Friday, February 2, 2018

The Super Bowk Pick: The Worst Days Of Our Lives

Too on the nose?
New England vs PHILA- DELPHIA (-4.5)

I need to tell you a bit of a story ab- out this pick. It will be long and sloppy because I don't have the time to make it better than that.

Last year's Super Bowl was, of course, profoundly depressing. I spent three quarters watching the most hated team in professional sports getting their comeuppance like a wrestling heel at the end of their program, with the Falcons just owning every aspect of the game. It was joyous. It was decadent. It made me giddy.

Then it all turned, and it was February in New Jersey, and the only thing I had to console myself with was that it wasn't my team.

The next day, I drove into work and expected to take abuse from my manager, a Patriots fan. I got in early, because that's what I did there, and went directly into the kitchen to store my lunch.

He was waiting there for me. With the head of HR. They proceeded to tell me that my role had been eliminated with the company, and that the policy there was for me to just leave, like, well, right now. Hand over the laptop, we'll mail you your personal effects, thanks for everything. Role was eliminated due to restructuring at the venture capital level, it was nothing I had done or could have done, here's your severance. Clear air turbulence. Tornado on a sunny day. Bang.

Here's how bad and sudden and unexpected all of this was. I had a half dozen people emailing me on my phone that day, asking for various work products.

So. One more thing to add to the list of lifetime events, attended by Boston Sports Fan, that have left me permanently scarred.

I am, of course, well and truly better off for being out of there. I work for a dramatically better company now, I'm out of a field (pharmaceutical marketing) that's agonizingly slow to innovate, and so on.

But I do all of that 3000 miles away from my family, because that's where the job is, and moving everyone out here with me on no notice, in a weak market for home sales, just wasn't feasible.

In the time since the last Super Bowl, my family has had personal setbacks, which manifest into financial ones. I work pretty much all the time now, either at the job or by doing side hustles. I haven't even gotten to the gym in the last two weeks. My free time is about an hour a day, hollowed out before going to work, because I don't tend to sleep more than four or five hours a night now.

Every day is a challenge to have hope over exhaustion, to make the nut on the side hustle to keep the credit cards working and get just enough ahead to cover the likely income tax bill in April. We're pretty much one more setback away from having to make some really bad choices.

Now, insert into all of that, this game. This team, which has been the sole consistent element of joy in the past 5 months. Against this team, who I associate not just with some of the worst people I've ever been near, but one of the worst days of my life.

People ask me if I'm looking forward to the game. If I'm getting excited. If I'm confident.

And I... compartmentalize it, because I have to go make the nut or get my laundry done at the laudromat while ducking the homeless guys panhandling, or figure out what I can eat from my mini fridge and mini microwave, or if I get to eat at all, given that the lack of gym means clothes that might not fit so good, and clothes that might not fit so good can't be replaced, because money.

So. That's where my head is at for this pick. And that's why it is the way it is.

The case for New England: The coach. The QB. The experience.

Offensive tempo has been the only way to beat this defense, and that's what they do better than anyone. Varied running attack that they don't forget about. Best play calling in the game, maybe ever. Special teams don't make mistakes. Defense bends, but usually doesn't break. Coach intimidates opposite number into mistakes, time after time. They also, let's be blunt about this, always get the better end of the officiating. Best preparation in the game, and maybe ever, especially when it comes to taking away the thing you do best. The Eagles are going to have to win this game without the running game carrying them, and the defensive line getting sacks. They are also going to have to win this game while still trying to do both of those things, because that's the only way you do beat them. It's maddening.

The case against: May be smoke and mirrors, actually. Won a weak division, then got past two historically weak teams at home, to get here. 30th ranked defense is a misnomer based around early season issues, but they still aren't all that great. If TE Rob Gronkowski isn't 100% after concussion protocol, takes away best weapon and biggest matchup issue. WR Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola are good, but not better than what the Eagles have already faced. Have gotten off to slow starts this playoff year, and the opponent has ran off and hid against teams like that.

The case for Philadelphia: Best overall team in franchise history. Varied and effective weapons at every level of the offense. System that doesn't key on one guy to the point of predictability. Coach is having the year of his life, with an inordinate amount of gambles coming home, and a locker room that sells out for each other more than any team I've ever seen.

The case against: Backup QB and 2nd year coach against the greatest ever at their opposite numbers. Kicking game can be shaky. Struggle when officiating goes against them, and it likely will.

The pick: The Eagles can win a blowout. They can't win a close game. The Patriots play close games. My laundry covers the spread in the hollowest victory ever, and I spend the rest of my life, if and until they break through, haunted by the loss.

And as soon as the game is over?

I'll be working.

Patriots 31, Eagles 27

Last week: 0-2

Season: 130-126-8

Career: 1012-1013-43

Past SBs: 5-6

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