"Pardon me, sir. You, Mr. Quarterback. Hello . . . "
Philip Rivers, turning toward the stands at Gillette Stadium, jabs a thumb into his own chest and asks, "Are you talking to me?"
"Yeah, over here, in Seat 15. I was wondering, what happened on that last throw? It was awful."
"Give me a break," says Rivers. "It's cold and they disguised their coverage. I didn't anticipate the safety moving in like that."
"Hey, Philip, over here. It's Mark from Meffa. Longtime fan, first-time talker to a quarterback right in the middle of a game."
"Maybe for you it is. I do it all the time," says Rivers.
"Well maybe you should stop doing it," says coach Norv Turner, turning from the action on the field. "Get over here and watch the game."
"Hey, pal, before you go. You do me a favor?" says a guy two seats down from Mark from Medford. "You slip my name and number to that cheerleader, the really hot one, third from the end?"
"I can't do that," says Rivers.
"Brady would do it, I bet."
"That's cuz Brady is God," says another fan in the second row. "Bird was God. So was Yaz and so was Orr."
"And the Cooz," says another fan. "He was God."
"Russ, too. Don't forget Russell," says another fan. "He was God with more rings than anyone."
"What about Willoughby? He could have been God, too, but Darrell Johnson pinch hit for him."
"Sorry, but I don't know any of those gentlemen," says Rivers. "I'm not from around here."
"So where did you pahk your cah?"
"I didn't. We took a bus in from Providence," says Rivers.
"Providence is OK," says another fan. "Long as you didn't come in from Nooyawk. That's the pits. Just make sure your driver bangs a U-ee on Route 1 after the game or you'll be lost."
"U-ee? I don't understand," says Rivers.
"He means a U-turn," says Turner. "We need to head the other way after the game. South, we have to go south. But we can discuss that later. Please, get back to the game."
"I know a place in Providence that makes great chowda," says another fan.
"Motheragawd, you sending him to Providence for chowda?" says another fan. "You nuts? They should go to the No Name - or how about right up the street to the Red Wing for some clams. Gotta have the clams."
"I don't eat the bellies, though," says Rivers. "I'm a clam strip guy."
"Wimp," says another fan. "You probably drink a cup of chino with a scone instead of regular coffee and a jelly stick."
"And you've probably never had a frappe or put jimmies on your ice cream, either."
"How about a spuckie? Ever had a spuckie?"
"No, I'm sorry. I haven't," says Rivers. "I'm from California now. All they serve out there are avocados."
A roar shakes Gillette Stadium. Rivers and the fans turn to see the Patriots score a touchdown and promptly the Chargers quarterback pulls on his helmet.
"Hey, folks," says Rivers. "I've got to head onto the field. I'll be back in a few minutes and we can continue this conversation."
"Good luck to you, Philip," says a voice. Rivers turns to find Terrell Owens in the front row.
"T.O., is that you? What are you doing here?"
"I came to wish you well. You're a quarterback and well, you probably know that last Sunday I expressed my love for Tony Romo. I meant what I said: I've always had good relationships with my quarterbacks. Now, I want to extend that to all quarterbacks leaguewide. I love all you quarterbacks."
"Wow," says Rivers. "That's really cool, T.O. I'm sure Donovan McNabb and Jeff Garcia will be touched."
"Who said anything about them?" screams Owens. "Don't go trash-talking me when I'm standing here in the freezing cold to wish you well."
For the first time all season, Rivers is speechless.
San Diego at New England (-13 1/2) - And after the game, stop by the Bass Pro Shop at Patriot Place for all your ice fishing needs. Pick: Chargers.
NY Giants at Green Bay (-7) - Asked if they would be ready, just in case a quarterback sneak is required in the closing seconds, Bart Starr and Jerry Kramer consider the possibility, then sneer when told that modern technology will prevent Lambeau Field from becoming a "frozen tundra." They respectfully decline. Pick: Packers.
Last week: 2-2.