probably 50 in NFL years given the beating he endures each week. During the foolishness, reasonable people, talk show hosts and sports columnists pontificated on how he was being phased out and the Patriots had already moved on to the Brandon Lloyd Era. Things began rolling in Welker's favor in New England's loss to the Ravens in Week 3, when he had eight catches for 142 yards. He followed that up with nine receptions for 129 yards against the Bills, 13 balls for 104 yards against Denver and 10 catches for 138 yards at Seattle. Of course, the Patriots lost two of those games.
Welker's numbers have benefited from the absences of Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski, who have missed a combined 11 games this season due to injuries. Those two targets were each signed to long-term deals in the offseason, pushing Welker closer to the I-95 South exit at the end of this season.
With a healthy Gronkowski and Hernandez as long-term options for Brady, Welker's presence in New England is not the necessity that it might seem. There's only one ball, and both are more suitable choices over the long term, given their ages, and in the case of Gronkowski, his immense stature.
The flip side to this are those pesky intangibles - the seeming comfort that Brady finds in finding Welker at the most important times. To wit - during Sunday's struggle against the mighty Jaguars, Welker and Lloyd were each targeted a dozen times. Welker had 10 catches for 88 yards (Lloyd had six receptions). But when the game was in the balance and the Patriots were facing a third-and-goal from the 2 on the second play of the fourth quarter - it was Welker who slipped open on the right side, making the catch and barely extending his 5-foot-9 frame into the end zone.
More importantly for Welker, he's at the center of Brady's comfort zone. Time and time again, Brady goes to Welker when all else has failed. He's as much a last resort for Brady as a first target. Then there's that pass out to the flat, where Welker is often standing uncovered at the line of scrimmage and manages to pick up five or six yards after the catch. Brady and Welker connected on that for the 235,348th time on Sunday. And when the Patriots are successfully running their no-huddle offense, which they need to use more earlier and more often, Welker slides from left to right to inside to outside on each snap, leaving defenses wondering where he went from one play to the next. Brady and Welker have combined for 590 completions during their Patriots days.
Welker has been a money player for the Patriots in since his arrival from Miami in 2007. Whether he stays a Patriot will, in the end, come down to dollars and cents, as much as sense. If money is the issue, then he's gone. Super Bowl MVP Deion Branch (11 catches for 133 yards against the Eagles) and the Patriots had a messy divorce after the 2005 season. Before Branch was finally traded to the Seahawks in September of 2006, he held out during camp, filed a pair of grievances against the team and racked up $600,000 in fines. After the trade, the Patriots filed tampering charges against the Jets just for good measure.
There's another factor playing into the Welker contract situation. He's a married man this time around (he was engaged last May). Now those of us who have been married (23 years in my case) know anyone who is on the verge of testing the NFL free-agency market is not going to do it without the input of the Mrs. Patriots' fans should hope that Anna Burns really likes it the weather in New England and all those kind-hearted souls who (usually in silence) cheer on her husband at Gillette Stadium. There's no doubt he'll be able to earn more money elsewhere.
My wife always hated my mustache, until I put handle bars on it! #gamechanger— Wes Welker (@WesWelker) December 8, 2012
Who among the citizens of Patriot Nation would not want Welker back next season - at either the franchise tag price or under a longer-term deal? The trio of Hernandez, Gronkowski and Welker got the Patriots all the way to the Super Bowl. Having all three together healthy this time around might be the edge the Patriots would need to actually win the Super Bowl this time. Welker is a fan favorite because of his resiliency and his personality, which has slowly emerged each week during his sponsored post-game appearances on Comcast Sports New England.
But we're talking about the Patriots. And as Michael Corleone put it:
And business in Foxborough can get ugly at times.
Here are this week's rankings. Teams are listed with their records and last week's rankings. Join us for our in-game Patriots chat on Sunday starting at 4:15 p.m. and again on Monday afternoon for our look ahead at the NFL playoffs.FULL ENTRY
Best and Worst in Boston Sports for 2012: Gisele, the Red Sox, Bobby V. and the Negative 10th Player
2012 is down to its final days. But it’s not too late for our superlatives on the up and mostly downside of what was a tumultuous year in Boston sports.
To honor and dishonor those deserving teams and players, we’re happy to present out first annual Obnoxious Boston Fan Awards (or the Obbies) gallery right here on boston.com.
Take a stroll down the red carpet for a look at the winners and losers, with our MVP award presented at the end.
Patriots' fans already have their stockings stuffed with a decade-plus of Tom Brady's brilliance.
Brady has been the gift that keeps on giving to Patriots' fans. The Ghost of Christmas present - and presents - wears No. 12. He is the consummate all-around football player. If anyone had any doubts about Brady's "grit and balls" they weren't watching NBC Sunday night.
Even when Brady screws up, he's remains America's Alpha Dog. His left-shoulder-first, touchdown-saving "tackle" against Carlos Rogers, who picked off Brady's pass attempt to Wes Welker on the Patriots' third possession Sunday night, was just another example of Brady's football player toughness. All that eventually stood between the rumbling Rogers and then end zone was a diving, crack-blocking Brady. But the $72 million quarterback got Rogers to stumble while trying to elude him (At the 55-second mark). That play was huge because Delanie Walker fumbled two plays later.
It was the biggest defensive play of the night - at least until Devin "Look What I Found" McCourty's interception in the third quarter.
Brady made a few key offensive plays as well. Check the highlight reel here. The Patriots trailed 31-3 Sunday night. There are roughly 31 or so other teams in the league who would have called it quits in that situation - to wit the Texans who trailed 31-3 New England in the third quarter two weeks ago Monday night before mailing it in down the stretch. Brady and the Patriots didn't.
Yes, they lost 41-34 at home in December, their first Foxborough 12th Month loss in 10 years. Yes, they most likely blew a shot at home field and definite bye. Yes, Brady and the offense was horrid in the first half.
"We blew off 30 minutes of football," said Vince Wilfork.
And who wants to argue with Big Vince, especially if he hasn't eaten yet.
