Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Perhaps So

Today's Quad Cities Times sports page, fair use claimed, photo by J. Berta.

Greetings All:

The 51st Super Bowl (played February 5, 2017) is in the record books.  It ended with the New England Patriots, once again, winning the Lombardi Trophy.  This is number 5 for New England, an impressive feat indeed.  Here is CNN's take on the game.  

It was an epic comeback, likely to be considered the greatest Super Bowl of all time.  For the Atlanta Falcons, it is a painful experience and likely to be a painful memory for years/decades to come.  I do feel for their fans, as this had to be a devestating loss.

At the center (or more precisely behind the center) of this storybook comeback was New England's quarterback, Tom Brady.

Much has been written of Tom Brady' process as a quarterback and that was prior to this game.  Since he engineered the miracle comeback, the accolades continue to pour in about the virtues of Tom Brady.  Whether it is his leadership traits, his philosophic   pursuits, or his uncompromising uncompromising health regime, he is a unique individual.

I've never been a Tom Brady fan.  I recall a few years ago that I saw him during the National Anthem (long before the current controversy regarding a certain other quarterback) I saw him not placing his hand over his heart and I hammered him on Facebook.  Then there was the whole "Deflategate" matter.  Some say the Commish threw the book at him.  I think he got off easy.  In any event, that is in the past.

The simple fact is Tom Brady led his team to the most improbable Super Bowl victory ever.  In the face of seemingly overwhelming odds, he found a way to win.  He was never rattled.  He never panicked.  He tuned out the noise and simply threw completion after completion after completion.  When the game went into overtime and New England won the coin toss, it was as if the game was over.  Tom Brady was on a roll and he was not going to stop until he found the endzone.  Sure enough, he did.

If I want to be truly honest with myself, my ire with Tom Brady is driven in part by a silly, stupid resentment of his discipline.  I want to say to him, "Eat a cheeseburger, drink a beer, stay up late, sleep in, skip the gym."

And I suspect if I were to ever have that conversation, Tom Brady would smile at me and politely say, "No thank you."  He would go about his business, not caring what I did or what I thought.  In many ways, Brady is a practitioner of Stoicism- focusing on what he can control and nothing else. 

I grew up in the 70s.  One of my heroes growing up was Kenny "The Snake" Stabler.  He quarterbacked the Oakland Raiders to a Superbowl victory in 1977.  Here is a review of that game. In fact, back in 2000, I got a football signed by him at a casino in Bettendorf.  He was an early icon of the game.  Here's a solid account of his his exploits.

Stabler was the other side of the coin to Brady.  Where Brady's life rivals that of a monk, Stabler's life was one of a well, 1970s quarterback.  He drank and caroused and drank some more.  Yet come game time, he was ready to play.  One could argue the Raiders had an unfair advantage as they often had twelve players on the field, 11 in uniform and Stabler's hangover.

Brady and Stabler, two men so different and yet, so much alike.  I started writing this post Sunday night (it's now Thursday) and was thinking about Stabler this whole "Superbowl Season."  Then tonight, when Carly was at dance at the Family Museum, I took the minute walk to the library and perused the new book selection.  Despite the fact I am w-a-y behind on my current reading, I grabbed this:

Mike Freeman's book on Ken Stabler, fair use claimed.  Photo by J. Berta.

I have just read a few pages of it and suspect before the weekend is over, I'll have burned thru it.  Of what I have read, it covers the expected material, yet it also goes deeper into the man.  The back cover sums it up nicely:

The back cover of Mike Freeman's book on Ken Stabler, fair use claimed.  Photo by J. Berta.

As the photo might be hard to read, here is part of the back cover:

"In the 1970s, football was a militaristic, blind apparatus, where personalities were crushed under the weight of uniformity.  But quarterback Ken Stabler was something else."

Yes, yes he was.  He told the NFL:  "I'm going to party and be ready to play on Sunday, your rules, your assumptions of how I should live be damned."

Fast forward forty years, another quarterback steps forward.  He too challenges convention, by his diet, by his shunning of the weight room for resistance band, by declining alcohol and dairy and late nights.  And most of all...not giving a damn what anyone thought of him, save his family and teammates.

Is Tom Brady the greatest ever?  Perhaps so. And I suspect that if we could sit down and visit with Kenny Stabler, he'd likely concur.  He'd concur for Brady's exploits on the field.  He'd concur for how he's led his life (on his terms.) 

Now who am I to argue with The Snake?

Be well my friends,

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