February 5, 2019
Not five minutes into their Monday morning discussion of the Super Bowl on Boston radio station 98.5 FM, The Sports Hub, men named, or nicknamed, Jones, Hardy, and Johnson were busily working the downside of the game that the New England Patriots had won in marvelous – yes, marvelous – fashion the day before. Hardy was carping about his disappointment with the way Tom Brady and his offense gave way to the Los Angeles Rams players and coaches for most of the game; Jones was prattling about the Patriots’ worst plays, like the early interception, a later sack and a fumble by Brady (that the Patriots recovered); and Johnson, a onetime Patriot defensive star, was left trying to get a word in edgewise.
Later in the day, on the same station, three guys named Felger, Mass, and Big Jim took up the game. They loosed their proprietary reins to give a lot of air time to callers, many of whom used the opportunity to chide the hosts for being wrong with their predictions, and for not being 100 percent Patriots fans throughout the season, especially in the previous two weeks. At one point, these three pundits spent the better part of five minutes discussing Patriots head coach Bill Belichick’s decision on a fourth down deep in Rams territory late in the game to try to kick a field goal from 40 yards out instead of running or passing to gain the inches of ground they needed for a first down.
They agreed, with a certain firmness of position, that Belichick had blown the call, despite the fact that Los Angeles had just stopped the Patriots with one yard to go on third down. And despite the fact that New England kicker Steve Gostkowski stepped up and kicked the field goal, albeit in wobbly fashion, to almost certainly ice the win for his team.
Later in the show, Felger was ruminating about the feckless coaching of Rams coach Sean McVay and the hangdog playing of Rams quarterback Jared Goff (“They had us completely guessing all game long”) and the abject non-maneuverings of his offense (Patriots defenders got to him 12 times) when his musings jumped the tracks as he tried to find the right words to say what he meant. He finally decided that instead of getting their act together and showing some urgency when they had the ball, the players were “pleasuring themselves,” a reference he later enlarged to “masturbation.”
What an odd place to find himself.
All of which is not to say that these fellows did not talk a great deal about the game in all its fullness over their eight hours on the air, including the way the Patriots’ defense decisively mauled their opponents’ offense. Anyone dipping in and out of their conversations and the talk on other stations and on television broadcasts hardly lacked for a good sense of what had happened. But the sense of grievance that 98.5’s Hardy delivered early in the day seemed to hold sway on the overall reporting about this Super Bowl and on the reactions of fans across the landscape to that reporting. This game, with its one touchdown and three field goals and a total of 23 points, was a downer of a win. “Inelegant” is the way that one Globe writer described it.
What an odd place to find ourselves.
I guess it’s all about predilections. There are those who enjoy 1-0 baseball games as a salute to the art of pitching. There are those, like Bruins fans on Sunday, who enjoy 1-0 hockey games, as a salute to the art of goaltending. And there are those who enjoy low-scoring football games like Sunday’s as a salute to the art of defensive play.
The New England defense, under the tutelage of Bill Belichick and Brian Flores (now the head coach of the Miami Dolphins), allowed Los Angeles, which averaged 32.9 points per game in a season where they finished 13-3, but three points, and denied the Rams access to New England’s Red Zone for the entire game.
What an odd place for the erstwhile marauding Rams to find themselves locked out of.
What the Patriots did on Sunday defines the word “marvelous.” The performance of their matchless defense deserved better than the vague sense of disappointment about the offense that was curated on radio shows by those who, having dreamt of long passes, long runs, and high scores, felt somehow let down by the winning of another Super Bowl.