The Half-in-the-Bag Super Bag

By: timbersfan , 1:07 AM GMT on February 04, 2012

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After cranking out 10,000 words about the NBA season earlier this week, a creatively winded Bill Simmons faced a Thursday-night deadline for his Super Bowl preview. He was working out of a hotel room in downtown Indianapolis, fighting off bronchitis, fading mentally from Indy's vegetable/fruit shortage and inexplicably referring to himself in the third person. That's when he realized something: If I'm in an old-school city like Indy, I need to go old-school! He walked to Dunkin' Donuts, bought his first D&D coffee in years, headed back to his hotel, turned on his laptop and leaned on the Pippen to his Jordan, the Mini-Me to his Dr. Evil, the Shane Stant to his Jeff Gillooly. That's right, he leaned on his readers.

A few hours later, he had cranked out a Super Bag, made a Super Bowl pick and even stopped referring to himself in the third person. As always, these are actual e-mails from actual readers.

Q: I don't believe for a second the Pats beating the Giants will somehow offset what happened in Super Bowl 42. The Pats were one game away from a perfect season and the Giants took it away. No amount of wins will ever make up for that. That was a once in a lifetime situation and the Giants destroyed it. You can say "Oh we beat them in the rematch" and they'll always be able to counter with, "We ruined your perfect season." Now nod your head shamefully and keep lying to yourself.
— Mike, Westerly, R.I.

SG: For the record, I conceded this point on Tuesday night. I was flipping channels, noticed ESPN2 was showing Super Bowl XLII's highlight video, muttered to myself, "Don't do it, you've avoided every article, feature, sound bite and highlight from this game for ten solid days, DON'T DO IT," tried to turn the channel … and felt compelled to keep watching. Just a grisly 30 minutes. I had blocked much of the carnage from my mind: Brady recovering his own fumble (then having it stolen away); the Giants somehow recovering two of their own fumbles (including one that improbably bounced for a first down); the vaunted Pats offense somehow only scoring seven points in three quarters; Jacobs converting that do-or-die fourth-and-1; Asante Samuel dropping that game-ending pick; Eli nearly getting stripped by Rosie Colvin on the final Giants drive; and Brady taking that killer sack on first down with 35 seconds left. And that's without mentioning everything that happened on That Play, or the third-down Hail Mary that Moss missed catching by nine inches. The worst thing about that game for Patriots fans? Not just that we lost, but that our team played so poorly at the worst possible time and deserved to lose in, as Mike described it, a "once-in-a-lifetime" situation.

The only way to really "avenge" Super Bowl XLII? A miracle comeback on Sunday — in other words, exchanging 2008's Stomach Punch loss for a 2012 Stomach Punch win. But even that wouldn't totally avenge 2008, because it wasn't just the championship at stake that day — the 19-victory season represented invincibility, superiority and immortality. It placed that Patriots team on any "Greatest Teams Ever" list that any human being would ever make. They'd have to be mentioned. Always. Every time. Now, 18-1 is the first thing anyone mentions about the Belichick-Brady era — ahead of the incredible Rams upset, three titles in four years, the Snow Game, 26 straight wins, Brady starting five Super Bowls or even some of the quirky innovations Belichick unearthed over that time. It's a little unfair, but it's sports, and that's just the way these things work.

But let's say the Patriots win a fourth Super Bowl on Sunday. That would put them one away from a chance at five titles (no coach/quarterback combo ever pulled that off) and six Brady Super Bowl starts (a record for QBs). They would have to be mentioned in any "greatest NFL runs ever" discussion, which wouldn't be as sexy as "19-0" from an immortality standpoint but packs a similar punch. Especially if they beat the Giants (who broke their hearts) on Sunday in Indianapolis (their most hated rivals) in a stadium filled with Giants and Colts fans.1 Has any Super Bowl team ever had FEWER fans rooting for them at a Super Bowl? Has any team ever played the big game under legitimately hostile conditions? The Patriots may as well be playing the Cowboys in Dallas while wearing "Obama 2012" jerseys. Beating the Giants on Sunday would be a tougher victory than you think. You know, if it happens.

(Did I make the case against Mike's point well enough?)

