Actor Matt Damon still remembers where he watched Super Bowl XXXVI.
Damon, a Cambridge native who is a longtime Patriots fan, was at a Scottish pub in Paris, filming re-shoots for the 2002 film “The Bourne Identity.” One of the thriller’s producers, Frank Marshall, had scoped out a spot to watch the game because they needed to find a place that would stay open beyond its typical closing time. A 6:30 p.m. start in Boston meant a 12:30 a.m. kickoff in France.
The Scottish pub, according to Damon, put blankets up on all the windows so that onlookers wouldn’t be able to see that the bar was still serving alcohol. Damon and Marshall, however, weren’t the only ones inside. They were joined by some of the establishment’s regulars, few of which had any connections to the Patriots, St. Louis Rams, or NFL. But they quickly joined Damon in cheering for his home team.
“They’re instantly Patriots fans,” Damon recalled on a recent episode of “The Bill Simmons Podcast.” “They know nothing about American football, but they’re all like, ‘Go Patriots!’ because the Patriots are the reason they’re allowed to drink at six in the morning. It was an awesome place to see that Super Bowl.”
Damon said he still remembers where he watched each of New England’s six titles. For Super Bowl XXXVIII, which took place the night before he was scheduled to shoot the apology scene in “The Bourne Supremacy,” he was in Berlin. He invited the crew over before staying up all night.
“I’m supposed to be ravaged in that scene, I’m supposed to be bleeding out,” Damon told Simmons, a fellow Mass. native and Boston sports superfan. “I’m like, ‘I have an idea. I just won’t sleep tonight.’ I did that scene just banged up, and it worked out great.”
Keeping up with his teams overseas isn’t usual for Damon, who now resides in Los Angeles. He’ll usually follow along by streaming the games on his computer or watching via Slingbox. The night games are a bit tougher, obviously, given the change in time zones. Still, the 49-year-old doesn’t seem to have missed a thing.
Damon and Simmons discussed their Patriots, Celtics, and Red Sox fandom during an hour-long conversation on Simmons’s podcast, reliving championships — there are several — and other memories:
1. For the 2004 World Series parade, Damon drove up from New York with his now-wife Lucy Barroso. The couple, along with Damon’s brother and brother’s children, visited Damon’s father’s house to prepare to watch the parade together. While his family wanted to go to the Charles River to see the duck boats as they enter the water, Damon wanted to visit Boylston Street first.
“I sat on the corner by myself,” Damon recalled. “Grown man. I was 34 years old. The boats went by, and I looked at those guys, and I started crying. Crying. And literally people are like, ‘Are you Matt Damon?’ and I’m like, ‘No, no, I’m not.'”
Damon said he was just overwhelmed by the emotions.
“It felt like something had changed forever in a really incredible way,” he said.
2. Like most Patriots fans, Damon is still perplexed by the decision to bench cornerback Malcolm Butler in Super Bowl LII — and would like an explanation from coach Bill Belichick.
“We’ll never know the story,” Simmons said.
“I don’t know why,” Damon responded. “You’ve won so many Super Bowls, at least tell us. Give us some reason.”
3. The pair have differing opinions on the final minute of Super Bowl XLIX.
After Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch rushed to the half-yard line on 1st-and-goal, the Patriots elected not to stop the clock with under a minute remaining in the fourth quarter. Simmons is convinced Belichick elected to save his two timeouts because he was reading coach Pete Carroll on the opposing sideline and recognized the chaos.
“I think he was thinking, ‘They seem out of control. Whatever they’re going to do on this play is probably not going to work. Let’s ride it out,'” Simmons said. “He’s staring across the sideline watching them, the same way you would watch somebody’s house from across the street.
“Anyone else would have called a timeout, but he saw something he liked and just decided to ride it out. People are like, ‘No, that’s crazy. He froze.'”
Damon, on the other hand, believes Belichick decided not to call a timeout to indicate trust in his secondary, particularly Butler. Per Damon’s memory, Butler had recently been reprimanded after getting beat in practice.
“That’s Belichick going, ‘I’m going to trust Malcolm remembers this happened,'” Damon said. “That’s a lot of trust.”
Sure enough, on the very next play, Butler famously intercepted quarterback Russell Wilson at the goal line, ending the potentially game-winning drive and sealing New England’s 28-24 victory.
4. Referencing the game theory revolution that seems to have transformed poker, where players are intentionally messing with their hand history to throw off opponents, Damon believes Belichick does the same.
