In general I don't care about football. I think it's a very dangerous sport and I hate how it takes money and attention from sports I think are more elegant and satisfying--mainly soccer. But this NFL season I have been a big fan of the New England Patriots. My husband is from the Boston area and he grew up watching the Patriots play, back when they really sucked. The past few years the Patriots have been really good, but my husband was still not really interested (he would catch a game every once in a while and we would watch the super bowl, but that's it).
This year, however, he went crazy about the Patriots. I think the turning point was when they signed Randy Moss. I remember him telling me the news, but I didn't think too much about it. When the season began and my husband was truly interested, I was surprised, but also excited. So I put aside my intolerance for football. Watching the games every weekend gave us something to do together. Plus, I am very competitive so it was fun to partake in a sport event with him, even if it meant that as the 12th and 13th players of the Patriots we would merely scream at the tv and drink lots of beer.
As the season progressed, I began to enjoy the games even more. I was impressed with the skill, hard work, and elegance in the Patriots' game. I still think football is a very dangerous sport, but I respect the mental discipline and physical capacity required to play the game. I am surprised there aren't many fist fights in a game. The players go from pushing, shoving, and tackling, pumped with adrenaline, to stopped play and helping each other up at the sound of a whistle.
I found an article at SI today written by Ross Tucker, a former Patriot. Tucker's article describes what he thinks are the 5 keys to the Patriots' success. Among them are Tom Brady.
"'During my time in New England I worked as a backup lineman and often had to snap to Brady while playing center. In spite of all of the other chaos that he had to sort through, he always found the time to look me squarely in the eye and say, "C'mon Ross, me and you, let's get a great snap first.'
I never wanted to snap a ball so well in my life.
Sure, you can't really have one thing make or break a team. It's important to have good coaching, good recruiting, good players in all the positions. But in football, more than any other team sport I can think of right now, the quarterback is the single most important player on the team and everything else that needs to be right culminates in that position and player. Most plays start with the quarterback. It doesn't matter that you have someone calling the right plays or that your offensive line gives you all the time in the world or that you have 3 people open and waiting for the ball, if you can't stand up to the pressure and be creative and make the right plays, everything else doesn't matter. So I definitely have a lot of respect for Tom Brady as a quarterback, athlete, and team leader.
With that said, I would definitely list Bill Belichick as essential to the Patriots' success. A good coach will do his homework and mold a team's talent. I am impressed with Belichick's love of football and winning. He doesn't mess around. But I wonder how much of his success is due to the fact that he is divorced? I don't know much about Belichick's personal life, but I assume it's close to nothing. I don't think you can be so successful at anything unless you give a lot more time than required to do the job well. This is true in general. I was not a successful researcher because I did not want to spend 80 hours a week in my lab. I always had something else I preferred to do with my time. I am not trying to little Belichick's work or success, but I was honestly wondering how important it is for Belichick to dedicate so much time to coaching or if he is a true genius.
Another thing I was wondering about football was whether or not football players needed help to get dressed before games. I posed the question to my husband and he looked at me like I had grown a second head. I think it's a valid question. It looks like all the padding and equipment needs to fit together properly and I can't imagine it being one piece that can just be slipped over the head. In the least, they must have a very specific order for putting stuff on, like socks and shoes before upper body armor.
One final football note...I am not a big fan of the post-touchdown celebrations. I kind of enjoy soccer celebrations but I find spiking a football pretty stupid. I think it's much classier to toss the football to the ref and walk off the field like it was nothing. But that's just me.