But, as Bill Belichick probably has said a few thousand times, you have to play 60 minutes of football. The notable exception being if it's the Super Bowl and you're losing to the Giants, you can walk off the field two seconds early. Looking at Sunday's game in its entirety - it was an epic effort by Brady. He threw the ball 65 times and amassed 443 yards passing, with 373 coming in the furious second-half comeback. The only other QB in the league who could engineer a comeback performance like that is Peyton Manning. Eli usually saves his epic rallies for smaller leads against the Patriots in Super Bowls.
There are no moral victories and no one is claiming one here, especially given the inaccurate assessment of the 49ers we shared heading into the game with Las Vegas oddsmakers, who made the Patriots 5 1/2-point favorites.
But seeing Brady play with blind fury down 28 points in a cold, rain Sunday reminded us for the second week in a row just how historically unique this guy really is. The most interesting man in the world doesn't sell Dos Equis, he throws footballs for the Patriots on Sundays. Is it any wonder why Brady is able to dump actresses to marry supermodels? It's because he can. From all accounts, he's a also great dad and a great baby daddy. Vivian, John and Benjamin - and their great-grandchildren's grand-children - shall want for nothing.
Brady can get us to buy Uggs, off-brand candy and even a Dodge Dart. The last Dodge Dart I rode in was built during the Nixon administration and lacked luxuries such as air conditioning, heat, and working seat belts.
And if looks are everything, then Brady has infinity.
The biggest knock on Brady is that he hasn't won a fourth Super Bowl. Comprehend that one for a second. Brady and Red Sox have each won the same number of championships - three - since 1917. Try to remember that the next time you want to change his first name and start it with an "f." And Brady's oft-repeated quote about his favorite championship - "the next one" - amply demonstrates all one needs to know about his football character.
The next time I hear one of those foolish - "Who would you rather have, Brady or 'Fill In The Blank'?" - scenarios posed on talk radio - I think I'll throw my smartphone at the television. Brady is 35. So anyone in their right mind building a team would rather have a 24-year-old Andrew Luck or 22-year-old RGIII. At 35, Brady doesn't play as smoothly or throw as sharp as he did at age 25. But is there another quarterback you'd want in the clutch - not counting Eli in Super Bowls against the Patriots.
While Eli and Ebenezer Coughlin have possession of Rings No. 4 and 5, Brady walked off the field in Super Bowl XLII with the lead with less than three minutes to play and left the field in Super Bowl XLVI with the lead and less than four minutes to play. He was so close to Mario Manningham during his somewhat miraculous reception on the Patriots' sideline in the final Giants' drive of Super Bowl XLVI that he called properly called the catch in-bounds as Belichick threw his futile red flag. If they only allowed a 12th man in.
The official OBF Game Day outfit includes of a Brady jersey purchased in 2002. But before you brush this assessment off as just idiotic, unabashed homerism (as opposed to just idiotic), check out any post I've written on the Red Sox since the dawn of this blog in September of 2011 or our postgame therapy session after Super Bowl XLVI. And excellence doesn't necessarily equate with perfection. Turnovers killed the Patriots Sunday night. And the Ghosts of Super Bowl pasts will debate the Brady-bad-throw vs. Welker-drop until the next Mayan Apocalypse in 3012.
Christmas season brings a time of reflection. And New England sports fans should take a minute or two to ponder and savor this era of Patriots' football and Brady's achievements.
His handsome face is firmly chiseled into the Mount Rushmore of Boston sports. The QB who breaks Brady's records with the Patriots probably hasn't been born yet. Unless he's named Benjamin Brady or John Edward Thomas Moynahan. Gisele has Vivian ticketed to be a wide receiver so someone with the right DNA will be able to "catch the ball."
The millions of Patriots fans who can't remember this team before the days of Brady will have no where to go but down - at least for a bridge year or two - once he retires or rides off to play for hometown Los Angeles Jaguars in 2015.
These are the good old days. Enjoy them while we can.
Those Christmas stockings full of coal might be closer than we think.
Patriots fans can also celebrate the holiday season with another AFC East title and at least one home playoff game, along with season-ending games against two of three worst NFL teams located in the state of Florida.
College and high school football has been a dominant species in this state since Steve Spurrier won his Heisman Trophy in 1966 with the "Boys from Old Florida." The NFL enjoyed its Florida heyday back in the early 1970s, thanks to the Dolphins and their back-to-back Super Bowls, and again around the turn of the new century, when the Bucs won their Super Bowl and the Jaguars put together several consecutive playoff appearances and peaked with a pair of AFC championship game losses - including one to your New England Patriots 16 years ago next month. The Jaguars beat New England 25-10 in the 1998 wild card playoffs, the Jaguars only victory against New England in nine games. The Patriots won, 28-3, in a 2005 Divisional Playoff game and 31-20 in a 2007 Divisional Playoff game en route to their 18-1 finish.
Things aren't so good these days in the Sunshine State. The Dolphins, Bucs and Jaguars are a combined 14-28 this season. The Patriots are spending Christmas weekend in North Florida and kick off against the Jaguars at Waffle House Stadium Sunday at 1. All seven Jaguars fans have the same Christmas wish - after celebrating the birth of Tim Tebow on Tuesday they hope the Jaguars sign him in the offseason. Christmas in North Florida isn't much different than Christmas in Alabama, Mississippi or Georgia. The Elvis Presley (kids, look him up on Google) version of "Blue Christmas" and the Alabama classic "Christmas in Dixie" come to mind.
It's not hard to see why Patriots' fans aren't jumping at the chance to head south for Christmas in Florida if it's Christmas in Jacksonville. Not even the people in Jacksonville want to spend Christmas in Jacksonville.
Here, kitty, kitty.
The Patriots should make quick work of the Jaguars Sunday.
Here's this week's poll. Teams are listed with their records and last week's rankings. And I promise not to underestimate the 49ers until they play the Patriots in the Super Bowl.
This week's game of the year kicks off at 8:20 p.m. So does the chat of the year.
Bring your own tats.
(Video) SNL: Children open with 'Silent Night', sing with McCartney; Samuel L. Jackson denies (some) profanity
This week's Christmas episode of "Saturday Night Live", hosted by former cast member Martin Short and set amid the back drop of the horrific shootings in Connecticut, provided a welcomed diversion to viewers still dealing with our national grief.
The show avoided any overt mention of the tragedy and instead chose to open with tribute to the fallen via a beautiful rendition of "Silent Night" performed by the New York City Children’s Chorus, with the refrain "Sleep in Heavenly Peace." They later joined scheduled singing guest Paul McCartney during "Wonderful Christmas Time."
