Bridgewater, Massachusetts, Opening Day 9-8-19, Steelers at Patriots, pregame – As often happens here in the South Shore, sugaring starts right around Super Bowl time, early February, when it’s below freezing at night, but daytime temperatures reach the low 40’s and above. We have a little backyard sugaring operation with about 15 taps right here in town. The season here lasts into March and then we go a couple hundred miles north to donate a little labor to the “real” family sugaring operation in Vermont.
So, on Super Bowl Sunday I got a couple of blackberry pies into the oven (one for the neighbors, as a form of prayer) and went out to tap trees. I only got five tapped and then it was dark and almost game time. Threw together a meal and then struggled with our dysfunctional old TV and missed the first four or five minutes.
I liked the quiet first half with its subtle tactics, all about field position. Belichick is a douche in many ways, chief among them dumping, and dumping on, good players (see, e.g., Richard Seymour and Malcolm Butler), but for nearly 20 years it’s been comforting to have some things handled well; he, Brady, and a succession of coordinators have brought a fine-tuned sense of pace and an awareness of game conditions, where the sun is, wind direction and strength, surface condition, ball inflation, play calling – in short, good situational football!
There’s some sputtering early, Brady’s first pass picked, Gostkowski’s first field goal missed, but Gostkowski hits early in the 2nd quarter and we lead 3-0 at halftime. Biggest play of the half? Center David Andrews’ recovery of a Brady fumble late in the 1st quarter, averting likely disaster. Patriots at their best, doing the heads-up, unglamorous things.
Second half is the same grinding battle for field position, featuring an insanely long punt by their Johnny Hekker, and our Ryan Allen drops in some beauties, fully exploited by our unrivaled punt coverage team.
With 3:36 left in the 3rd Jason McCourty makes a huge play, racing 18 yards from the right side to the middle of the end zone to break up a pass to Brandin Cooks, who’d been open forever. Tied at 3 after 3.
In the middle of the 4th quarter I see Gronkowski get position and leverage inside their five. I see Brady’s pass floating prettily. Our TV freezes when the ball’s in mid-flight. I see nothing more until the extra point after Sony Michel’s short plunge, for which wrecking-ball fullback James Develin and Gronk had cleared the way.
I decide to listen to the car radio. When I start to drive toward Brockton, there's just over 2 minutes left, we're still up 10 to 3, and have the ball in good field position. Soon it’s 13 to 3 and over. So nice to relax toward the end of a game. I’m now in the dark parking lot of the remains of a shopping center on Brockton’s south side. The anchor super market has been closed for 20 years. 80% of the retail space is shuttered. Spooky American Wasteland.
Don’t know, anyway, if I could’ve taken another game like the Conference Championship in Kansas City where Patrick Mahomes played Texas Red and Brady played The Stranger in a perfect reenactment of Marty Robbins’ Big Iron. Listen and see what I mean!
On the way home I stop at the Yangtze, a quaint old Chinese restaurant in West Bridgewater, and have a shot of Grand Marnier. Just a couple of older Chinese guys there. Everybody happy. Patriots’ safety Patrick Chung, an old Oregon Duck, has a Chinese dad and a Jamaican mom. Go to Sophia George’s song “You’re Too Girlie Girlie”, a reggae all-time classic. And the last of your compulsory listening assignments, dear AVA readers, is Four Dead in Ohio by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, in honor of our Super Bowl MVP, super slot receiver, Kent State alumnus Julian Edelman.
Over the next day or two I finished tapping, happy in the late winter sunshine and the glow of victory, and then had five weeks of excellent sugaring, making more syrup than we can use with plenty for friends and neighbors.
It's now September, minutes before kick-off, and the Steelers await, never easy. Let me add that it’s been a rather trying off-season with the Celtics having flamed out ingloriously, the Bruins having screwed up a 7th game on home ice with the Stanley Cup there for the taking, and the Red Sox on a fast track to oblivion.
Also, of course, there’s been the affair of Trump ass licker, Robert Kraft, and his patronage of an establishment called The Orchids of Asia, apparently specializing in happy ending massages. Big questions for tonight: Will Kraft have the decency to stay home and NOT participate in raising Banner # 6? One can hope, but not likely. And who will be his special guest in the owner’s box? Alan Dershowitz?
Finally, though, and here’s where Jeffrey St. Clair should take it easy on the Patriots, we’ve got Michael Bennet in the fold and may he make some white people (quarterbacks especially) uncomfortable, and we’ve got linebacker Jamie Collins back after a couple of years in exile. Redemption! Go Pats! God Bless Ilhan Omar!