Posts Tagged 'Bill Belichick'

Tom Brady: The Movie

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Just look at him. To look at Tom Brady is to catch a glimpse of the whole thing, the collective excellence, an awesome power bordering that of superheroes in both the fictional worlds in which they live, and our own in which we worship them. This is to say Tom Brady is something like a superhero. Except he’s real. But his story feels scripted, starting with looks that would make a jealous Derek Zoolander put his fist through a mirror or two. The man is really, really, ridiculously good looking. Sure. But he isn’t just handsome, man. He towers, even over other star quarterbacks like Peyton Manning, at 6’4″, and carries his 225lbs like it ain’t no thing, just some immaculate washboard abs, a pair of arms Michelangelo couldn’t have chiseled on his best day, teeth from the “after” photos on your Rembrandt Whitening box (bet you didn’t know that was him, but it is). On the street, he’s like the Clark Kent who wised up, lost the glasses and shopped from his new subscription to GQ. On the field, he’s straight up Superman.

And he’s got the story to go along with it. No, Brady hasn’t always been untouchable. And he didn’t grow up an orphan, or in a small town on a farm. But he did come up in San Francisco in the 80s, when there was nowhere else in the world a budding future quarterback would want to be. This was Joe Montana’s era, during which he led the 49ers to four Super Bowl championships. And a young Brady was there for all of it.

Now, if we were writing a comic book or, more realistically, a film about Tom Brady, this is where we’d start: a wide shot of Candlestick Park, the San Francisco skyline in the background, and the camera flys over the top of the stadium, which is packed to the roof with screaming fans in 49ers red and Cowboys blue, pushing closer and closer to the action on the field, where Joe Montana is behind center on the Cowboys’ six yard line. A quick shot of the scoreboard gives us the situation: third down, goal to go, with :58 left in the fourth quarter. San Francisco is down 21-27.

That’s when we see him: a little boy, wearing a faded 49ers jersey, #16, Montana scrawled across the back in a cracked white print. He’s five years old. The boy tugs at his father’s sleeve and stares anxiously at the field, at Montana, waiting.

Montana takes the snap. He looks for Freddie Solomon, his go-to receiver, but he’s well covered. The Cowboys’ pash rush is fierce. The 49ers offensive line collapses. Montana backpeddles, then breaks for the sideline.

The crowd is out of their seats.

Montana pump fakes. He looks left. He looks right. Montana looking to throw . . . looking to throw. . .The Cowboys defense is closing in fast. Montana throws a pass, high and deep into the corner of the end zone.

The crowd holds its breath.

Dwight Clark leaps, and from his very fingertips, takes the ball and pulls it to his chest. Touchdown.

But this isn’t the 49ers story. Nor is it Joe Montana’s. Not today. The camera pulls back from the field where red jerseys are leaping in celebration, the blue jerseys hanging their heads, and pans to the little boy and his father, who share a celebratory embrace before the father lifts a tearful, smiling Tom Brady to his shoulders. This is where it begins.

And where it began it real life. A five-year-old Tom Brady was present for the 1981 NFC Championship, and he did witness “The Catch”. He grew up worshiping Joe Montana, a guy who was drafted late out of Notre Dame, a storied program, and went on to be the greatest quarterback in the history of the NFL. It’s a more “storybook” beginning than you’ll find in films like “Hoosiers” or “Rudy”.

In this Tom Brady movie, we’ll flash forward about thirteen years, where Brady is the seventh (Yes. Seventh.) string quarterback for the Michigan Wolverines. A two-shot of Brady and the sixth string QB, a guy whose name I can’t dig up, a guy who is now probably selling cars or insurance somewhere in the Midwest, on the sidelines at practice, kidding with each other.

Brian Griese, Michigan’s starter, throws a wild pass, maybe an interception. Lloyd Carr throws his cap to the turf and yells, “Come on, Griese!”

QB6 says: See, I would’ve made that. Any day of the week.

Brady says: Sure you would.

Brady sighs. The banter continues and somehow it comes out that Brady didn’t give up his budding professional baseball career (he was drafted by the Montreal Expos) to ride the bench for four years. Maybe he cracks wise about Drew Henson and his brief stint as a pitcher for the New York Yankees, foreshadowing their future battle for the starting quarterback position.

