As one of the five or six human beings who actually looks forward to the Pro Bowl, I must frankly call BS on one aspect of this year's game:
Specifically the fans who saw it fit to boo New England Patriots Pro Bowlers Dan Koppen, Matt Light, Logan Mankins, Mike Vrabel, and Vince Wilfork.
Here I was thinking a Hawaiian vacation was supposed to mellow you out...
Seriously, did the league provide free tickets and hotel to the same classless bunch who booed 14-year-old Anna Grant at the Punt, Pass, and Kick competition in Indianapolis or what?
Since the derision and raspberries were presumably all about continued allegations of illegal videotaping activity rather than the general overwhelming disappoint at failing in the bid to go 19-0, I'll start this rant with an appeal to a higher authority.
Under the umbrella of "let he who is without sin cast the first stone," the following should find themselves with no justification for ugliness:
• Fans of teams such as the Denver Broncos, New York Jets, Indianapolis Colts, and Oakland Raiders who have had to vehemently defend their own squads against accusations of cut blocking, illegal videotaping, augmenting crowd noise, or multiple offenses throughout the 1970s, respectively.
• Any ostrich who pretended not to notice Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Barry Bonds' apparent drug problems while enjoying their homerun chases. Closer to home, big-bird status can be extended to those who didn't mind the shower of accolades poured upon Shawne Merriman in the same season he was suspended four games for steroid use.
• Those who believe maybe Pete Rose should be considered for entry into the Hall of Fame.
• Anyone who ever used—and claimed to believe in—the expression "Innocent until proven guilty."
Does that take care of most everyone, then? Good.
Certainly some still feel betrayed by the recent claims that the Patriots taped a St. Louis Rams walk-through on the eve of Super Bowl XXXVI. That game, of course, became the first to receive proper 21st-century hype, with millions of observers hurriedly rushing online to proclaim the New England victory "The Greatest Super Bowl Ever" and "The Biggest Upset of All-Time." The Patriots were bombastically, jingoistically, hyperbolically proclaimed a symbol of post-9/11 America itself and the country was all too willing to accept this plucky heroic underdog.
(Incidentally, booed Pro Bowlers Mankins, Koppen, and Samuel weren't even on the 2001 squad.)
Perhaps, also, would-be detractors might wish to consider exactly what this latest story is about. The doom, gloom, and cheap-shot negativity clouding New England centers on two things.
This first is a single story reported on ESPN that featured a former low-ranking Patriot employee who "has suggested" he had "information" that was "potentially embarrassing to the team and the league."
Gee, a disgruntled former worker who has nothing to lose by making spurious claims and everything to gain by disproportionately sympathetic publicity? It's nice that the NFL has its own Monica Lewinsky, I suppose.
(By the way, does anyone remember ESPN's immediate reportage of the death of Sean Taylor in which thuggery of Taylor's known associates was taken for granted? Thought not.)
The second item which precipitated fan actions that would be dissed nationwide had they gone down in, say, Philadelphia, is the decision of Sen. Arlen Specter—certainly never one for showboating for the cameras in the name of another congressional hearing on arcane matters—to question upstanding commissioner Roger Goodell on the earlier controversy regarding Patriot videotaping in Week 1.
The Scott Boras-like timing on Specter's move is of suspicious note (it has been said that Specter is a serious Eagles fan), causing one to wonder why he just didn't appear on a pregame show and make the announcement directly to Dan Marino.
Distressing is that while Boras is slamming for trying to steal thunder and hog media time, Specter is taken seriously.
Whereas a big-mouthed, dead-ended congressman taking center stage again to bombard the public with his televisual presence for weeks would normally be dreaded, NFL fans appear to be ready to eat up discussions that will make Bill Belichick's postgame dialogue seem like Casablanca by comparison.
Benefit of the doubt?
Not for these Patriots it seems.
Once held up as an American instant classic, the greatest team of this decade has suddenly been whitewashed by media to the point of stirring up the mob. All the educational and beautiful football of the last half-dozen years or so, all the memories of wonderful clutch play, have been erased in a squall of negativity based on nose-leading mass-media hype.
I have never seen Hawaii uglier. Classless show, fans.