NNew England Patriots

Boston Bubbling With Optimism


A sunset view of Boston's financial district from the Back Bay, December 16, 2010.

Sports radio is an annoying format. It's mainly sports writers, shock jocks, and fans either yelling at or with each other. I have no business listening to Boston's WEEI sports radio, especially after the morning guys, Dennis and Callahan, mentioned my name on the air in 2005, followed immediately by the word, "idiot."  Twice.

But on my latest drive to Brockton from Manhattan, I didn't have my own car with me. I opted to rent one, and I relied on terrestial radio rather than XM radio for most of my entertainment. WEEI's range is impressive. I think I picked up the station in Old Saybrook, Connecticut, just past the halfway point between New York and Brockton.

And for the first time, I heard something called the Planet Mikey Show. Mike Adams seems like a funny guy. He's from Pittsburgh, but he almost sounds like Seth McFarlane as Peter Griffin (the main character in Family Guy who has a Rhode Island accent). Mike and his sidekick last Tuesday night just couldn't avoid the theme for the entire city of Boston right now - that their pro sports teams were among the hottest in the nation as 2010 drew to a close.

The Bruins were running their predictable course of having a great regular season, followed by a painful playoff exit. The Celtics were in the middle of a long winning streak. The Red Sox had made two blockbuster acquisitions during the MLB winter meetings in Florida. And the New England Patriots, in just five weeks, had gone from playoff probables to Super Bowl favorites.

A common talking point repeated by all of WEEI hosts and guests is that the Patriots are now favored to win all of their remaining games, including all playoff games and the Super Bowl. The talking point is so common and pervasive, I wonder if everyone in front of the microphone was given a memo, Fox News style?

Coordinated or not, they're correct. The New England Patriots are once again favored to win the NFL Championship. I blogged about this before, in early 2008, and we know how that story ended. But this season is dramatically different. The Patriot defense has gotten better with each game. And in my opinion, this has been the season that finally proved that it is the quaterback, Tom Brady, who has made the Patriot offense great.

He has thrown to both good and great receivers. But Brady has this ability to elevate all receivers. He delivers the ball to them as if they are all named Jerry Rice or Deion Branch. Brady has surpassed names like Steve Young and Johnny Unitas on the list of great quarterbacks and has entered the territory of Joe Montana, Dan Marino, and John Elway. There is simply no active quarterback better than Tom Brady, no matter what Marshall Faulk or Tom Jackson currently say about the Patriots on television.

Boston's getting ahead of itself a little bit. Great things are happening in December 2010 (the Celtics and Patriots), but one of those teams needs to win a championship in order for 2011 to be remembred as a great year in Boston sports. But with 1986 and 2007 already recorded as great years, it is certainly understandable how expecations are very high for three of Boston's four pro sports teams in 2011.

The first test will be the Patriots playoff run. They have defeated all the top teams this season. For them, it really is Super Bowl or bust this time around.