Picked-up pieces while the Bills Mafia gets lathered up for the first-place-again Patriots in Orchard Park Monday night …
▪ As one who is routinely wrong, let me mention that I’m no latecomer to the suggestion that the Bill Belichick Patriots could wind up facing the Tom Brady Buccaneers in Super Bowl LVI Feb. 13 at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif.
Go back to the Globe’s “NFL Season Picks” that were posted online Sept. 8 and you’ll see me predict that the Patriots would go 11-6 and make it to the Super Bowl, where they’ll beat Tampa Bay in “the greatest event in the history of sports.” Colleague Chad Finn also had the Buccaneers and Patriots in the final, but he picked Brady to win the big game.
Speculation about a Patriots-Buccaneers Super Bowl was a topic this past week after New England knocked off top-seeded Tennessee while the Brady Bucs got back on the winning track in Indianapolis. Data analytics website Football Outsiders stated that going into Week 13, Patriots-Buccaneers is the most likely Super Bowl matchup, with a 9.9 percent chance of happening.
Assorted media power rankings have the Patriots as high as third out of the 32 NFL teams. USA Today has the Buccaneers second, with the Patriots fourth (first in the AFC).
Wednesday’s New York Times chimed in with a hilarious column by “Trend Watch” scribe Mike Tanier headlined in print, “Just When You Thought It Couldn’t Possibly Get Worse.”
Evidently, Football America has had quite enough of Belichick and Brady this century. A return to the “Bill vs. Tom” narrative makes the rest of the country gag. Folks thought they were done with us once Brady left, but here we are again, threatening to take our tribal “Who Gets More Credit?” theme back to the big game in February.
“Imagine a weeklong cross-country bus ride,” wrote Tanier, “seated between a colicky infant and someone with onion breath shouting along to a Limp Bizkit playlist while the person behind you kicks your seat and the bus engine keeps backfiring … That is what a Super Bowl between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New England Patriots will feel like.”
Not our concern if Football America doesn’t like it. After everything that’s gone down over the last 20 years, Bill vs. Tom in the Super Bowl would be the greatest matchup in the history of sports.
▪ What are the Red Sox doing, you ask?
Someday soon, local baseball fans are going to regret the inadvertent success of the 2021 Sox. It has emboldened Sox management (obsessed with staying under the luxury tax) into believing they are smarter than everybody else. It’s pretty clear at this moment that Chaim Bloom won’t be happy until he has a 25-man roster of guys with one-year contracts.
Jackie Bradley Jr.? Again? Seriously? Did anybody else think they were being pranked when they first heard about this Wednesday midnight deal? It’s a holiday gift for the local JBJ Love Society, but what are we going to do about that .163 batting average?
The Sox certainly didn’t have to do much scouting on Michael Wacha. He was a mop-up man with the Rays in October, used only once in Boston’s four-game Division Series takedown of Tampa Bay. He pitched 2⅔ innings in the 14-6 Game 2 loss, yielding nine hits and six earned runs for a nifty ERA of 20.25.
James Paxton, recovering from Tommy John surgery and unavailable for possibly the whole season? This is another indication that the Sox are no longer in a “win-now” position. Paxton is here for 2023. Same with the prospects the Sox got when they gave away Hunter Renfroe.
▪ Quiz: Name the big league hitter who homered in the most major league ballparks (answer below).
▪ Glad to hear Tiger Woods is recovering from his horrific car crash in Southern California in February. Tiger met the golf press in Nassau Tuesday, spoke of a grueling rehab from a shattered right leg that nearly required amputation, and said he’ll never return to the PGA Tour as a full-time player.
He also got terse when he was asked what he remembered about the crash.
“Yeah, all those answers have been answered in the investigation, so you can read about all that there in the post report,” said Woods.
Excuse me? This man drove 87 miles per hour in a 45-m.p.h. zone, failed to hit the brakes when his car crossed a median, veered into the lane of oncoming traffic, and careened off the road before crashing into a tree.
Star-struck California cops broomed the whole affair. Woods was never charged with any violation. His blood was not tested for intoxicants, nor was there a request for his cellphone records to see if he was texting.
Woods was charged with a DUI in 2017 when he was found driving with sleep and pain medications in his system. Did he fall asleep at the wheel in February? Was he under the influence? Texting while driving? The “report” Woods cited explains nothing. One can only conclude that he was not charged simply because he’s famous.
▪ Brian Kelly won more games as coach of Notre Dame than anyone else; more than Knute Rockne, Frank Leahy, or Ara Parseghian. He walked away to LSU after going 113-40 overall at South Bend. He will be paid $95 million over 10 years at LSU.
Not bad for a kid from Chelsea who got his start coaching seventh- and eighth-grade basketball in Clinton while he was playing linebacker at Assumption.
After graduating, Kelly was women’s softball coach at Assumption for four seasons (they did not pay him $95 million). In 1987, when he was 26, Kelly took a job for $4,200 to be a graduate assistant and defensive backs coach at Grand Valley State in Allendale, Mich.
▪ Whatever happened to Holy Cross basketball? The Crusaders have already lost to Quinnipiac, Bryant, and Central Connecticut this year.
▪ Today’s NBA: There were TWO offensive rebounds in the Magic’s 108-103 victory over the Nuggets Wednesday.
▪ Sunday night at 6, MLB Network will announce any new Hall of Famers voted in by veterans committees. I expect Minnie Minoso and maybe Dick Allen to pass the audition with the Golden Days Committee (1950-69). Buck O’Neil is bound to get consideration from the Early Baseball Committee.
▪ When Max Scherzer signed with the Mets (remember when the Red Sox used to compete for top-paid talent?), the Post and Daily News both featured a full back-page image of Scherzer headlined “MEET THE MAX!”
▪ High chair alert: Sitting high above 6-foot-5-inch Drew Bledsoe in the owner’s box last Sunday, Bob Kraft could have used the top of Bledsoe’s head as a coaster.
▪ Are you beginning to think Brad Stevens was an underrated coach? He certainly got more out of Kemba Walker than Tom Thibodeau has gotten in New York. Thibs sent Kemba to the bench this past week, saying, “You always have to do what’s best for the team.” Walker is not even in the second unit. His weak defense was the final straw.
▪ Does it depress you to learn that Larry Bird will turn 65 Tuesday?
▪ Not giving up on scoring a loaf of 1968 Big Yaz Bread. One of my readers produced photos of an empty Yaz Bread wrapper.
▪ Quiz answer: Sammy Sosa, 45 major league ballparks. Ken Griffey Jr. is second with 44, Fred McGriff third with 43. Former Red Sox outfielder Ellis Burks is next, having homered in 41 ballparks.