After the screen faded to black, the entire chorus gleefully greeted viewers with the traditional "Live from New York, It's Saturday Night" opening.
Following that stirring opening with the singing children, things became decidedly adult.
(Caution: Video contains profanity - real and possibly imagined.)
McCartney singing wonderfully in tune at age 70 on live television and cameo appearances by Alec Baldwin, Tina Fey, Tom Hanks, Kristen Wiig, Carrie Brownstein and Jimmy Fallon were all knocked out of the potential big story spot as actor Samuel L. Jackson dropped what sure sounded like an accidental "f-bomb" during the live Eastern Time Zone broadcast.
Check out this clip of the broadcast posted on You Tube - which may or may not be up by the time you read this - and decide for yourself.
Jackson followed up with a definite "bulls--t" for good measure while he was participating in the return of the "What Up with That?" sketch featuring Kenan Thompson as the show's host.
Jackson claims he didn't say "f--k" but rather "fuh," adding that Thompson was supposed to cut him off with his second eruption, but ‘‘blew it!!’’
A special "K" indeed.
Minutes after the sketch aired - Jackson took to Twitter and told his 1.82 million-plus followers: "I only said FUH not F---K! K was sposed to cut off da BULLS--T, blew it!!"
Along with this "mea culpa" photo:
One thing is for sure, there's no doubt this week's episode was live. NBC didn't take any chances - the clip of the sketch it posted on the SNL website eliminated both the purported "fuh" and the no-doubt "bulls--t." The words don't appear at the 6:20 mark.
It was the first time in memory that Jackson apologized for his use of profanity - a staple in virtually all of his films and many of his tweets. He apologized for a tweet that voiced his displeasure over the fact that Hurricane Issac did not wreak havoc on the Republican National Convention in Tampa this past August.
Thompson, who managed to maintain his composure despite the live utterance of at least one of the "seven dirty words you can't say on television" immortalized by the late George Carlin (SNL's first-ever host) said: "Come on Sam...That cost us money."
The FCC's policy against obscenity and profanity, which allows fines for broadcasters when a single profanity blurted out on a live show or for brief nudity, was dealt a blow in a Supreme Court ruling this past July when the policy was ruled invalid because it had not been given a proper hearing.
So while it remains unclear whether NBC or its affiliates who unfortunately aired the impromptu boo-boo(s) will actually be fined, it's certain people will want to see a clip of what Jackson said. They might even want to see the children and McCartney sing, too.
Musician Paul Shaffer, another SNL alum, defected from "Late Night with David Letterman" for the night and joined Short in the opening number "It's The Most Lascivious Time of the Year."
McCartney sang "My Valentine," the song "Cut Me Some Slack" that he debuted with several former members of Nirvana during the 12-12-12 concert this past week and "Wonderful Christmas Time" with the children during his three featured spots.
The show offered holiday cheer in the form of a "A Tony Bennett Christmas" featuring Baldwin as Bennett, Short as Bennett's brother Jerry and a confused Kayne West (Jay Pharoah) who unwilling took part in a Ducolax laxative ad. "When you're in the dumps when you can't take a dump" was one of the slogans.
The comedic highlight of the show was a "You're a Rat Bastard Charlie Brown" filmed spot that featured an adult and bitter Charlie Brown (Bill Hader playing Al Pacino) dealing with some of the issues facing the Peanuts character in a big person's manner.
In another sketch, the Royal Family Doctor (Hader) was briefed on protocol on how to examine the Dutchess of Cambridge (formerly known as Kate Middleton) and was given specifics names on the allowable terms for her "lady parts" by an over-the-top Short which included "The Royal Ahem," "The Governess," "The King Maker," "Her Downton Abbey" and "The Chunnel," "Dame Judi Dench," "Her Thomas' English Muffin" and "Piccadilly Cervix." Camilla Parker Bowles didn't fare nearly as well.
Even "Weekend Update" skipped any mention of the Connecticut tragedy - fittingly so - but had plenty of zingers for the rest of the week's events - real and imagined. When reporting North Korea's missile launch, Seth Meyers said it wasn't known how leader Kim Jong-un celebrated but "cake" was in the mix. He added that during the series finale of "Jersey Shore" this week it will be revealed that the entire show was a "bad dream from a Meatball with syphilis." And noted in reporting about a Chinese dog that add figures that include fractions, "it was bad enough when our kids were only competing with Chinese children." It also featured a very funny Vanessa Bayer as Jacob - a 13-year-old boy reviewing his Bar Mitzvah and the "Girl You Wish You Hadn't Started a Conversation With at a Party."
The show returns live - or possibly on a five-second delay - on Jan. 19 with Jennifer Lawrence as host.
As always, let us know what you think. Join our in-game Patriots-49ers fan chat on Sunday at 8:20 p.m. Bring your own tats. Before the game, check out our Week 15 NFL Power Rankings to see where the No. 1 Patriots stand. Post your thoughts here, on our Obnoxious Boston Fan Facebook page or e-mail me email@example.com. And don't forget to follow us on Twitter @realOBF.
The New England Patriots are back atop the NFL - at least when it comes to this week's NFL Power Rankings. We've brought back our "Darth Belichick" illustration last seen on these pages a day before Super Bowl XLVI to celebrate.
They've been around for 50-something years, but New England's AFL/NFL team hasn't been any better than it is right now, or at least since Rodney Harrison was flapping his wings and running up field at what used to be called All-tel Stadium in Jacksonville back in February 2005. That was seven years ago.
Sometimes hard to believe that was the last time this team won a Super Bowl. New England has gone a mind-bogggling 96-29 in the regular season with seven AFC titles since that 24-21 victory over the Eagles. And Patriots fans have only booed Adam Vinatieri twice - still can't figure out that one.
Now there are three events that have occurred since that Super Bowl win that, on their own, have prevented the Patriots from winning three more NFL titles. Every school child in New England knows them like he/she knows the Pledge of Allegiance or the fact that Paul Revere warned our ancestors that the British were coming and Bernie and Phyl's was having a blowout Patriots Day sale.