This is a perfect lead-in to a montage in the style of the Karate Kid or Rocky. Set against the music of Van Halen’s “Right Now”, we see Brady in the gym, benching more and more weight, doing pushups in his dorm room, a poster of Joe Montana taped to the wall behind him. We see him jumping rope, shirtless of course, sweat coming off him in sheets. We see him making big plays in practice, with cuts to a graphic of the depth chart showing Brady’s name on the rise, one slot at a time. Shot of Lloyd Carr clapping on the sidelines shouting “Keep it up, Brady!” And just as the drums and piano fade, just as Sammy Haggar once more sings, “It means everything…” we see Brady suiting up in the locker room, pulling on his helmet, making brief eye contact with a glaring Drew Henson.

The story has got to keep moving. It’ll blow through a few of Brady’s more impressive regular season games, his biggest plays, and the dramatic conflict between Brady and Henson will continue to escalate until some fictional locker room altercation, which resolves with a shaking of hands, a smacking of shoulders and fraternal smiles. Then we’ll skip ahead to overtime in the ’99 Orange Bowl, and draw a blatant symbolic correlation between Brady’s game-winning drive here and Montana throwing to Clark for “The Catch”.

Now we’re about a third of the way through the film. The on-field celebrating in Miami cuts right to a shot of Brady in plain clothes, at home on the couch surrounded by family, watching the 2000 NFL draft. It’s the second day, the late rounds, and Brady’s name still hasn’t be called. His phone hasn’t rung. Dad says, “Don’t lose hope yet, Son. Even Montana wasn’t taken until the third round.” Sometime about now, someone will make reference to the fact that Tom graduated cum laude, and has plenty of opportunities in life outside of football. That evening, Brady receives a call from the Patriots. Because it’s a movie, the call will be from Bill Belichick himself. He’ll say, “Hey, Tom. Just wondering if you’d like to come play for me here in Boston. Interested?” The family cheers, Brady smiles . . . and we cut to a shot of him getting drilled into the turf on a New England practice field.

Because this is a classic underdog story. And, of course, the point is made that Brady is back where he started; he’s made it to the pros, just like he made it to the storied program at Michigan, but he’s once more deep in the rotation, fourth string. Belichick calls him off the field and sits him back on the bench, in passing says, “Hell’s wrong with you?”

We all more or less know the story from here. By the end of his rookie season, Brady moves to second string. Another montage, set to another inspiring stadium rock anthem, may or may not lead up to the September 23rd matchup against the Jets, not two weeks after the attacks of 9/11, when Drew Bledsoe, the starting quarterback, goes down. But he doesn’t just go down. He gets wrecked. He suffers internal bleeding. And an unprepared Tom Brady is thrust onto the field, only to lose the game.

The fans in New England aren’t pleased. But before long, Brady is winning games, leading the Patriots into the playoffs, and the symbolic correlation to Joe Montana becomes more and more blatant: in the first playoff game, against the Oakland Raiders, Brady brings the Patriots back from a 10 point fourth quarter deficit to win. Of course Brady injures his ankle in the next game to create dramatic conflict (which becomes something of a staple for him) but the Patriots eek out a win, go on to the Super Bowl and, of course, win on a heroic fourth quarter drive led by Tom Brady, who is ultimately named Super Bowl MVP.

From here, the story weakens, simply because it’s more of the same. The next six years Brady is dominant, wins a few more Super Bowls, barely misses out on a few others. If this is going to be a pure sports film, it should probably end with Brady’s first Super Bowl victory, a shot of him hoisting the trophy over his head, or perhaps hugging coach Belichick (depending on how well that relationship is developed), followed by a black screen and text explaining what happens in the future. But Brady’s story, particularly in the later years, lends itself to other genres, particularly that of the “Biopic”. He’s dated Hollywood starlets like Bridget Moynahan, and Victoria’s Secret model Gisele Bundchen. He’s hosted Saturday Night Live, made a cameo appearance in the Farrelly Brothers film, “Stuck On You”, and lent his voice to an episode of “Family Guy”. He’s on the cover of GQ and Esquire and People.

And there’s no lack of conflict. He and Moynahan had a child together earlier this year, while he was dating Gisele, whom he also recently knocked up. This is serious baby mama drama, and the paparazzi cameras are always flashing. Not to mention his constant ankle trouble, particularly come playoff time. Point is, the Brady movie could transcend sports film conventions down the stretch and morph into something greater, the epic true story of a great American man: a long and painful biopic. Wait long enough and we may even have the classic “rise and fall” element to go on.

