Boston Herald Steve Buckley column
Jan. 11--Not counting Super Bowl week and the afterglow of having won the Super Bowl, the Patriots never have dominated the Boston sports discussion like we've seen this week.
It's as though Deflategate, Spygate, the aborted Southie stadium and the various ownership changes and rumored moves to other cities have been thrown into a pot and blended into the mother of all discussion points.
That, along with the fact the Patriots have a home playoff game Saturday night against the Tennessee Titans.
Part of it -- a very small part -- is timing. The Pats have long since become entrenched as the dominant professional sports franchise in the region, but this week, it's more than that. So much more.
This week, the Pats have the entire stage to themselves.
The Celtics play in London today, their only game of the week. The Bruins are in their bye week.
And the Red Sox? The biggest news they've made this year is the announcement that Darren Fenster has been named manager of the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs.
Perhaps today's the day they roll out an announcement that free agent J.D. Martinez has agreed to a long-term deal to come to Boston. Won't make any difference. It's all Pats all the time this week, and in a way we've never seen in a non-Super Bowl week or week after, and here's why: It's not as easy to rally around a common enemy as in crises past.
Spygate? Everyone blamed dime-dropping Jets coach Eric Mangini.
Deflategate? Roger Goodell was sticking it to the Patriots and carrying water for bitter, envious NFL owners not named Kraft.
The Southie stadium? The politicians!
And so on. Even the Aaron Hernandez trial, as huge a story as it was, didn't have much point/counterpoint. Save for a few sign-holders from the lunatic fringe, pretty much everyone combined to form a symbolic Juror No. 13 and submitted a vote for guilty.
While plenty of Pats fans are dismissing Seth Wickersham's ESPN story as just another Bristol-generated hit piece, it's more complicated than that. Even some local media folks are agreeing that something is going on down Foxboro way, and the talk shows have full lines as longtime fans weigh in with their own grassy-knoll theories.
And to make it even more complicated, it's not as easy as choosing sides -- Bill Belichick? Tom Brady? Robert Kraft? -- and then making a case for your guy.
Consider how some of the past crises resolved:
--Southie stadium? The Krafts cracked open the family piggybank and built their own stadium in Foxboro.
--Spygate? The Pats still went undefeated during the 2007 regular season and have posted double-digit victory totals every year since.
--Deflategate? The Pats won a Super Bowl as the narrative was forming, and another one after punishment was meted out.
This one is different. It's been a lot of fun to dig into the "A Few Good Men" playbook and ask "who ordered the code red," but there's another line from that movie, a favorite of mine, that might have more relevance.
"You don't want the truth, because deep down in places you don't talk about at parties . . ."
The latest spin in this ongoing Kraft-Brady-Belichick drama is that everyone is focused on and committed to winning, despite whatever disagreements they might have. This is followed by the incessant observation that "it's like a marriage," which, sorry, stopped being clever four days ago.
But deep down . . .
Yes, deep down, the fear is maybe this really is the end. I believe there will be a Kraft owning the Patriots well into the century, but Brady's days as a fully armed and operational gridiron battle station are dwindling to a precious few seasons. As for Belichick, he will "absolutely" return as coach next season, unless he doesn't.
Pity the poor Tennessee Titans. They're getting no love this week, no respect, no headlines, and they have no chance. As for story lines, there's not much shared sports history between these two parts of the country once you get past that frigid divisional playoff game between the Pats and Titans in January 2004 . . . and, OK, Vanderbilt beating Boston College in the 2008 Music City Bowl. (If you want to throw in Knoxville, there's Tennessee drubbing UMass in the NCAA basketball tourney in 2014.)
As for the tried-and-true let's-compare-the-cities column, I got bored after, "We have John Adams and John Quincy Adams, they have James K. Polk and Andrew Jackson."
The best thing about Saturday's game is that when it's done, everyone will be talking about the AFC Championship Game.
Unless someone finds an actual photo of Jimmy Garoppolo banging on the door at that TB12 facility.