Open Mic: Joe DiMaggio, New England Patriots the Best, Worst

Andrew StevensCorrespondent IJune 17, 2008

Sports are about numbers and how they relate to wins and losses. Hits, home runs, strikeouts, wins, losses, goals, yards gained, penalty time, etc.

All sports revolve around these statistics, and it's the relationship that these stats have within the games that stir the passion of fans.

Few numbers are more revered then the consecutive games hit streak of Yankees legend Joe DiMaggio. His 56-game hitting streak in 1941 is still held in the pantheon of the greatest records in sports history.

What makes it amazing is simply this: The factor that has the greatest impact on one's ability to hit changes every day. This factor is the starting pitcher.

He faced 56 different starting pitchers during the streak, each with a different windup, arm angle, and pitch speed. Yet he was able to continue to hit the ball, day after day.

The focus and mental acumen to stay on a five or 10-game hitting streak is amazing, let alone one that goes for over 50 games. It's the greatest individual record in sports history.

Today, with tremendous media pressure and specialized pitching roles, it's highly unlikely that any player will ever be able to break his record. This is why Joe DiMaggio's record is one that "will never be broken."

As much as sports are about tremendous individual and team successes, they are also a place where failures, both great and small, abound. Nowhere was this clearer than in Super Bowl XLII.

The New England Patriots had just finished a season where they had done the unthinkable: won 16 regular season games, plus two more in the playoffs. So, coming into the Super Bowl, they were 18-0, and the media hype machine was at full throttle.

Questions fluttered about in the sports world like confused bats: Was New England the best team ever? Were they better than the 1972 Dolphins (the only NFL team to have an unbeaten season)? Could the Giants be more than cannon fodder in this Super Bowl?

Games, as this writer has said many times, are decided on the field and not in sports columns or inflammatory headlines. Perhaps the Patriots did not get the message.

In the Super Bowl, the Giants defense sacked Patriots "wunderkind" quarterback Tom Brady five times, and the Giants quarterback Eli Manning threw two fourth-quarter touchdown passes (aided by an improbable catch by David Tyree) to win the game 17-14.

This loss goes down as the greatest collapse by a team in the history of professional sports. The climate of hype and anticipation produced a game that the Patriots simply had to win. And they did not, failing in spectacular fashion.

Super Bowl XLII is the greatest sports disappointment (especially for a New England fan), as a perfect regular season of historic Patriot success ended in Giant euphoria and celebration.