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There are two obvious narratives when you watch a game with a big comeback: the comeback and the choke. The New England Patriots’ 31 unanswered points to defeat the Atlanta Falcons and win Super Bowl LI without having led the game for a single second certainly plays into both of these narratives. Epic drive after epic drive to tie the game by New England. Chance after futile chance for Atlanta to put the game away.
As I alluded to two weeks ago, the biggest struggle in writing about the NFL in this column is that I have to write the column before the games on Sunday are played. Given the circumstances for this Sunday’s game, I wrote this week’s Super Bowl Edition of Tearing Up the Playbook on Thursday, with about three days and two hours until kickoff. On my end, this means I have to write something that will apply to this game no matter what happens. With that in mind, consider the following:
When you take a look at upper-tier National Football League quarterbacks, one thing is immediately apparent: they all get paid a lot. Aaron Rodgers’ average annual salary is north of $22 million a year. Russell Wilson takes home just under that mark. Matt Ryan of the National Football Conference champion Atlanta Falcons makes over $20 million a year. I don’t bring this up to say someone like Rodgers is overpaid. Rodgers is probably the best thrower the NFL has ever seen. He deserves every cent that someone will pay him. The problem is that when you give one player that much money, it becomes extremely hard to build an elite team in other areas.
I think I have to preface this by saying that by no means do I consider myself a New England Patriots fan. I repeat, I am not a Patriots fan. That being said, I am a football fan, and as a football fan, it is impossible to deny that the Patriots are an impeccable organization.
The call from ESPN’s Chris Fowler was simple: “Watson … TOUCHDOWN!” What good would babbling do at a moment like that? Sometimes a play speaks for itself. Deshaun Watson to Hunter Renfrow from the two on a sprint-out pick route is one of those plays college football fans will talk about for a long time. Last year’s matchup between Clemson University and the University of Alabama for the title was so good we dared to compare it to the epic 2006 Rose Bowl between the University of Southern California and the University of Texas. However, the rematch on Jan. 9, 363 days later, was so good it eclipsed the 41-38 battle royale between the undefeated Longhorns and Trojans.
Men’s Track and Field
In what became the two greatest victories in franchise history, the Chicago Cubs turned to a pitcher so unassuming that his Twitter bio still refers to him as a right-handed pitcher “in the Chicago Cubs organization.” That’s right: despite posting the best ERA in Major League Baseball this season, Kyle Hendricks ’12 still hasn’t bothered to update this description of himself to reflect his status as a dominating starter, Cy Young frontrunner and World Series champion. In short, 2016 has been good to the right-hander from southern California.
On Nov. 2, the narrative dramatically changed from “It’s gonna happen” to “It happened” for Chicago Cubs fans. After 108 years of suffering, mediocrity and disappointment, the Cubs finally took home the World Series. And what a Series it was.
How Cleveland Took Control (and how Chicago lost it)
“As sure as God made green apples, someday the Chicago Cubs are going to be in the World Series.”
Baseball fans love to bring up the lack of a clock in baseball. No matter what happens in the first inning, you have to record all 27 outs to win the game. The difference between this and say, a 60-minute football game, is subtler than it might seem. In football, a big hit might set a tone that carries a team through all four quarters. An early lead of just two touchdowns may quickly seem insurmountable for the opposing side. No matter how much time is on the clock, momentum is always critical in sports with time limits. One takeaway can completely shift the complexion of a game, and that shift can last for the game’s duration.
With the postseason around the corner, it seemed like a good time wrap-up the regular season by predicting each of baseball’s annual regular season awards.
Since Colin Kaepernick first knelt during the national anthem before a San Francisco 49er preseason game on Aug. 14, his protest has prompted a national referendum on social injustice in the United States.
In 2015, the Chicago Cubs relied on Jake Arrieta, the ace of their pitching staff, and its young and supremely talented core of position players, to carry the team to a 97-win regular season and a wild card berth in the National League Championship Series.
The Angels aren’t terrible. No one is going to mistake them for the streaking Chicago Cubs, but they aren’t the woefully bad Atlanta Braves either. To put things into perspective, going into May 16, the Cubs run differential was +109, and the Braves had scored 109 runs. To be sure, the season was still young, and both teams’ fortunes could easily change. But at this point, those two franchises represent the poles of the MLB. The Angels are somewhere in between. For the Braves, who as of May 16 had yet to win 10 games (the last team in the League that still hadn’t done so), there is reason for optimism. Atlanta boasts a farm system that ESPN’s Keith Law recently rated baseball’s best. They may be laughable now, but Atlanta has studs like shortstop Dansby Swanson or pitcher Sean Newcomb waiting in the wings. Compare that to the Angels. On Law’s list, the Angels were proclaimed to have the dead worst farm system in baseball, going as far as saying that it was the worst he’d ever seen since he began evaluating farm systems.
When you walk into Thompson Arena, the features you are most likely to notice are the larger-than- life portraits that line the rink’s walls depicting Dartmouth graduates who have gone on to careers in professional hockey. Undeniably, the College has a strong presence in the NHL.
Baseball’s Most Dominant Pitcher
A week ago today was Patriots’ Day in Massachusetts, a commemoration of the Battles of Lexington and Concord and also the annual running of the Boston Marathon. Two years ago, the holiday was marred by a tragic bombing. Five days later, the Boston Red Sox played their first game at Fenway Park after the bombings, trading in their traditional home jerseys with “Red Sox” across the front for ones with “Boston.”
Dave Roberts, Ross Stripling and the No-Hitter That Almost Was