First, let me thank the many who have expressed concern about my health in recent weeks. The Bledsoe boot will probably be a fixture for quite some time, several more months at least. However, I have every reason to believe that there will be a return normal. (Or as close to normal as I ever was.) I have no intention of ending my career as a columnist and sports writer for The Winslow Mail. Modern technology such as e-mail makes this quite possible. All that will be needed is, possibly, a little better cooperation assistance from the various coaches.
The Super Bowl teams are set and it should be a good game. These were not my first two choices, but the berths in this game are not decided by an election or a computer. They are decided on the field. The survivors are the New England Patriots and the Carolina Panthers, teams that earned the right to be there.
The Patriots had the harder task in defeating the Indianapolis Colts, arguably the best offensive team in the game. The Patriots, though, looked like the best defensive team and managed to shake the hitherto unflappable quarterback Peyton Manning. The Colts defense had looked suspect in its shootout victory over Kansas City and was terrible from the beginning against the Patriots.
Carolina upset the Philadelphia Eagles at Philadelphia to earn the NFC Championship. The Panthers have an unheralded quarterback and a devastating running attack. Their defense has been rock solid in the play-offs.
For what it is worth, my original picks were the St. Louis Rams (gone in a first round loss to Carolina) and the Colts. Both were offensive machines derailed by better defenses.
The Super Bowl win will belong to the team that plays the best defense and which can also use its running attack to maximum advantage. That seems to describe both of these teams in their journey this far. My inclination is to root for Carolina, but it is not a choice made with a great deal of confidence. New England seems to have the greatest sports intangible of them all, luck.
The Patriots won an NFL Championship two years ago after getting to the Super Bowl on one of the worse calls you will ever see, the famous “tuck rule” that sent the Oakland Raiders home empty from the frozen plains of Foxboro. The same referee ruled “no fumble” on a crucial replay in the Indianapolis game. (He was right this time.)
Like most commentators, I felt that the Phoenix Suns had given up on the current season when they traded Stephon Marbury and Penny Hardaway to the New York Knicks. None of us would have expected a four game winning streak (probably long ended by press time, but something that at least did happen} to be in the team’s future this season.
The play-offs are probably still not likely this season, but at least the team has shown surprising life. Let’s wait and see what the rest of the year has in store and what next year holds.