- The 38-34 loss to the Colts in the 2006 AFC title game after the Pats had a 21-3 lead. That game was lowlighted by an infamous three-and-out that gave the Colts the ball back with 2:17 to play trailing 34-31 and Brady's final pass on a first-and-10 with 24 seconds to play from the Colts' 45, which was intercepted by Marlin Jackson.
- David Tyree's catch in Super Bowl in XLII.
- Wes Welker's non-catch in Super Bowl XLVI.
Reverse them and the Patriots are - at least in 99% likelihood - five-time NFL champions in the span of 11 seasons. That's Ruth-DiMaggio-Mantle Yankees territory, Russell-Celtics territory, Wooden-UCLA territory, Richard-Béliveau Canadiens or Nick Saban-Alabama territory. The January 2007 loss in Indianapolis - the same city but different venue that brought us Super Bowl XLVI - literally did not cost the Patriots a Lombardi Trophy, but there's little doubt the Patriots would have anihilated the Bears in the rain and slop of Jimmy Buffett Stadium in South Florida during the snoozefest that was Super Bowl XLI.
Debate continues to rage over whether or not it was more a Welker non-catch or a Brady bad pass. Still, Welker could have caught therefore he should have caught the ball. It remains in many minds a major reason why he was not given that long-term deal he sought in the offseason. When Manning had connected with Mario Manningham to ignite the Giants' final scoring drive, Patriots' fans everywhere knew this one was already slipping away because there was no faith in the defense. That M&M catch, as spectacular as it was in compared the craptacular Welker-Brady miss, was after-the-fact when it came to determining Super Bowl XLVI's outcome.
Those losses are all that stand between Bill Belichick and complete intergalactic domination not seen since the days of the Lord Vader's mastery of the Dark Side.
Unfortunately, Obi-Wan Coughlin and Eli Skywalker blew up the Death Star twice.
Emperor Robert Palpatine didn't take it well:
Who knew he liked Cherry Coke?
This fact was reintroduced to us Monday night as the Patriots castrated the longhorns from Houston during the "Tom Brady Video Passing Clinic" which was broadcast on ESPN. Houston indeed did have a problem - namely Brady and the Patriots' defense. It was the Patriots' defense that actually ran up the score in Monday's 42-14 beatdown. While the Patriots' offense slowed down in the second and fourth quarters, the defense never let up and continued to pressure and pound anyone who dared touch the ball for the Texans.
The defensive domination started early as the Patriots forced the Texans to go for it on two fourth-down chances in the second quarter - stopping them on both tries thanks to a Kevin Walter drop and an errant pass thrown by Matt Schaub courtesy of Jerod Mayo.
”Obviously, we came into this game with a chip on our shoulders, everyone talking about the Houston Texans," Mayo said after Monday's victory. Meanwhile the Texans were turned into a pile of cow chips.
What else would expect from Brady and Belichick in the month of December? There is not a nine-year-old kid in New England who has seen the Patriots lose a home game in the 12th month of the year unless he was playing Madden 2012 on his Xbox.
The 49ers are supposed to offer the Patriots a real challenge this week. After hearing a week of how much pressure the Texans were going to put on Brady and how their high-powered Andre Johnson/Arian Foster offense was going to rumble through the Patriots' defense. What makes this year's version of the Patriots so formidable is that their defense shut down and shut up the Texans, a very legitimate offensive threat. The Texans rank sixth overall in the NFL (384.5 yards) and fourth in points (28.1 per game) after Monday's mauling. These were not cupcakes or the 2011 Indianapolis Colts, Redskins, Dolphins, Broncos or Bills - all teams last year's Super Bowl losers beat down the stretch heading into the playoffs.
Watching Monday night, once came to the realization the Belichick acquired Aqib Talib, Adderall and all, for the simple task of shutting down Johnson in Week 14 (and possibly the playoffs). The fact that Talib will be around to go one-on-one against the likes of Randy Moss this week and possibly Denver's Demaryius Thomas in the playoffs is an added bonus.
Colin Kaepernick allegedly presents a more dynamic threat than Schaub by the simple fact he can run the ball. To wit his 50-yard touchdown dash against the Dolphins in the closing moments last week. The 49ers are coached by a Harbaugh. John's Ravens beat the Patriots in Week 3 of the season. Certainly he gave Jim some tips on how to get the refs - regular and not replacement this time - to call 24 penalties on the Patriots and get them to call a last-second field goal "good" even if it missed the right upright.
The 49ers are good, but they're not the Giants, who have beaten the 49ers three times in the past 13 months. And the simple solution of "pressuring Brady to beat the Patriots" becomes more and more complicated as the running game grows on the legs of Stevan Ridley (1,082 yards on 243 carries this season and 10 TDs), Shane Vereen, and everybody's favorite Hobbit - Danny Woodhead, who seems to have his two or three carries a game at the most important times. Every time he touches the ball it's an unexpected journey.
If Andrew Luck and the Colts can continue their winning ways against the Texans this week, the Patriots will have an open door into the top seed in the AFC and home field throughout the playoffs.
Von Miller, Peyton Manning and the Broncos are formidable and are playing as well as the Patriots. But John Fox is no Belichick (see Super Bowl XXXVIII) and these ponies would likely have to gallop to Foxborough in the postseason. Manning's record in Foxborough during the month January is not worth two free Papa John's pizzas.
Unless they run into the Giants again in New Orleans in February, it appears the Patriots and Belichick will not have any rebels standing in their way on the road back to imperial dominance.
God bless the children everywhere and everyone in Newtown affected by Friday's shooting. The NFL will have a moment of silence before each game this week in honor of the victims. We will take one here as well ...
Our in-game chat kicks off at 8:15 p.m.
Monday nights used to be horrible for the New England Patriots back in the day. The "Boomtown Rats" didn't have Patriots in mind when they sang "Tell my why I don't like Mondays," it just seemed that way. By the end of the 1980s, the Patriots were a combined 4-14 on "Monday Night Football."
But one night 32 years ago, the Patriots were verge of a rare Monday Night victory on the second Monday in December and an end to the Orange Bowl losing streak that had dogged the team since the Lyndon Johnson administration.
John Smith, no doubt fueled by his Weetabix, jogged onto the well-trod turf in Miami with the score 13-13 and just three seconds left in the game on Dec. 8, 1980, to attempt a field goal from the 18-yard line. Smith was – at the time – a rarity in the NFL - a soccer-style, left-footed kicker who for some strange reason approached the ball from an angle before attempting to boot it through the uprights.