Q: I'm sorry, but you can't really believe that a 2012 Patriots Super Bowl win will atone for 2008. As a sports fan, you know that not all championships are equal. The 2008 Super Bowl was the equivalent of someone punching you in the face, stealing your wife and posting an Internet video of them having sex (which your friends occasionally played just to mess with you). You now meet this man in 2012 and are trying to get revenge by keying his new car. Good Luck!
— Jesse, Ann Arbor

SG: (Apparently not.)

Q: Was reading your Championship Mailbag intently until I got to the part where you said "I visited Bristol on Tuesday, ran into Eric Mangini, and … ". All I could think of for the rest of the mailbag was "Simmons has met Eric Mangini and your first reaction wasn't to grab him and reenact the 'I Knew It Was You Fredo' scene from The Godfather Part II?" You would have received temporary Paul Revere status if you did. I'm sure that there was a tiny part of you that wanted to do that, right?
— Darius, Paris, Ky.

SG: More than a tiny part. As soon as Mangini started pushing Baltimore's chances, I made an "Of course you like them, you hate the Patriots!" crack, followed by Mangini smiling it off (he's clearly heard that joke about 10,000 times working in middle Connecticut these past few months) and going into a "That's not true, I have a great deal of respect for Bill and those guys, remember I worked with Bill for a lot of years" routine. Hard to argue with that one. We always forget that WE care so much more about this crap than the actual principals do. With that said, I'm looking forward to doing some fishing with Eric this summer at ESPN's annual Lake Tahoe getaway.

Q: The only thing I'm grateful for after brutal Ravens loss is that the world ends in less than a year, so I can't suffer from the loss for more than a year. In the meantime, at least Baltimore has good drugs.
— CJ, Baltimore

SG: Sincerely, Demi Moore

Q: Liked your thing about fantasy league booby prizes (in the last mailbag). For our fantasy keeper basketball league we decided to create "The Rick Fox Award" for the last place finisher. Basically, it's a smiling framed headshot of Rick Fox, fake signed with "We will always have Peru, love, Rick Fox", that the loser has to put on their living room wall for a year until next year's last place finisher gets it. Photo here
— Jimmy, N.Y.

SG: That's one of the best ideas in mailbag history. I will now spend the next eight months searching for the worst possible autographed photo for my league's 2012 fantasy doormat. Here's the leader in the clubhouse right now.

Q: As a Pats fan, is this not the single worst-feeling Super Bowl run of all time? The Patriots did not beat a single team over .500 during the regular season, we got the worst team in the postseason for the divisional matchup, we beat the Ravens off a missed field goal with Tom Brady playing one of the worst postseason games of his career, and in the Super Bowl we aren't going to get to see Tom Brady regain the mantle as best QB in the league by beating Aaron Rodgers; instead, we get to either play the third or fourth worst team in the NFC. This sucks. Thoughts?
— Cal, Los Angeles

SG: Ran that e-mail just so you got a feel for the mental state of Patriots fans right after that Ravens game. FYI: Nobody feels that way anymore. The two-week break between games murdered all momentum: good (for the Giants) and bad (for the Patriots). It's a 60-minute football game split into four 15-minute quarters. The team with the highest score wins. That's it. I think you'll find those same dimensions at our gym back in Foxborough.

Q: Given John Parr's woeful rewrite to Tim Tebow's Fire, can't we expect other artists to do the same? Given the Giants ascendency to the Super Bowl, I would like to nominate Naughty By Nature to rehash their classic OPP to JPP. You down with JPP?
— Mo, San Francisco

SG: Yeah, you know me. By the way, if John Parr can bastardize "St. Elmo's Fire" by changing it to "Tim Tebow's Fire," couldn't Madonna energize the Super Bowl halftime show by coming out in a wedding dress and singing "Like a Tebow"?

Q: Eli threw the ball 58 times in the NFC Championship game on the road against the NFL's best defense who also caused the most turnovers in the NFL and he did it in the cold, rain, and heavy wind, with absolutely no running game and he didn't turn the ball over once and won the game. Where would this rank on your all time playoff performances?
— Erik Sawyer, Westport

Q: Eli Manning averaged 5.4 yards a pass, should of had two for sure picks if 49ers' secondary didn't run into each other, and couldn't lead the Giants for the game winning score once in the three drives following David Akers field goal with five minutes left. Against the Packers he beat the worst defense in the league with the 20th ranked pass defense in a game the running game won for them. I turned on SportsCenter today and saw Merrill Hoge and Trent Dilfer say that they would rather have Eli than Brady. Am I missing something or is everyone really overrating Eli?
— Billy, Tuscaloosa, La.

SG: I'd say the answer lies somewhere between those two e-mails. I thought Eli played like a man's man in that game — it was one of those Timex "takes a licking and keeps on ticking" performances. At the same time, Alex Smith and the Niners had the ball on their own 29-yard line, with 1:47 to go, and a chance to kick a field goal to go to the Super Bowl.

Q: BERNARD KARMELL POLLARD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!
HIDE YOUR KIDS HIDE YOUR WIVES HE'S ON THE LOOSE AGAIN!!!!!!!!
— Dante Sacco, Westfield, Mass.

SG: "I shot him six times! I shot him six times! I shot him in the heart … I shot him six times! Six times! He's not human!"

Q: Do you realize this is every dream of Indy sports fans? The Pats are coming to town, and we get to make this feel like a road game. We get to watch Brady fail at avenging the murder of the perfect season. Our town's hero little brother gets to come into town, while we all assume big brother will never suit up again. Welcome to Indy.
— Brandon, Indianapolis

SG: Great to be here! I will now lock the door to my hotel room and start drinking tiny bottles from my minibar.

Q: If you and Aaron Schatz do another Super Bowl Podcast where you laugh at the Giants chances to win the game again and jinx the Pats I am going to kill you. Yes, I will put on a Mike Myers Mask break into your house while you sleep, wait for you to wake up tilt my head slightly to the right and kill you. I will then attend your funeral and put a Kobe jersey and a tape recorder that plays "this is our Country" on loop for eternity. I will see to it that your daughter grows up and becomes a WNBA player and marries into the Manning family and not even Eli or Peyton but … Archie. I will see to it that your son grows up and becomes a Yankee, Lakers, Colts and Canadiens fan. He will go to Boston College and then go to work for The Justice Department and makes stopping gambling his #1 priority. Lastly I will do something with "the Dooze" and her corpse, not sure what just yet but you won't like it. So in conclusion later today I don't want to hear you and Aaron Schatz talking about how the Pats are going to win easily, reverse jinx the hell of this.
— Edward, Boston

SG: And … that's why Aaron Schatz didn't appear on the B.S. Report this week.

Q: P.S., I forgot to mention I'll marry the Sports Gal and "Break the BYU Honor Code" with her wearing a Isiah Thomas mask.
— Edward, Boston

SG: That too. That was the other reason.

Q: After watching Niners-Giants, I have decided that anytime I have to listen to someone over-explain a situation, it will be known as being "Hochuli-ed". I think it should go mainstream.

"Honey, did you pick up the milk at the market?"
"I was planning on picking up the milk, but I remembered that we had a coupon for a free gallon of milk here at home, so in the interest of saving money, I calculated that the additional gas it would take to come home and go back to the market was outweighed by the savings on a free gallon of milk, so I chose to not get the milk today. First and ten, 49ers."
— Mark Derr, Fort Worth, Tex.

SG: Here's the problem with that idea — doesn't every wife already pull a Hochuli 365 days a year? What wife doesn't take five times too long to explain something? How would I know if my wife was pulling a Hochuli or just pulling a My Wife?

Q: Just bought a pair of Penn State sweatpants for $5 at TJ Maxx. That's the Sandusky effect!
— J. Sawyer, Sewickley

SG: Will we ever see another human being write the sentence "That's the Sandusky effect!" in a seemingly positive way? I'm gonna say no.

Q: It's the day after the NFC title game. I'm an eagle fan, stuck at san francisco airport, with a delayed flight to Newark, with about 200 giddy giant fans. Is there a shittier situation to be in on the planet?
— Dan, Philly

SG: I mean, you could be at a T.J. Maxx celebrating a pair of $5 Penn State sweatpants …

Q: If you are Peyton Manning and you know you are 100% healthy, don't you want Indy to cut you? Indy is in total rebuilding mode and drafting your replacement — do you really want to waste your last 2-3 years on a team going nowhere? Here's my idea, Peyton should wear a neck brace when he meets with the Colts like an old school wrestling heel trying to get out of a fight. Indy then cuts him thinking he's done, he goes on to a contender for less money and gets his revenge. Is it possible this has been Peyton's plan all along and we've all just gotten worked?
— Chris, N.J.

