A game as momentous — and entertaining, and media coverage-saturated — as Super Bowl XLVI will inspire all sorts of reactions from fans and media members. Eric Wilbur of the Boston Globe wrote one of the worst ones you will read.
Wilbur chose to write from somewhere between the perspective of a liquored-up WEEI caller looking for heads to roll and a parodist with a rapier wit and a master's grasp of satire. Essentially, he ended up writing like a liquored-up parody. With apologies to the dearly departed Fire Joe Morgan, let's get to fisking.
The legend is dead, the prince has turned back into a frog, and...well, use whatever other cliché you want.
A performance as bad as Tom Brady's tonight in Super Bowl XLVI deserves a lead just as lame.
That kind of sounds like parody, but it also sounds like an excuse for throwing a cliché in your lead, realizing that move is a terrible idea, and still trying to get away with it.
Sorry, Tommy Boy, this one's on you. Your hideous performance led to the Giants' 21-17 Super Bowl title win. How embarrassing for your coach, your teammates, and your fans.
But especially for you, boy wonder. It was one thing when you led the game off with a safety, which surely put plenty of faith into the heart of Patriot Nation, but just when you have the game, just when you might be able to run off the clock, you huck the thing downfield. Yes, if Wes Welker catches that thing, you're in the clear, and fans will place the blame either way, but what happened to being safe in that situation? What happened to the Patriot Way and clock management?
Considering that Bill Belichick's late challenge and timeout troubles left the Patriots with more clock management troubles than Brady's virtuosic 96-yard drive to end the first half, this obviously doesn't work as a straight-up critique in toto. But the bad decision to throw deep and risk the intentional grounding-in-the-end-zone-leading-to-a-safety penalty on the first offensive snap of the game and the bad decision to heave a pass to Rob Gronkowski in the fourth quarter are both ripe for criticism.
Why would Wilbur write a column that can't figure out whether to exonerate or excoriate Brady when there are ways to do either? Because he couldn't figure out whether he had an actual opinion or not?
What happened to you?
Here's where Wilbur misses a really easy chance to wonder if something was actually wrong with Brady by writing a column that doesn't take the Super Bowl, Brady, or anything seriously. Brady did have something happen to him, apparently getting injured on a sack by Justin Tuck with just under six minutes to go in the third quarter.
It's not clear what exactly Brady hurt on the play: he came down hard on his shoulder and had to get it loose on the sideline, and apparently had some trouble dressing after the game, but he also had his head hit by Tuck's knee and a seemingly mild impact with the ground. A reporter inquiring into the possibility of injury might adequately answer the one-sentence rhetorical question Wilbur poses. Wilbur, unsurprisingly, does not.
What an embarrassment for the Patriots organization and Bob Kraft. So now the Giants have taken Lombardi from you twice, and you haven't looked this bad in a playoff game since...well, two weeks ago against the Ravens. Maybe that moment will actually hit you as you're whittling down water slides in South America looking like Prince Valiant this spring. The Patriots haven't won a title in seven years, but even worse, they're now turning into the Buffalo Bills, with the Giants being their Cowboy daddy. That's not easy to swallow in a region where New York is regarded as highly as the menu at Beacon Hill Pub.
I'm fairly certain that Bob Kraft and the Patriots organization are very proud of their overachieving team that earned the AFC's No. 1 seed and only lost this year's Super Bowl in the last minute — not to mention all the Pats did to honor the memory of Myra Kraft, the owner's late wife — but, well, I'm not writing a parodic column hours after the Super Bowl.
Also, though I'll guess Brady won't be "whittling down water slides in South America," because I have no idea how one whittles down a water slide, Brady's got a couple more Super Bowls losses to go before worrying about comparisons to Jim Kelly from even the looniest message board denizens, and has three Super Bowl rings that still outweigh his more recent failures. Oh, and "the Giants being their Cowboy daddy" sounds weird and plays into the weird relationship with whether one team can best another on a field of play without being fodder for metaphors about power and abuse, but we're really focusing on the more important issue of why Wilbur was paid for this column here, aren't we?
But, there you are, Tom. That's what you have become. Your legacy has been stamped, but you're turning your Joe Montana status into one of Jim Kelly. But, hey what you worry? There's that new mansion in the "Names" pages to deal with.
