Super Bowl 52 – Some thoughts on what happened

Tom Brady - Some Thoughts on Super Bowl 52 - What Happened?

After a much-heralded confrontation, the super bowl is over, and Boston weeps. It was a hard fought season, for both teams. The best of both leagues met in Minnesota, both strong and confidant. Fans of the New England Patriots are accustomed to winning. But it was not to happen.

Down in the first half, they seemed to bounce back after Justin Timberlake’s half time performance, leading 33-32 for a long time. But it would not hold, and Patriot’s fans stumbled out of their favorite sports bars and watering holes into the cold winter rain, tails dragging between their legs, to digest the big defeat, with a final score of 41-33 favoring the Philadelphia Eagles, and sounding the death knell for New England’s hopes of Super Bowl glory for 2018.

The biggest question on the mind’s of fans the morning after, as the dust settles and the stinging realization settles in, is “how?” How did this championship team, accustomed to victory, with arguably the most talented quarter back, Tom Brady, in NFL history, lead by the one of the most win-friendly coaches of all time, Bill Bellichick, drop the ball, at times so very literally, and fail to nail down this much coveted victory? New England’s superiority on the field is well established. But clearly no team is perfect.

For many, the responsibility lies with the coach. And Bellicheck has in fact taken responsibility for the loss, which is commendable. But nonetheless, questions abound. Fans and sports journalists are scrutinizing Bellichick’s decisions. As is expected, the Monday morning quarterbacking is fierce.

The largest concern lies with his inexplicable choice to bench star player Malcolm Butler for the entire game—the entire game! As everyone knows, the man knows how to tackle. And he can be counted on, like clockwork, to deliver plays. But this skilled athlete, free of injuries and suited up, ready to roll, didn’t even play for a single minute during the entire span of Super bowl 52, despite numerous opportunities, and despite the prayers of innumerable fans.

It’s true that Butler’s contract negotiations are reported to be contentious. But if this was the salient factor, it’s difficult to conceive how this rather mundane business issue could lead to such a draconian punishment on the field. The choice to bench Butler, many fans believe, was essentially a choice to sacrifice a Super Bowl win.

But a sacrifice in the service of what greater good? Surely not merely to bolster the ego of coach Bellicheck? If so, what a sad waste, and how frustrating for the devout fans. The famed coach refuses to explain his reasoning, merely insisting that he made the best decision possible to maximize the team’s chances of winning. In the end this may be so, but his prickly silence, and the dictates of common sense, leave New England’s fans scratching their heads in disbelief.

There’s no doubt that the Patriots are a strong team—a winning team. They are undisputed masters of the game. It’s likely that Tom Brady has at least another great year or two left, despite his age, and probably a few more after that, while star tight end Rob Gronkowski is still young. So they have a great shot to win Super Bowl 53. This is, of course, a comfort to the fans. “Next Year!” is the familiar refrain of many losing sports franchises. But for the New England Patriots, it’s not an empty pipe dream by any means.

But there seems to be a pattern. The New England Patriots win the AFC championship a lot, and win the Super Bowl every other time, or so, that they play. So why doesn’t this Cracker Jack team cinch victory and take home the Vince Lombardi trophy every time? Well, the competition is, of course, fierce. Team’s that play in the Super Bowl have earned it, with hard-fought winning seasons. Therefore you need to be at your absolute top level of performance, both physically and mentally, to bring that victory home.

And this is where the Patriot’s may still need some work. Thought they play fantastically, with supreme confidence, throughout the regular season, the Super Bowl is a different story. Even Tom Brady, who passes like a well-oiled machine, was throwing incomplete passes with high frequency during the big game. In short, at the Super Bowl they seem to let the emotions and the pressure get to them, unlike the regular season.

And so, though arguably their defense needs work and perhaps some significant changes, the coaching staff would do well to prioritize developing the “inner game,” the game of psychological mastery. Surely they are almost there, but more work needs to be done. And they’ve got a year to do it.

Photo – By Jeffrey BeallOwn work, CC BY 3.0, Link

Former New England Patriot Aaron Hernandez Commits Suicide (brain donated to science)

Former New England Patriot Aaron Hernandez Commits Suicide (brain donated to science)

Former New England Patriots star, and convicted murderer, Aaron Hernandez, committed suicide this week in his Massachusetts prison cell, by hanging. His brain has been donated to science. He left notes, and jammed his cell door with cardboard to impede rescue.

He had just won an acquittal in a double murder, and was reported to be in high spirits. Corrections officials, friends, family, and his legal defense team are shocked by his suicide, and maintain it was out of character. Hernandez, serving a life sentence for killing his friend, semi professional football player Odin Lloyd, was known in prison for being in control.

A motive for the unexpected suicide isn’t clear. He’d just won a significant legal victory, and appeared to have adjusted well to prison life. He leaves behind a grieving fiance and four-year-old daughter.

Hernandez was once a rising star in the football world, who had earned a 40 million dollar four year contract extension, before his murder conviction destroyed his career, and his freedom. In an odd legal twist, due to an obscure Massachusetts law, his conviction will be vacated, since he died before he had exhausted the appeals process.

His family donated his brain to Boston University’s Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center, researching the role sports-related concussions play in serious brain disease, which has plagued many football players and other athletes in contact sports. The Hernandez story has been one of great sadness, tragedy, and wasted potential, but perhaps something positive will ultimately derive from this medical research.

Learn more about the Aaron Hernandez suicide (ESPN)


Photo: By Jeffrey Beall (Own work) [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Watch Victory Parade of New England Patriots – 11 AM Tuesday, February 7th

Watch Victory Parade of New England Patriots - 11 AM Tuesday, February 7th

New England Patriots fans are massing for a gigantic parade and celebration to honor the champions of historic Super Bowl LI. The festivities start at 11 AM, Tuesday, February 7th.

This is the 5th Super Bowl the Patriots have won during quarterback Tom Brady’s career, and the 4th time that Brady has won the coveted Super Bowl most valuable player award, which occurred the day after the game, in Texas.

The festivities today are expected to be a grand show, despite some inclement weather in the Boston area. Many MBTA parking lots are full and extra trains are in service to accommodate the crush of fans expected to travel by public transportation to positions along the parade route.

Sunday’s big game was quite an historic event. It was the first Super Bowl to go into over time, with the Patriots and Falcons tied at 28 points. Also, at half-time the score was 28 – 3 (Falcons) so the amazing come-from-behind finish meant the Patriots had to make up an extraordinary 25 points. The most a Super Bowl victor had made up in the past was 10, making for another historic sports first.

Watch Patriots Victory Parade Live (CBS Boston)


Photo: By SAB0TEUR (New England Patriots grand entrance) CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons