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Sunday, February 3, 2002

The Super Bowl is known for its excesses, more than for the quality of the competition. This one today in New Orleans had all the overwrought emotion that's been building up in this country since last September, but it also had enough thrills and excitement to divert us from that same emotional sledgehammer that's been part of our national psyche for the last few months. Usually we look to the commercials for that kind of diversion, but this year they were far overshadowed by the game itself (love those Clydesdales, though).

I have to confess that when I looked at the clock and saw it was time for the game to start, I groaned aloud before putting down my book, walking down the stairs, and turning on the TV. At first, I resented the game for taking me away from something I'd rather be doing. I turned it off at halftime, saving U2, Terry Bradshaw and Paul McCartney for later. I almost finished my book before trotting downstairs faithfully to catch the second half, but by then it was getting too dark to read anyway.

The second half, and especially the fourth quarter, made this one of the most memorable Super Bowls ever. Both teams put forth heroic efforts to make a game of it. The Rams came from 14 points down in the last ten minutes, something no other team had ever done, to tie it. The Patriots then went downfield, against all conventional wisdom, with less than two minutes to go, to set up the winning field goal at the final gun.

By all rights, they should have run out the clock and hoped for the best in overtime. Only bad things can happen if you try to do too much, right? Well, I guess it depends a little bit on your talent and determination, and a little more on your luck. The Patriots had everything going for them at the end of the game, and it brought them a Super Bowl championship.

Who says you can't learn lessons from sports? Why do art and literature have an exclusive on all life's great messages? We can be reminded of our values by watching a game played under a set of rules that allow for a team that seems hopelessly behind to fight its way back into a position to win. We can admire and respect and take heart from a coach who allows his players to risk losing in pursuit of a victory most experts didn't think they could achieve. How an athlete responds to difficulties, how he faces impossible odds, illuminates his character and reflects our own abilities to draw strength from within in difficult circumstances.

If you're thinking I couldn't enjoy the game just because the team I picked lost, that would be a mistake. I know it's an American trait to cheer for the underdog, but in general, unless one of my teams is playing, I like to see the better team win. In this one, I appreciated the way the Patriots took over the game by playing tough defense and taking advantage of the Rams' mistakes. The only teams I thought were capable of beating the Rams were those with great defenses, and I don't think the Pats fell into that category, until this game. I'm not sorry I was wrong about the outcome, and I certainly wasn't the only genius who was.

It's just that now I have to ship some fresh artichokes to Texas. And I don't get any barbecue, until I come up with a bet that I can win.

house and garden

Looking through the garden toward my front door.

So maybe it was a little hokey, the Patriots' requesting to be introduced as a team rather than individually, but there's a lot that's hokey about the ritual of any football game. It's only amplified to the nth degree in the spotlight of the Super Bowl. In this era when America is still recovering from a shock to its rather sizable ego, the team with the red, white and blue uniforms, the one with stars and stripes on their helmets, defied the odds for the third week in a row and won the most patriotic Super Bowl in history. It means nothing in the grand scheme, but somehow it seemed appropriate.

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Bev, Funny the World, February 4, The Wedding

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One year ago: Down for the Count
"There was a lot of bowing and hand shaking, all quite civilized."

Two years ago: Trash Collector
"I don't think I need therapy, just a little motivation and a big truck."

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And the first one said to the second one there, "I hope you're having fun."