Again, read straight, this would be ludicrous: people who play football at the level that Tom Brady does usually do not worry so much about their mansions, however palatial. And read as parody, it's, well, stupid: you can't make Tom Brady into Jim Kelly no matter how hard you try. Maybe Kurt Warner? Brett Favre? Brady simply has too many wins to make a Kelly slight stick.
Yes, there were plenty of dropped passes to go around. Granted. But when you begin the game with such a boneheaded play, then proceed to make random mistakes, sorry, Tom, game is on you.
There were four or five drops late in the game. They came at important junctures and probably hurt more than Brady's safety; Wes Welker's, in particular, may have cost the Patriots at least three points. And Brady didn't make random mistakes, given both his aforementioned injury and that Giants pass rush; plus, if Wilbur was going for parody, why didn't he mention that the lily-livered Brady just couldn't stand tall against the Giants' ruthless rush because he doesn't have the spine for it?
There was no fourth and 13 to blame Belichick for.
Nope, just timeout issues and indecision.
Welker was the closest thing to Asante, and the eeriness compared to the Tyree play will be discussed for decades to come.
Welker's drop is like a defensive back's drop in Super Bowl XLII in that Welker is paid to catch passes and Asante Samuel was paid to prevent passes from being caught, and is like the Tyree catch in about negative five ways. The eerie resemblance to the Tyree play on the bomb to Gronkowski does count, though I'm almost certain no one will be discussing it in 2017, much less 2042, considering the play was followed by a series of more important plays.
Thanks for that too. Can't wait. Oh, look, another text coming in from 212...
Now Wilbur is just complaining about having friends. That's pretty sad if it's parody!
Tom, it's not all your fault, but you're the poster boy, you had opportunities, and you failed to make them. Add to that your blunders, and it all becomes about you. You blew this Super Bowl. You denied your coach No. 4. You let down your teammates.
"Sorry, Tom, game is on you." "Tom, it's not all your fault." "You blew this Super Bowl." If Wilbur would pick a consistent point of view, this column might work better!
Eli and Peyton now have as many rings as you combined over the past five years. You haven't sniffed one in seven. How's that hit you?
Maybe it doesn't hit you as hard anymore, and maybe that's the problem.
Yeah, maybe not! Dan Wetzel's remarkable column for Yahoo!, which is not encumbered by a bizarre allegiance to a semi-satirical perspective, shows how shattered Brady seemed on Sunday night, despite having an owner whispering condolences and encouragement in his ear and his beautiful wife at his side, but maybe you're right, Absurd Straw Man Created By Eric Wilbur!
The safety killed the Patriots. Killed them.
The Patriots led by eight points in the third quarter, and led with less than a minute in the game, but I suppose this is something that insane people would possibly hold as a viewpoint.
And there's nobody to blame but Tom Brady.
...or the offensive lineman who failed to block and forced Brady to throw the ball away, or the referee who decided to throw a flag few football-watchers have ever seen for a quarterback standing tall and throwing a ball downfield.
However hard it might be to swallow, the glory days are gone. Even Montana handed off to Mallett at some point, right?
In all seriousness, though, Wilbur got caught with a bad idea that he couldn't fully flesh out on a night when everyone would care about his column, and, because journalists have always had to read their mistakes and must now answer for them on Twitter, got ripped repeatedly for it. He even conceded it was a "lukewarm sports take"
There were good, even great "sports takes" on Super Bowl XLVI in the moments after it ended last night: Wetzel's column is about as good as columns get, and the National Post's Bruce Arthur wrote a superb column despite dealing with being Canadian. Wilbur didn't write one.
That doesn't mean Wilbur should be fired: in my opinion, beyond making grievous errors of fact or in judgment, journalists deserve to keep their jobs. That doesn't mean Wilbur's a hack: few people who are judging him on the basis of one column are likely to be familiar with all of his writing, though I'll admit my brief perusal of his archive uncovered a few more one-sentence paragraphs than I usually like in my sports takes.
And that obviously doesn't mean that the entire community of sports columnists is bereft of interesting ideas; Wetzel and Arthur, and the people here at SB Nation who have written and will write thought-provoking takes on the game and everything around it, and people elsewhere, provide proof of that daily.
But the tagline of Fire Joe Morgan, still beloved for its role in holding the lesser lights of sports journalism accountable for their faults, was "Where Bad Sports Journalism Came To Die." Here's hoping Wilbur wrote the worst column he will ever write last night.