Damon recalled when CBS color commentator Tony Romo once recognized Belichick’s intention. Per Damon’s memory, the Patriots were ahead by three scores with five minutes remaining in the game.
“Right before they snapped the ball, Romo goes, ‘Oh, this is so gross, this is so sick,'” Damon said. “Whoever is doing [the play-by-play commentary] is like, ‘What do you mean, Tony?’ [Tony] goes, ‘He never does this. He’s just trying to mess with the analytics right now.’
“[Belichick] was literally putting in a package that he knew would get run all over because he was going to concede the score because it didn’t matter at all for the outcome of the game. He wanted other coaches to be flim-flammed, like, what is he doing in this situation? Well, sometimes he does this and sometimes he does that. No, he always does the same thing there, but he doesn’t want you to know.”
5. Damon has no insider information but expressed no concern that this season could be quarterback Tom Brady’s last. Although the two are friends, Damon has not probed Brady about his looming retirement.
“It’s private,” Damon said. “It’s his business. I would never ask him that. I don’t have that kind of relationship with him. I’m always happy to see him. I think the world of the guy.”
Damon is looking forward to the return of offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn because he believes the protection at the line of scrimmage is key for success. Wynn is eligible to return in Week 12 against the Dallas Cowboys.
In Damon’s eyes, even if Brady’s numbers are taking a hit this season, the 42-year-old is just as skilled and in better shape than previous seasons.
“Nothing’s changed,” he said.
Simmons likened Brady to a car, saying it takes him a quarter to warm up nowadays. “Old guy thing,” Simmons called it. Both Simmons and Damon have noticed Brady doesn’t take as many hits as he used to — something they think younger passers should also pick up on.
“Young quarterbacks try to win the play on every play,” Simmons said. “[Brady] just doesn’t take any hits he doesn’t have to take anymore. He’s assessed all of the risk in every game: ‘If we run this play, and it’s not there in 2.1 seconds, I’m throwing the ball away. I’m not getting hit.'”
6. Damon has never thrown the football with Brady but can still attest to his accuracy. In a sketch that aired on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” in May, Brady helped host Jimmy Kimmel torment Damon in their longstanding “feud.” Kimmel and Brady visit Damon’s house, where Kimmel instructs Brady to throw a football through one of the windows. Brady shatters it with ease.
“He just did that,” Damon said. “They were like, ‘OK, so Tom, you want to throw through that window.’ He was like, ‘OK.'”
7. During Game 4 of the 2008 NBA Finals, in which the Celtics overcame 20-point, third-quarter deficit against the Los Angeles Lakers, Damon caught the attention of Lakers coach Phil Jackson.
Damon, along with actor Mark Wahlberg, both were sitting courtside, cheering on the Celtics at the Staples Center. Per Damon’s memory, forward Paul Pierce sliced through the lane for a layup that tied the score up. Jackson was up to call a timeout as Pierce was laying the ball in, but he made sure to tell off Damon and Wahlberg in the process.
“He’s got to stop the bleeding,” Damon said. “Wahlberg and I are like, ‘Oh my god, man!’ As [Phil] calls the timeout, he just spins on us and goes, ‘Sit down and shut the [expletive] up!’ He’s so mad.”
Damon understood the harsh reaction, while also poking fun at Jackson’s “zen master” nickname.
“I can’t imagine if I’m having a bad day at work and they are people cheering for my pain,” he joked. “But we’re like, ‘How’s the zen stuff working out?'”
8. Both Damon and Simmons feel strongly that the Red Sox cannot trade right fielder Mookie Betts or lose him in free agency, with Damon calling the 27-year-old a “generational guy.”
“There’s no world in which we can lose Mookie,” Damon said.
Simmons likened the situation to when former Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk left for the White Sox. Damon, too, was upset by Fisk’s departure, remembering his disappointment as a kid. He even used “7227” as a code to get into his house in New York, as a homage to Fisk’s two numbers: 27 as a member of the Red Sox and 72 as a member of the White Sox.
9. Damon said he started laughing when the Red Sox enlisted starter Chris Sale in the ninth inning of Game 5 of the 2018 World Series, calling the move “nasty” and “disgusting” (in a good way).
“It was just the filthiest thing to do,” he said. “It was the first time I had ever allowed myself, during any of these World Series runs to say, ‘We’re going to win,’ before we won . . . I didn’t do it when — you know how the ground ball came back to [Keith] Foulke [in 2004] and he was running toward first base? I was like, ‘It hasn’t happened yet!'”