Maybe we’ll get the awesome drunken blow out between a married Brady and Bundchen, high in their Manhattan penthouse, Brady with a scotch in his hand, his stubble a little overgrown and unkempt, Bundchen with a new baby on her hip, while their first child is in bed, awake and listening. Gisele confronts Tom about his affair, which she’s known about for months. “You think I didn’t know?” she yells, her accent thick. “You think it wasn’t obvious?” The baby starts to cry, and she rocks him gently.

Tom shakes his head with escalating intensity, saying, “No, no, no, no!” before throwing his cocktail glass hard against the wall. The glass shatters. The baby is screaming. “You think this is easy for me?” He stretches his arms wide, gesturing toward the elegant excess which surrounds them. “Look at this. Look at me. I’m a man, Gisele. Only a man.”

Gisele asks, “Who is she?” And Tom refuses to answer. We come to know Brady has fallen to third string on another team, maybe the Jets. Gisele’s pregnancies have ruined her modeling. Bridget Moynahan won’t stop badgering Tom for child support. They argue and argue until Gisele moves toward the wet bar, takes the bottle of Glenlivitt and carries it to the kitchen, where she pours it down the sink. He chases after her, grabs her shoulder and turns her to face him, slamming her back against the shimmering granite counter tops. He rears back as if to strike her, but their eyes meet. Their faces soften. And just as Tom moves in to kiss his wife, she puts a finger to  his lips and says, “No, Tom. You can’t . . . ” a tear rolls down her face. “You can’t come back this time. It’s over.”

It gets really awful from here and, if I’m right, leads to a scene akin to that in “Anchorman” where a disheveled Ron Burgundy staggers through the streets of San Diego, his clothes dirty and mismatching, a carton of milk in his hand. It’ll be more or less the same thing, except with Tom Brady.

Who knows. Point is, the guy is a superstar off the field and a superhero on. He’s a living myth. And he’s still on the rise. This Sunday, odds are good he’ll push the myth that much further, leading the New England Patriots to another Super Bowl victory, and the first perfect season in the NFL since the Dolphins did it in ’72. And, arguably, it all can be traced back to that one day in Candlestick Park, when a young Tom Brady’s destiny was sealed, just like in the movies.

My Super Bowl pick:  NE 45 — NY 24

Why I picked the Jags and Can’t Figure Out Bret Michaels…yet.

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I kicked off this blog with an entry touting the Jaguars, explaining how and why they would, without a doubt, crush the New England Patriots under their cleats. Wrong. Wrong again*. Though I take a little comfort in knowing that just about every sportswriter and the guys in Vegas were wrong about at least one game this weekend (I mean, come on, which Manning brother were you banking on playing next Sunday?) Tom Brady and the Patriots juggernaut rolled on, like everyone, myself humbly excluded, knew they would. Pulling for the underdog is not a unique trait, but it seems rare in the face of bandwagon powerhouses like the Patriots, the Shaq-era Lakers or the whenever Yankees, before the Pats and BoSox and Celtics, or Boston in general, became the fashionable team to root for.

Competitive reality shows are the same way, like my new favorite (as of last night) “Rock of Love 2”. These shows tend to provide their audiences with  clear favorites and clear, often more likeable longshots. I got in on the first season of “Rock of Love” late in the game, only seriously watching the final two episodes, and as far as I could tell, Heather, the raggedy washed-out stripper had the game locked down while Jes, her far younger, far more attractive opponent, was facing an inevitable elimination. Bret chose Jes and my world flipped upside down.

Unlike professional sports, reality television is controlled, edited to provide the viewing audience with certain ideas and feelings about the people involved, a sense of escalating (and often misleading) tension and inevitable conflict. It’s similar to the machinations of a whodunnit thriller. The outcome may not be fixed (and who cares anyway?) but the season’s narrative structure fixes our perceptions of the game as it plays out. 

With sports, I’m not always wrong. I picked the Pistons over the Lakers in 2004, and even predicted the series would go only five games (which it did). I picked the BoSox that same year, while the rest of America cheered the Yankees. But then I also picked the Jazz over the Bulls (and thus, Michael Jordan at his best) in ’97. You don’t bet against Jordan. Ever. And as far as I could tell, Heather, with her coarse and dried-out blonde hair, her puckering first-or-second-generation breast implants and haggard tan skin seemed like the Michael Jordan of “Rock of Love”. But in the finale it was anyone’s guess. One minute, Bret and Jes seemed absolutely in love, but the next, Heather looked too strong, too perfect-for-Bret to ever be denied.