Back in the day, “Monday Night Football” was appointment television. Frank Gifford, Howard Cosell and – at for a few years – Don Meredith. (Fran Tarkenton was in the booth with Coselll in Gifford that night in 1980). When Cosell, Gifford and Meredith were calling the action, Monday Night Football was as good as we remember and your parents tell you it was. As parochial as Boston sports fans are – even for those us who live in places like Florida the pro sports world ends at the intersection of I-495 and I-95 in Foxborough – "Monday Night Football" was worth watching no matter what teams were playing.
Most of us at the time in Boston Suburbia had three regular channels – 4, 5 and 7 – plus PBS on Channel 2, and the classics like “Hogan’s Heroes” and “Three Stooges” airing on Channel 38 the “Brady Bunch” and “Creature Double Feature” on Channel 56. Once in a while, depending on where you lived and how you turned the roof-top antenna, you could get Channels 6, 10 or 12 from Providence, Channel 27 from Worcester or Channel 9 from New Hampshire.
During the NFL season if the Patriots had won or lost a notable game, Monday night viewers might get a highlight from the previous day’s Patriots’ game or mention during Cosell’s half-time recap. In 1980, ESPN was all of one year old and cable TV was nonexistent in my hometown and only just being introduced to most folks. “Live streaming” meant that it had rained and that brook in the woods near your house was still running and hadn’t frozen over.
Kids, you truly are spoiled when it comes the Patriots. Back in the Dark Ages (see the years before Brady/Belichick and Parcells/Bledsoe), the Patriots were routinely blacked out when they played a home and hardly ever on “national TV” – which meant being on Monday night. Patriots' fans had hit Monday night paydirt in 1980, being on three times. The Pats beat the Broncos at Schaefer Stadium on Sept. 29 before losing to the Oilers in the Astrodome 38-34 in epic Patriot fashion on Nov. 10. This was a world where you’d be lucky to see eight or nine Patriots games on TV each year and highlights were limited to what you’d get from the likes of sports anchors like Bob Lobel, Len Berman or Don Gillis during their nightly reports.
That 25-inch color TV your dad bought at Lechmere or Zayre was pretty cutting edge, as was the suitcase sized VCR that perpetually blinked 12:00 A.M. and taped “MASH” while you were watching "Monday Night Football" or “Three’s Company” when you could not be home on Tuesday nights.
While Super Bowls were drawing millions of viewers and sporting events from around the world had been brought into our homes “live via satellite” for more than 15 years, 1980 was still a year that brought us the United States’ victory over the Soviet Union in the Winter Olympics semifinal game on a tape-delayed broadcast. (I guess some things never change.) Someday the Olympics might actually return to live television. Do you believe in miracles?
Back to the Orange Bowl that Monday night in December of 1980. As Smith prepared to boot the Patriots to victory, Gifford and Cosell learned from Roone Arledge via ABC News that Lennon had been killed. Cosell and Gifford discussed during a commercial break whether or not to inform the viewing audience about what happened. "I can't see this game situation allowing for that newsflash. Can you?" Cosell asked. "Absolutely. I can see it...If we know it, we've got to do it..It's a tragic moment and it's going to shake up the whole world," Gifford replied.
With that, the decision to announce history during the Patriots-Dolphins game, was made.
Back on the air, Gifford resumed the broadcast:
"...John Smith is on the line. And I don't care what's on the line, Howard, you have got to say what we know in the booth," Gifford said.
Then Cosell took over:
"Yes, we have to say it. Remember this is just a football game, no matter who wins or loses. An unspeakable tragedy confirmed to us by ABC News in New York City: John Lennon, outside of his apartment building on the West Side of New York City. The most famous perhaps, of all of The Beatles, shot twice in the back, rushed to Roosevelt Hospital. Dead on arrival. Hard to go back to the game after that news flash, which, in duty bound, we have to take. Frank?" And Gifford's response: "...Indeed, it is."
Those words hit my 15-year-old ears with all the impact of a Terry O'Reilly left-cross.
Watching on TV, no one had any idea if the players or fans in Miami knew what had happened (they did not). Again, this was pre-cellphone, text message, stadium JumboTron, Twitter, Facebook or commercial internet. And no public announcement concerning Lennon had been made since the news had just broken.
Smith's kick was blocked and it was overtime at the Orange Bowl.
To no one’s surprise – at least in New England – the Dolphins scored on their first possession in overtime on Uwe von Schamann's 23-yard field goal.
Dolphins 16, Patriots 13.
Lennon was dead and the Patriots had lost. No perspective needed, even for a young, obnoxious Boston fan. The Patriots losing big games late in the season was nothing new. From 1976 to 1980 - the Patriots under Chuck Fairbanks and Ron Erhardt went 50-26 but never won a playoff game. Watching that Monday night game from Miami there was no doubt in many minds they were going to somehow lose, it although there was hope as Smith warmed up and ABC went to commercial break with three seconds left and the game on the line.
It was only when ABC came back after commercial that all hell broke loose upon anyone who loved the Beatles, Lennon, or his music. No one's nightmare could conjure up what Cosell was going to say when he and Gifford interrupted the Patriots game to bring us the real world.
The kick, block and Patriots' loss were numbed by Cosell's announcement. As time passed, that Patriots’ game became the backdrop to the nation’s recollection of Lennon’s death. A historic footnote in so many ways. Smith was the lone Englishman in the NFL in 1980 and, like so many of his generation, grew up idolizing Lennon in the Beatles. Lennon's death forever intertwined with his missed kick last seen heading into the Dolphins' line.
It wasn't the first time - even in 1980 - that the game became secondary to the circumstances that surrounded it. Team USA's victory over the Soviets at Lake Placid -and the ensuing gold medal over Finland - was the cosmic opposite of Lennon's death in terms of emotion and positive impact. Cosell's announcement and its unavoidable timing was something unique to those watching live on TV, as opposed to the people in the stadium or even listening to the game on the radio (some with the TV volume turned down to mute Cosell whenever he was calling their local team's game.) Even the fans who watched the Americans beat the Soviets in person had more than enough time to head back to their hotels or the nearest bar to watch the tape-delayed broadcast. Both of those events in the same year were all the learning curve required to allow fans of my generation to grow up knowing that the games never matter as much as we think they do, win or lose.
Cosell, who loved taking the spotlight during the biggest athletic events to tell us how we should not worship those in the spotlight during big athletic events, appeared with Lennon on "Monday Night Football" on Dec. 9, 1974 - almost exactly six years earlier to the day of his death. In the clip, Lennon says the spectacle of the NFL "makes rock concerts look like tea parties," makes a detailed comparison between football and rugby and, when Cosell asks about a Beatles reunion answers with simply: "You never know."
A good chunk of the rest of America learned about Lennon's death when NBC interrupted Johnny Carson's monologue on "The Tonight Show" with the breaking news of the shooting outside The Dakota on Manhattan.
Lennon's music is as popular with my 19-year-old son (today is his birthday, by the way) as it was with his 15-year-old dad back in 1980 or any teen-ager who was listening to WRKO-AM or WBCN-FM when "Monday Night Football" debuted back in 1970. Lennon's impact on society and lives of people depends much on one's perspective, politics and, for some, even religious beliefs. Lennon's death was an undisputed tragedy that came to so many of us at the tail end of what would become just another football game.
New England's stumble in Miami on that second Monday night in 1980 eventually cost the 10-6 Patriots a shot at the AFC East title and a playoff spot. The loss to Dolphins was another in a long line of Monday night debacles that dogged the Patriots for years. Things have been much better for the Patriots on Monday nights, as they have been every other day of the week, since the arrival of Tom Brady, who is 12-4 in his 16 Monday night starts winning his last four. He’s averaged 276.2 passing yards per game with 37 TDs and 14 INTs. Overall, the Patriots are 10-1 in their last 11 Monday night games. Bill Belichick is 44-7 (.863) in December with New England, the best record in December among head coaches with one team in NFL history (min. 25 games).
Last season, the Patriots won their two Monday night games by a combined score of 73-27 and Vivian's dad threw for 5,324,554,767,438 (or maybe it was only 517) yards against the Dolphins in the 2011 MNF season opener.
Tonight, the Patriots will face the Texans in the toughest test of the season for both teams. With a win tonight, the Patriots will amazingly even their all-time Monday night record at 22-22. And it's everyone's hope that this Patriots game on the second Monday night of 2012 lives on for what happens on the field and nothing else.
As always, let us know what you think. Join our in-game Patriots-Texans fan chat on Monday at 8:15 p.m. Post your thoughts here, on our Obnoxious Boston Fan Facebook page or e-mail me firstname.lastname@example.org. And don't forget to follow us on Twitter @realOBF.
The NFL began the week reeling in the wake of Kansas City linebacker Javon Belcher's murder of Kasandra Perkins - the mother of his child - and his public suicide in the presence of coach Romeo Crennel, GM Scott Pioli, linebackers coach Gary Gibbs and police.
Perkins, who has been forgotten in all the post-shooting finger-pointing and memorials to Belcher, was laid to rest on Thursday in Texas. One of Belcher's cousins summed up the feelings of so many by saying her family was "overwhelmed with both sadness and confusion." (There was a second service for her on Saturday attended by several members of the Chiefs.)
Earlier Saturday, nose tackle Josh Brent of the Cowboys was arrested for intoxication manslaughter after a one-vehicle accident that killed teammate Jerry Brown.
All that was sandwiched around the news on Friday that Tom Brady and supermodel wife Gisele Bundchen welcomed a daughter into the world.
Bundchen gave birth to Vivian Lake on Wednesday, and shared the news on her Facebook page with this post:
"We feel so lucky to have been able to experience the miracle of birth once again and are forever grateful for the opportunity to be the parents of another little angel. Vivian Lake was born at home on December 5. She is healthy and full of life. Thank you all for your support and well wishes. We wish you and your families many blessings."
Vivian Lake Brady will likely grow up with the love of two adoring parents who, from all appearances and reports, appear to be in a happy, healthy, stable and loving relationship. We're not sure if Gisele is still angry at those receivers who "can't catch the ball" and rumors that she was cursing Wes Welker in Portuguese throughout her labor cannot be confirmed. One never knows for sure how any couple is doing outside our relationships - remember Tiger and Elin's model marriage - but it's certain we'd hear more about a public figure cheating on his or her spouse or committing some sort of crime than we would know about something our next door neighbor did.
Three-month-old Zoey Belcher, meanwhile, is an orphan. She will be provided for by the NFL financially. Zoey, who is being cared for by Jovan Belcher's mother, will benefit from the NFL's collective bargaining agreement - which allows her guardian or estate to receive $109,000 a year for four years, before receiving $48,000 in year five and then $52,000 per year until she turns 18 or 23, if she attends college.
Money is important, but the loss of her two parents carries a price tag none of us can imagine. God willing, little Zoey will grow up with nothing but love from her grandmother and those who are lucky enough to care for her. It's a blessing that she'll only hear about what happened to her parents through the filter of others and history and not through first-hand experience. And her caregivers will hopefully have the benefit of trained counselors and others in helping them educate the child about what happened to her parents and why.
To say Belcher failed as a father - despite the financial legacy left by the fine print in his NFL contract - is a catastrophic understatement. Simply put, he is a murderer. The headline: "Drug-addict kills mother of his child, self" applies here like it would in any other killing at the bottom of Page 2B of your local newspaper. (Kids: Google "newspaper" in case you've never seen one.) The fact that Belcher chose to take his own life - and traumatize so many others by doing so - does not mitigate what he did to Perkins and to his own daughter by making her an orphan by his own hand.
And the ensuing debate over gun control triggered by the likes of Jason Whitlock and Bob Costas gave the NFL some much appreciated cover by obscuring the fact that the league has a rampant substance abuse problem - not only manifested by the 26-and-counting PED suspensions handed out this year but amplified by the fact that so many players like Belcher are wrestling with pain-killers, alcohol and other drugs that fall outside any list of banned substances.
In June 2009 when he was still in college, Brent, who is being held without bond, pleaded guilty to DUI and was sentenced to 60 days in jail, two years of probation, 200 hours of community service and fined about $2,000. Don't hold your breath for the NFL to use Saturday's crash as a call to greater action on alcohol abuse.