SG: Love the way you're thinking. If you noticed, he's now saying that his neck is 100 percent healed, but HIS VELOCITY hasn't come back yet. Supposedly he's only throwing about 80 percent as well as the old Peyton. Hmmmmmmmmm. Could you blame Peyton if he was pulling a Verbal Kint, easing up on his velocity, making himself seem like slightly damaged goods, and angling for a buyout (maybe 40 percent of that $28 million) so he didn't have to spend his last few seasons playing for Jim Irsay on this mess of a Colts team with Andrew Luck breathing down his surgically repaired neck? If that's the plan, he's a genius. As long as a healthy Peyton doesn't end up on the Jets. Because then … I'd be pissed.

Q: I think that in all fairness if you are going to have an all football mailbag that you should also follow it with an all nba mailbag. There are already enough qualified writers out there covering football that you should realize that your opinion doesnt mean shit. Please go back to what you are good at … over analyzing the nba. Thanks.
— PD, Yonkers

SG: Maybe you should go back to what you are good at — sending sarcastic e-mails to Internet sports columnists! Yeah!

Q: Are you going to wager on the Pats since they are only favored by 2.5? I'm just wondering how your heart will be smashed into pieces this time. I'm envisioning the Pats being up 5 or 6 late in the game. 4th and 8 with no timeouts left. Eli under pressure let's one fly down the seam. Travis Beckum doesn't even get his head turned around but the ball gets wedged between the seat of his pants as he crosses the goal line. The Asscheek Catch would have to be somewhere between 5 to 312 times more painful than the Helmet Catch. God Bless You.
— Domenic, Somerdale, N.J.

SG: The Asscheek Catch sounds just realistic enough that I just raided my minibar for more of those tiny bottles.

Q: Die-hard Patriots fan here living in NYC. If Gronkowski is really injured, please tell me how this doesn't COMPLETELY destroy the Patriots chances of winning this game. I've been racking my brain for a week and can't come up with anything. Not only does it make our passing game impotent, but it seriously hurts our running game, which is going to be crucial with this Giants pass rush … should I start packing my bags and getting ready to leave NY? Or prepare my jump off the Brooklyn bridge? PLEASE give me some reason for optimism.
— Fred, N.Y.

SG: (Calling the front desk for more tiny bottles.)

Q: I know you're doing a Super Bowl mailbag because you did a mailbag the other weeks and the Pats won. You are so predictable. At the very least could you please pick a couple of Super Bowl props and throw them in there? Do something useful for once Simmons.
— Nick, Nashua, N.H.

SG: Fine fine. Let's go with these: "Giants will receive the opening kickoff" (-260) … "First score of the game will NOT be a touchdown" (+155) … "Patriots WILL convert a fourth-down attempt" (+115) … "Gronkowski will finish with between 111 and 120 receiving yards" (+2,000) … "Mario Manningham will score the first touchdown" (+1,200) … "On Sunday, Kobe Bryant will score 1.5 points more than the Patriots" (-115) … BenJarvus Green-Ellis will finish with +14.5 more rushing yards than Ahmad Bradshaw" (-115) … "The Super Bowl MVP will thank his teammates first" (+200) … and "Al Michaels will make a thinly veiled gambling reference in the last five minutes" (+150).

Q: Please stop writing about Tebow. Stop posting emails from your readers who write about Tebow. Stop talking about him in your podcasts. And don't interpret this as an example of how fascinating and divisive a figure he's become. He's a below-average quarterback.
— Chris from Greensboro

SG: How long do you think it took before John Elway settled on the pseudonym "Chris from Greensboro?" Five minutes? Ten?

Q: On a scale of 1 to Christina Hendricks laughing at your junk, how much is Eli beating the Pats in the Super Bowl for the second time going to hurt?
— Graham, Muncie

SG: It's not going to hurt because I have already walked through, in my brain, every possible terrible scenario that can happen. On The Bachelor, you know how most of the girls who get dumped are totally blindsided, but there's always one or two that act like veterans, give the Bachelor a hug, stride to the limo with pride and take their exit like a champ? They had mentally prepared themselves for the worst. That's me on Sunday if the Patriots lose. In 2008, I was the crying girl in the back of the limo wondering what happened and saying things like "I don't understand what I did" and "He's making a BIG mistake." Not this year. My heart is made of steel.

