In case the Super Bowl pre-game favorite St. Louis Rams are still wondering who let the underdogs out, the answer has to be New England Patriots' Coach Bill Belichick. The erstwhile cur of Cleveland -- cursed for, among other things, dumping Bernie Kosar and destroying the Cleveland Browns -- may never be forgiven by Browns fans, but pro-football fans elsewhere have got to give him credit for his incredible upset of the Rams in Sunday night's game.
While up in the broadcast booth, John Madden was telling viewers that the Pats ought to be running out the clock with 1 minute, 21 seconds to go and the score tied at 17, down on the field Belichick was sending his team on a drive for the record books and a victory.
Year of playing dangerously: Instead of playing for overtime, the Patriots were playing to win. Instead of playing it safe, the Patriots were playing it dangerously. And Belichick's strategy paid off.
In the "snow bowl," the Patriots play-off game against the Oakland Raiders, New England Quarterback Tom Brady drove his team through the snow to set up a 45-yard game-tying field goal for Adam Vinatieri. Two weeks later, under the artificial sun of the New Orleans Superdome, Brady pushed his team from its own 17-yard line to give Vinatieri a chance to make history by kicking 48 yards in the last second on the clock and wining the game.
As football goes, it really doesn't get any better than that -- unless you were from St. Louis.
There will be those who say that New England could have never beaten the Rams were it not for Kurt Warner's having a bad day. But anyone watching the game could have seen that Warner's problems were of his opponents' own making. Having all the time in the world, as the saying goes, to throw the ball down field is of little use when all your receivers are covered or, under pressure, drop your passes.
Of Patriots and patriots: There are also those who are suggesting that given the events of Sept. 11, 2001, how could a team named the Patriots not emerge victorious from the football fray. Coincidences may make good copy, but we're loathe to take anything away from either "patriots" or the "Patriots."
The Super Bowl is, after all, only a game, even if played brilliantly by a football team that hails from America's cradle of liberty. Patriotism, however, is not a game. Nor is it restricted to a few well-coached, talented athletes.
America's patriots were in camo gear, watching the game from Kandahar, Afghanistan. They were among the names displayed at the game's half-time of those killed on Sept. 11. They were on the field and off the field, watching the game or watching something else or not watching anything at all. They are women and children as well as men, the young and the old and all those in between. They have names like Belichick and Brady and Vinatieri and Hakim and Warner and Martz, because they represent the multitude of nationalities that has made this nation great and given us all a reason to be patriotic.