I picked Heather. I was wrong. But being wrong about reality television, given the nature of the thing, is hard to take. Because the machinations, both those of the contestants and those in the editing room, are so apparent, it’s hard not to want to see them coming and figure them out. Where professional sports betting utilizes statistical probabilities, audiences appeal to their knowledge and experience of human behavior and dramatic structure. It’s armchair anthropology and, to a lesser extent, literary criticism.

The bigger question of why we (or at least I) watch is still impossible for me to figure out. When it comes to pro sports, I watch to marvel at the peak athleticism and the thrill of competition and, in many cases, the subtleties of the games: the perfectly executed play action pass or fast break, the broken tackle, the 5-4-3 double play. But the appeal of reality television, my motivation for watching, is elusive. The best explanation I have is that people love to watch people (and reality show contestants tend to be terribly fascinating) and, more than that, people love to be right about things.

I wanted to be right about the Jaguars. I wanted to believe that with the level of talent in the NFL, on any given week any team can beat any other and arguably the Chargers and Giants proved this. Yet the Pats remain undefeated. It just doesn’t seem natural. They are too dominant. Belechick is too untouchable. Brady, in just about every conceivable way, is too perfect. It feels scripted in the unscripted way of reality television. And yet I can’t figure the scripting out in either medium.

I was wrong time and time again last night during “Rock of Love”. When a particularly skanky contestant would throw herself at Bret, interrupt his conversation, shove some flesh in his face, I’d think, wow, how irritating. She’s gone. And yet, his reaction was always positive. When one of his VIPs (contestants he singled out in the beginning based soley on looks) opened up to him about her life, her career, her ambition, he seemed put off. This contestant was among the four to be eliminated. The thing is, she reminded me of Jes. Jes showed some genuineness, some heart, some focus in her life. And maybe that’s what turned Bret off, this time around. Didn’t want to make the same mistake twice. Or maybe Bret and the producers are simply throwing their audience a curve, trying to keep things interesting.

I’m not sure if interesting is the word. And yet I’ll be watching again next Sunday, trying to figure things out, to spot the budding favorites and, as early as possible, who will be eliminated that night, all the while wondering why I ever thought (or at least hoped) the Chargers had a chance, and whether or not the inevitable good versus evil Super Bowl matchup between New England and Green Bay is as fixed as a show like “Rock of Love”.

For the record, This Week: NE 38 – SD 17  and GB 31 – NY 21

*I did admit that Tom Brady has been earth-shatteringly impressive all season, and throwing 26/28 (92% percent) against Jax pretty much tells me I wasn’t generous enough.

Jaguars Beat Patriots.

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This is headline news over at ESPN.com, and I’ve been saying it since the end of the regular season: the Patriots will not make it past the Jaguars. I know this is unfathomable to all the toady Patriots fans, as well as most of their true fans (the ones who remember a time before someone with the Raiders gave their kneecaps and two fourth round draft picks to Belichick for Moss, before Tom Brady and and three super bowls and running down the last eight minutes of a game to let Vinatieri kick the game winner, before those sleek new colors and unis, i.e. before they were fashionable and a safe bet to win) but it is nonetheless true.

 First let me start off by saying the Patriot’s regular season was not earth-shatteringly impressive*. Two wins over the Jets (one by just ten), two over the Bills, two over the miserable Miami Dolphins, and close calls with the underachieving Eagles and Ravens in back-to-back weeks, amount to half of this “perfect season”. Throw in another meeting with the Colts, or the average-at-best Giants (a team the Patriots needed a miracle to beat), and just one against the Jacksonville Jaguars, and we might see some etchings in the L column.

 Saturday should be the day. Jacksonville can run for days, and the Patriots’ aging linebackers can’t. Bruschi, Seau, not even Colvin can keep up with Jones-Drew, Taylor and the juggernaut-who-is Greg Jones. Not on their best day. Even though the Patriots have a stellar passing attack, and the Jaguars secondary is young and somewhat prone to screw their coverage, it’s also chock full of explosive talent. We’ll see some big plays. I still think Tom Brady will find the holes, and New England will score some points, but they won’t be alone in either regard, and they wont be able to run the ball. Not against Jax. And with the Jaguar’s phenomenal clock management, the passing game wont see enough of the field to inflict any fatal blows. 

Bottom line: The Patriots are the team to beat, and the Jaguars want it more than anyone else has all season. They want, and maybe deserve the recognition (hell, Fred Taylor only made the Pro Bowl this season because Willie Parker has to sit it out) and Saturday will be the day they get it. 

 I’ll go on the record now, final score: Jax 24 — NE 17

*Tom Brady and Randy Moss have been earth-shatteringly impressive.