Q: Are you concerned that Tom Brady just built a home in Brentwood? Let's hope in 15 years he's not riding in the back of a Ford Bronco with Gronkowski on the phone yelling "It's Gronk dammit, you know who this is!"
— Eric, Fremont

SG: Only he'd sound like Butthead. "Huh-huh, uh-huh … you know who this is … huh-huh … it's Gronk … huh-huh … I got TB in the car … Yo Soy Fiesta!"

Q: Patriots in the Super Bowl. In Indy. Against Peyton's little brother. And you write two NBA columns. Aren't you supposed to be here, excoriating my home town? Hmmm? Well, you can't snub us! We snub you! Stay out of our surprisingly warm for February city! Harumpff!
— Joe Pearson, Indianapolis

SG: I can't believe anyone would think, in a million years, that I'd ever be anti-Indiana for anything. You know Larry Bird and David Letterman were my two heroes growing up. You know how I feel about Jimmy Chitwood and Hoosiers. You know I have a soft spot for the Midwest, as well as for cities that are trapped in the late-'80s from an eating/drinking/smoking/caffeine/liquor standpoint. You know (or maybe you don't) that, in my basketball book, I blew up the Basketball Hall of Fame, re-created it as an Egyptian pyramid and moved it to Indiana.

So spending Super Bowl week here is totally fine with me. Maybe it doesn't pass the Vegas/New Orleans/San Diego/Miami test, but fuck it — everything is within walking distance from downtown (including the stadium), the locals couldn't be nicer (or happier for everyone to be here), the weather came through (at least so far), and if I could pick any city outside the Big Four for one random Super Bowl, why wouldn't it be this one? As my buddy House said, "It just feels alive — it's like surround sound. Since the moment we got here, I felt like something was going on in every direction." Isn't that what a Super Bowl should feel like? I couldn't be happier to be here. So there.

Q: Seriously? Who are your male readers marrying that they can't go camping in December or watch the freaking Super Bowl? Granted, I don't have a huge number of girlfriends, but I don't have ANY girlfriends that are as shrew-ish as the guys that often write in make women seem. Either I'm wrong and every girl I've never met is just effing horrible, or you all are just perpetuating some convenient, but insulting, stereotype. You're a fantastic writer, and I've been a devoted reader for years, but the "my wife won't let me do anything cause women are terrible and no fun" thing is bullshit, and worse, it's hacky. Stop it, you're better than that. Sorry for the scolding, but some of us like sports and don't suck.
— Lauren, Pittsburgh

SG: And just like that, "Lauren Pittsburgh" became the no. 1 search on Facebook by horny single guys who like sports.

Q: Does anyone know why Chad Ochocinco is still on the Patriots' roster? And if someone does, could we have Ed Hochuli explain it in a TV special during the 12 hours of Super Bowl pregame?
— W J Hayes, Mount Vernon, N.Y.

SG: We finally figured out why Chad was on the Patriots' roster on Tuesday, when he finally drew double coverage in the form of a 300-person Media Day crowd that made everyone else's lives easier for an hour. I'm convinced that's why Belichick didn't cut him — he was probably thinking, "Well, at the very least, he'll make Media Day easier for me."

Q: Can you break down the Super Bowl match-up without using any statistics or any other traditional football metric? Try to include MHK, Eli surpassing Peyton, or any other idea that could affect the outcome of the game without actually being on the field.
— Tom, Brockton, Mass.

SG: Sure, this will be fun. Let's see …

The "Nobody Believes In Us" edge: Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, is picking the Giants +3 this week. EDGE: PATS.

The "Playing For Someone's Memory" edge: The Pats dedicated their season to Robert Kraft's late wife, Myra, wore her initials on their jerseys, mention her frequently and genuinely seem to believe that they need to win the Super Bowl to honor her memory. The Super Bowl loves feel-good stories. This would be a feel-good story. EDGE: PATS.

The "Giant Horseshoe That Lives Up Eli Manning's Anus" edge: Still lives there, as we see every time he throws into double coverage for a sure interception that somehow gets dropped while concussing one or both of the DBs. EDGE: GIANTS.

The "Are We Really Prepared For Eli To Have Twice As Many Rings (And Counting) As Peyton?" edge: I mean, think about that for a second. EDGE: PATS.