Here's the bottom line: the NFL has had two players (and a player's girlfriend) killed in the past week at the hand of NFL players. The constant in each case was not the weapon but the presence of drug/alcohol abuse.
Many of the illicit drugs players take can and do work for millions of people, but only when managed by trained medical personnel. Belcher's situation was the perfect storm of someone with anger issues documented back to high school, the long-term mental effects of head trauma after years in the NFL, abuse of alcohol and pain-killers without a doctor's supervision, jealously, anger, rage and a loaded gun.
NASCAR these days is certainly less dangerous for its participants than the NFL. I'd certainly feel safer strapped in the passenger side of Jimmie Johnson's Chevy than I would in the Patriots' backfield Monday night when the Texans call for a blitz on 3rd-and-8. Major injures are a rare occurrence on the stock car circuit. Most of the time drivers walk away from crashes at speeds of 160 MPH and up. Not a single Winston/Sprint Cup driver has died on the track since Feb. 18, 2001. But NASCAR didn't get truly, truly serious about driver safety (by mandating the use of the HANS head-and-neck restraint which had been around for 15 years and using SAFER soft walls) until after the death of perhaps its second-greatest driver, Dale Earnhardt.
Sadly, it appears the NFL is letting Belcher's suicide and Perkins' murder pass as a lone tragic incident and another example of out of control gun violence instead of using it as an imperative to get serious about substance abuse in the league at all levels.
Much consideration has been given to the means of violence used by Belcher against Perkins and himself and not the act of violence or mindset/lack-thereof that caused him to pull the trigger nine times when the gun was pointed at Perkins and once when it was pointed at himself. The broader issue of gun control isn't going to be addressed here - as a rule we avoid political or partisan discussions in this space and try not to take ourselves too seriously - but the problem of substance abuse and its potential lethal combination with long-term head trauma in the NFL is relevant because that's something that the league can actually control, once it acknowledges there is a problem.
And it's not unreasonable to assert, despite what Whitlock and Costas said, that Perkins would indeed be dead had Belcher had not possessed a gun. The jealousy, rage and anger that allowed him to pull the trigger nine times in this particular case would have no doubt propelled the 6-foot-2, 228-pound, physically-perfected Belcher to stab her 19 times with the nearest carving knife or beat her to death with his fists had he chosen to attack her in that fashion.
Belcher's suicide spared the citizens of Kansas City from a murder trial that would have no doubt brought into question his mental state at the time of Perkins' murder and the fact that his unstable condition was brought about by a series of issues, including drug abuse, that were allowed and possibly even promoted by his status as an NFL player. That is the last thing the NFL would have wanted. There's always the possibility of a civil lawsuit from Perkins' family that could be filed against Belcher's estate which could go down these avenues in open court. And since the objective in any civil suit is to go after the deep pockets, it's not going to take John Adams, Denny Crane or James Sokolove to see that the NFL and Chiefs might be potentially on the hook for liability here.
This story clearly has only just begun unfold, along with the lives of young Zoey and Vivian.
Time to focus back on the postitive. Vivian is Brady's second child with Gisele. They have an older son, Benjamin, who turned three Saturday. Brady has a 5-year-old son, John, with his ex-girlfriend Bridget Moynahan, who revealed she was pregnant shortly after the couple split and he started dating Bundchen. Brady said his daughter is going to be an athlete. If that doesn't work out, she's a shoo-in for the cover of Sports Illustrated's swim suit issue in 2032.
Brady, from all accounts, appears to be a caring father for all his children and has a civil relationship with Moynahan as they work to successfully co-parent John. There's no doubt that if Brady fell one red cent behind in any child support it would be front-page news on every blog and website from aol.com to Yahoo!
It's certain Brady will be rested and ready for the Texans on Monday night in what will be the game of the year thus far for both teams.
Congratulations to him, his wife and their growing family.
And may Zoey live a life of peace that her parents never knew.
Time for this week's rankings. Teams are listed with their current records and ranking last week.FULL ENTRY
The Red Sox have plenty of seats available for the 2013 season. Tickets aren't going so fast. (OBF Photos)
We've gone from Carl Crawford to Mike Napoli in two short years.
They're making progress on Yawkey Way.
Small Ball Red Sox style.
The Red Sox landed their most-coveted free-agent prize of the offseason by signing Napoli, the former Texas catcher/first baseman who did nothing but torment them at Fenway Park.
Our Father's Red Sox are back with a vengeance. Gone are the expectations of the "Greatest Team of All Time" and the foolishness of acquisitions like John Lackey, Dice-K, Crawford and any other unworthy big-money name that would feed the Monster.
There's a new reality on Yawkey Way as the Red Sox look to extend their fictional sell-out streak. The primacy the Red Sox occupied in the offseason in these parts has been obliterated by their Stalingrad-esque demise since Sept. 1, 2011. Last offseason, the Hot Stove burned with the ferocity of Krypton on its final day. Bobby Valentine was brought in to save the franchise from itself. Even as Jonathan Papelbon Riverdanced off to Philadelphia, the Red Sox were all the rage, in every sense of the word. The Red Sox put select tickets on sale Saturday and hosted their annual Christmas at Fenway event. Missed it myself by a week or so - you can enjoy the photos of my recent visit to Fenway sprinkled throughout this post - but apparently I wasn't alone. Word has it that this didn't go as well as hoped. By the way, the Fenway Park Tour ($11) is a must for any Red Sox fan, not just the Pink Hatted types. It was an interesting experience to tour the place while it was nearly empty. It somehow appears to shrink in the cold weather like so many other things.
The Red Sox' sellout streak is suspect, to put it in diplomatic terms. Sunday, a day after some 2013 tickets went on sale, I got an e-mail telling me that "select September games" were available. Meanwhile, Opening Day has always been a packed affair. As of Tuesday morning, you could still get two pretty decent seats - Grandstand Section 31 (left field), Row 17 Seats 13 and 14 - in the Opening Day Sox Pax, which also includes tickets for the May 9 game against the Twins, the May 23 game against Terry Francona and his Indians and the Sept. 3 game against the American League champion Tigers. Total cost - $208 plus fees per ticket. That's just $52 a game (thank you Arlington Public School system). Not a bad deal, especially considering Opening Day is in the mix and you're not sitting in the Dunkin' Dugout in Copley Square.
