Dear refs

Dear replacement refs,

You can breathe easy now. I’m sorry everyone felt you were incompetent and let you know it. You’re just inexperienced and maybe in a little over your head. The League would hardly have fared better if the commentators had tried their hand at your job; they only occasionally make the correct call from their lofty stadium box.

Plus, sports fans get a little crazy sometimes. OK, all the time.

It’s hard being a substitute anything, but you guys had it worse than substitute math teachers. You were the fresh young hires at Sterling Cooper scrambling to learn the ropes in an office full of buxom Joans in distracting low-cut dresses. But you made it through and can now go into seclusion and write a book about your ordeal and make a solid 1% of what those guys on the field are making for throwing around a ball.


A sympathetic fan


Football in the great outdoors


grandma’s porch.

Originally uploaded by endlessrevolt

I had a dilemma on this gorgeous almost-fall day: watch my beloved Patriots while stuck indoors or get outside and soak in the fleeting summer sun. Unwilling to choose, I camped out on the porch, dragging an ancient TV set with me; football, is, after all, meant to be enjoyed outdoors.

Sitting in the sun made me feel like I was at Gillette Stadium–not that I’ve ever been to Gillette Stadium, but how different could it be from watching football on my porch? The traffic whizzing by was loud–not unlike the sound of 68,000 cheering fans; there was tailgating (OK, some half-stale chips and salsa), and the sun was streaming down as if I were baking on the 50-yard line, kind of making it hard to see the plays, actually, but no matter. Then, when it was evident the Pats were going to lose spectacularly, not unlike the way they used to crush other teams, I packed up early and went inside to beat the traffic.

Game over…er–on

To stop the sobbing that started the moment Tom Brady went down on the field with a knee injury in the first quarter of the first game of the season, I’m trying to focus on the positive. Because hey, my Sundays have just opened up. Football season is so demanding anyway–sure, for the players, but equally for the fans. First, it’s a huge time commitment: several hours every Sunday afternoon or occasional marathon Monday night throughout the fall and winter. Who needs that kind of distraction? Second, it’s a heavy emotional investment, which, after the catastrophic end to last season, cannot be overstated. Suffice it to say, I’m at risk for high blood pressure and have a defibrillator on hand for the games. Third, the time off will give Brady some quality time with his son and model girlfriend, paparazzi-free, because really who will care where they’re buying a house or going to dinner or what he’s wearing: if he can’t throw the football, he’ll be lucky to rate a segment on Access Hollywood.

Oh, what’s this? Backup QB Matt Cassel has thrown for two touchdowns, and the Pats are on top 14-10. Maybe things will be OK (flashback to a young Brady coming in for an injured Bledsoe and getting the job done). And wait, now the Chiefs’ QB is down too? Damn, there go my Sundays.

New England's Tom Brady (12) fires a pass downfield just as Kansas City's Bernard Pollard (out of the photo) hits his leg and buckles it. (Winslow Townson/Associated Press)

Things I did on the first Sunday without football

1. Put away my Patriots t-shirt for the season. Goodbye stupid shirt; see you in August. Just so you know, you’re no longer my lucky shirt.

2. Made a mediocre lunch, nostalgic for the feasts of game day. Even lime Tostitos have lost their charm.

3. Moped around the house, reflexively grabbing the remote and then tossing it aside with a sigh.

4. Cursed the snow that fell during four separate squalls on Sunday. Snow is only welcome during playoff games.

5. Read an article by sportswriter Dan Shaughnessy who put the loss into perspective: it was bad, but not as bad as the spectacular collapses of the Red Sox, which while true, only made me feel worse.

The Pats are Super Bowl champs–in Africa

It’s a given that days before the Super Bowl, t-shirts are made declaring each team the winner. Hungry fans demand wearables the very next day. So, where do the silkscreened sweatshirts of the losing team go to die? Third world countries, apparently. It’s a win-win: manufacturers ship the clothing to people who need it, and New Englanders can take solace in the fact that somewhere, at least on the backs of a few blissfully unaware Zimbabweans, the Patriots are Super Bowl champions.

There is crying in football, sobbing actually

“Morning,” the bus driver said. I noticed he had omitted the “good” and I was grateful. We sat in silence, joined in sadness. The bus wasn’t scheduled to leave for another two minutes. More unendurable waiting.

“Can you just drive?” I asked. “I mean, somewhere else.”

He was reading the Globe, full of bad, bad news. “Yeah,” he said. “Let’s go.”

We agreed on Florida–it’s warm and a long enough drive to allow for uninterrupted sobbing–but as the bus lumbered down the street, I saw that he was just humoring me. We were taking our normal route to the city, as if he thought I were kidding. As if he thought I could be remotely useful in my job today. As if he thought I had any reason at all to live.

Forget it. I don’t want to talk about it.