The "Curse Of Bridget Moynahan" and/or "The Curse Of Gisele Bundchen": Brady broke up with Moynahan in 2006 and started dating Gisele a few months later. Since then: Spygate, 18-1, Bernard Pollard, no rings. I don't like talking about this or thinking about it. EDGE: GIANTS.

The "Peyton Manning Is Having A Crappy Week, So Naturally, He'll Be Unhappy On Super Bowl Sunday" edge: Well, Tom Brady beating Eli Manning (Peyton's brother) for his fourth Super Bowl (four times as many as Peyton) in Indy (Peyton's city) while using the home QB's locker (Peyton's locker) sounds like a capper to a crapper of a week, right? EDGE: PATS.

The "Who Does Vegas Want To Win?" edge: Supposedly money poured in on Giants +3.5 and Giants +3 for the past 10 days, only they're terrified to move the line to "Pats by 2½" because, if the Pats covered that by three, they'd lose all the Pats -2.5 bets AND all the Giants +3.5 bets (in a repeat of Super Bowl XIII, the most famous gambling disaster in football history2). If Vegas got killed all the time, there wouldn't be a Gamblers Anonymous, Vegas wouldn't have dozens of casinos, and Allen Iverson and Antoine Walker would have more than $500 between them. EDGE: PATS.

The "Who Did Adam Carolla Pick?" edge: Remember Mush in A Bronx Tale? That's Carolla. If he wagered on the same team you wagered on, you might as well throw that bet in the fireplace and watch it burn. This weekend? Rumor has it that Carolla likes … (drumroll please … ) the Patriots! EDGE: GIANTS.

Q: On SI.com Peter King mentions that Tom Coughlin gave this speech to his team after beating San Fran: "All three of those guys [the honorary Giants' captains] would give anything to be playing in this game," Coughlin said with customary passion. "But their time was then. Their time has passed. Your time is now … " Very moving, except it is from The Goonies! Please tell me if this is a good sign or a bad sign for the Pats because no one rode up Troy's bucket in the movie!
— Jason Mulderig, N.Y.

SG: Let's add that to untraditional football metrics …

The "Team That Didn't Steal A Motivational Speech From The Goonies" edge: Belichick doesn't do that crap. EDGE: PATS.

Q; Can we agree that the most terrifying line on any active NFL player's Wikipedia page belongs to Ray Lewis? "The white suit Lewis was wearing the night of the killings has never been found."
— Aaron W, Gainesville, Fla.

SG: Absolutely. Unless the sentence "Eli became immortal after beating the Patriots in the Super Bowl for the second time in four years" gets typed on Sunday night.

Q: I hate to go all 19th century on you chaps, but anyone who thinks that a Pats win in Indy will make up for 2007 must think The War of 1812 made up for the American Revolution.
— D. Zimmerman, Brooklyn

SG: All right, all right, enough of these already. The 2011 Pats cannot avenge the 2007 Pats. I am conceding the point. Is it all right if we win just to win the Super Bowl and shut up all the cocky Giants fans? Is that enough of an incentive? Lemme know.

Q: Does anyone else think that Rex Ryan is going to overpay Bernard Pollard solely because he seems to hurt a Patriot every time he hits one? And then Rex Ryan sends him on a blitz every down? I need a drink.
— Matt, Wakefield, R.I.

SG: I'm already drunk. You can't tell by the uncharacteristically short answers? There's a 40 percent chance I'm going to be kicked out of either the Audi party or the Playboy party tonight for wobbling around like Kim Richards.

Q: I've got an overtime proposition: Let's do away with it. This is not a call for more tie games. Instead, the team possessing the ball when time expires should be utilized as the tiebreaker. Never again will you see three runs up the middle to force the other team to use their timeouts. Teams might even use all four downs! Possession is nine-tenths of the win! I'm entirely too excited with myself!
— Daniel S., Asher, Okla.

SG: Pretty weak. You did inspire me to think of another playoff overtime idea, though — instead of a coin toss, what if they did football's version of a jump ball, with five players from each team standing on their respective 35 yard lines, Ed Hochuli standing at midfield, then Ed lobbing the ball straight up in the air as high as he could (and running for his life), then both teams fighting for the ball as it comes down? Whoever gets the football gets first possession in overtime. How great would that be? Especially the part when Ed Hochuli gets trampled by 10 football players?