That's all the evidence you need to know that Red Sox tickets aren't exactly the hot item on everyone's Christmas list. Fans are burnt out on the Red Sox after expending everyone conceivable emotion but happiness in 2012. It seems we all need a break from the Sox and everything to do with them - at least until Truck Day or until they manage to get some pitching.
Jonny Gomes, 32, is being brought in to play right field and hopefully help fix what ails the clubhouse. Again, he's a right-handed hitter. Didn't know they still made those these days. He can hit with power, works the count and knows both the Red Sox and most of the A.L. East. Here's another attitude you can't help but love. Gomes considers Boston “the Mecca of baseball" and will come not come to town with the Crawford "Deer In the Headlights Look" or the "It's God's Will" apathy of Adrian "Fan Cave" Gonzalez.
When it comes to the Red Sox, Gomes is like the rest of us and sees nowhere to go but up, telling the Globe: "I know the core guys of the Red Sox ... The Red Sox are going to play with the biggest chip on their shoulder. I would be honored and love to bring back the fire to the Nation. Me being a historian of the game and a fan of the game, it was a pretty easy decision to call Fenway home ... I always say I represent the grease that runs the machine, not the machine. I represent the foundation, not the star at the top.”
Where has this guy been all our lives - or at least since 2007?
The hits kept on coming Tuesday with the signing of Shane Victorino - another 3-year, $37.5 million special at the Winter Meetings. The switch-hitting outfielder hit .255 with 11 homers and 55 RBIs for the Phillies and Dodgers last season and could be the 5th No. 5 hitter in the Red Sox lineup. His most important role will be as safety value for Jacoby Ellsbury if/when the center fielder gets hurt and/or traded. The Red Sox payroll sits at about $120 million right now with this deal, and there's a bit more room to go. Last year's payroll averaged about $180 million - depending on whether or not Josh Beckett was being thrown out from right field in Los Angeles.
R.A. Dickey - the 38-year-old Cy Young Award winning knuckleballer - is being shopped around by the Mets and the Red Sox are interested, along with at least seven other teams. More good news on Yawkey Way, especially if the cost is only Jarrod Saltalamacchia or Ryan Lavarnway. The Mets reportedly wanted "top prospects" Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley, Jr. in return, a price too high for Boston. And right-handed pitcher and free-agent Brandon McCarthy, late the A's, is also being pursued by the Red Sox. McCarthy's 2012 season ended after he was hit in the head with a comeback line-drive on Sept. 5 and required brain surgery. He has a 17-15 record and 3.29 ERA with Oakland over the past two seasons. One could argue you might need brain surgery if you were a free-agent pitcher and wanted to sign with the Red Sox considering their dysfunction and performance during the past 15 months. But the Red Sox are in a position to outbid anyone for anyone's services, should they desire.
Here's the next potential No. 2 or 3 starter of the Red Sox on Twitter:
Just snuck outside to do a fart that sounded like a whale sighing. Now I'm ready for dessert.— Brandon McCarthy (@BMcCarthy32) November 23, 2012
Gotta love this guy already. Check out his Twitter bio: "I pitch baseballs. I love Liverpool and LSU football. Those are different footballs but I'm not explaining the difference. My wife says to say that I'm married." Liverpool. Sounds like the Red Sox may have their man. Wonder what he thinks of Roush-Fenway Racing and LeBron James?
Ben Cherington and John Farrell can only do so much. (That's Yours Truly sitting in the old Bullpen Hat Cart, not Cherington.) The Red Sox would be foolish to blow a majority of $250 million or so saved by the Great Salary Dump/Organ Transplant of 2012 on any free-agent available right now. Their best hope is to build around what's leftover from their last-place finish, with addition of Gomes, Victorino and Napoli and the return of David Oritz, and proceed accordingly.
Right now, the cornerstone of this entire organization - at least in terms of on-field performance - will be - heaven help us - John Lackey. Starting pitching was the problem in 2012 and remains the challenge for 2013.
If Twin Fister can return and provide 200 productive innings, 15 wins and keep his ERA below 5.00, the Red Sox might indeed contend for that elusive second wildcard. Those might seem like crazy or unattainable numbers, but Lackey might surprise, especially if Farrell can somehow motivate him to perform. Perhaps the combination of making his life a living hell here and the lure of returning to the West Coast (where his Newport Beach, Calif., estate is currently for sale for $10 million) might be enough to get him to pitch well enough to increase his trade value. He's certainly exceeded expectations on the downside since his arrival in Boston.
Talk of trading Jon Lester for Royals' phenom Will Myers has excited the Sabremetrics crowd. The Red Sox lost 93 games last season, so no one is immune to consideration. But the need, as always, remains pitching and giving up even Lester demands some plan to pick up at least his starts and innings in return. If Lester can be dealt for Myers and replaced on the back end with someone capable of at least getting through the season with a winning record (see McCarthy above), then a deal like that would make sense for the Red Sox. Getting a lefty in that spot would be an added bonus.
Napoli was the coveted prize and the Red Sox got him, and got him on terms they wanted - namely three years at $39 million. There's a lot to like about Napoli's presence on the Red Sox, namely the fact that he won't be hitting against the Red Sox and he will be batting from the right side of the plate. Since the start of 2011, Napoli has a .379 on-base percentage and .553 slugging percentage and 54 home runs. He was also Lackey's former battery-mate in Anaheim, another important reason why he's such a good fit for the 2013 Red Sox. And at Fenway, he's a regular Jim Rice. In his 73 plate appearances at America's Ballpark, he's hit .306 with a .397 on-base percentage and a .710 slugging percentage — for a 1.107 OPS. That's gotta be better than porn for the likes of Bill James.
Let's see...Valentine is gone, Farrell is here, Ortiz is in the fold, Victorino is ready to step in for Ellsbury, Gomes will straighten out the clubhouse, Napoli is coming to Fenway full-time to crush Yankees pitching, the team is actively pursuing more pitching and there hasn't been any Lackey "beer-in-each-hand-sightings" since August.
Fourth-place is so close you can almost smell it, even if the pitching still stinks.
So far, so good in the offseason for the Red Sox.
In case you didn't notice, you're not alone.
Hey, wonder if that Opening Day Sox Pax is still available?
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