Q: If you were forced to put your life savings on one NFL star abruptly retiring to start a career in the WWE, wouldn't all your money be riding on Rob Gronkowski?
— Derrick Williams, San Diego

SG: Yes. Except I'd parlay it with "Rob Gronkowski will release a sex tape before 2013" and "Within the next four years, something funny will happen during a Rob Gronkowski interview that will become the Namath/Kolber interview moment of this decade."

Q: When the Pats beat the Rams in SB 36, on the first drive, Tebucky Jones hit a receiver so hard he broke the guys rib. THAT'S how the Pats need to come out on Sunday. Enough of this playing it safe, being careful of the Giant's pass rush BS. Pats need to knock the crap out of people and DO THEIR JOB.
— Matt, Boston

SG: YEAH! Now I'm fired up. Let's speed up to the big finish …

Q: When asked what the "over/under" for Kelly Clarkson's Super Bowl National Anthem was, I initially responded, "170 lbs" …
— Joe G., Horsham

SG: We're in range.

Q: I hear Kelly Clarkson will be doing the National Anthem at the Super Bowl this year. I was talking with a buddy and we got to wondering, what would the reaction be if Kelly Clarkson performed Ace Ventura style (i.e. bent over backwards pretending her ass was singing)??? Say the rendition was flawless and spectacular, only that she was acting as if her ass was doing the singing. Would it be a bigger story than Janet's wardrobe malfunction?
— Andrew, Bettendorf, Iowa

SG: Yup, these are my readers.

Q: You have remarked on the coincidence of certain songs bands have played at halftime of Super Bowls involving the Patriots. In 2002, U2 played Beautiful Day as the Pats stunned the Rams to win it all. But then in 2008, Tom Petty played Free Falling, which is exactly how New England's season ended. Madonna is playing halftime this year. Any songs we should keep an ear out for?
— Dave B., San Francisco

SG: You mean other than "Like a Tebow"? Here's how I could see Super Bowl XLII playing out …

Everything goes wrong for the Pats in the first half: Brady doesn't have enough time to throw and can't find a rhythm; Cruz and Nicks are getting open all over the field; Gronkowski plays a couple snaps and limps off; the Patriots' quirky ball control/no-huddle offense doesn't work; the Giants are confidently skipping around like they own the place; and the crowd is smelling blood and working itself into an anti-Patriot froth. By halftime, it feels like the Giants should be leading by 30 points, only they're up 13-3 … and yet, nobody can see the Patriots possibly coming back.

And I'm sitting there stewing in my seat, surrounded by crowing Giants fans, fighting off déjà vu, swearing at Bernard Pollard, barely holding on to a shred of faith, thinking luck finally ran out for this doing-it-with-mirrors Pats team.

Then the lights dim. Hundreds of workers run out and assemble the halftime stage. Hundreds of dancers surround the stage in a creepy circle. The announcer says, "Ladies and gentlemen … Madonna!"

We hear the first few chords of her first song …

Life is a mystery
Everyone must stand alone
I hear you call my name
And it feels like … home

That's right, that leathery broad from Michigan with a British accent is singing "Like a Prayer."

When you call my name
It's like a little prayer
I'm down on my knees
I want to take you there
In the midnight hour
I can feel your power
Just like a prayer
You know I'll take you there

And suddenly, just like that, I will believe. So will the Patriots. If 2002 was a "Beautiful Day" and 2008 was "Free Falling," then 2012 will feel "Like a Prayer." The Patriots will rally back, Gronk will make a few big plays on his ankle that suddenly doesn't hurt anymore, the Giants' front four will get tired, and the Belichick/Brady Patriots will start playing like the Belichick/Brady Patriots of old. Peyton Manning, Joe Montana, Michael Strahan and Joe Buck will be unable to stop it from the stands. The noise from Colts and Giants fans will bounce right off the Pats like a Super Ball. Every ghost and every demon will be buried. And just when they're wrapping it up, and we see Bob Kraft and his son hugging in their luxury box, someone will spill a plate of nachos on Bernard Karmell Pollard.

That's not my pick … that's what I want to happen. But screw it, let's make that the pick.

The Pick: Patriots 24, Giants 19.

Playoffs: 7-3
Season: 127-130-9

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