This column, by contributing author Dave Kindred, first appeared in The Sporting News on February 11, 2002 after the Patriots defeated the Rams 20-17 in Super Bowl XXXVI in New Orleans. Tom Brady was named the game’s MVP, the start of a dynasty and the start of a career in the Hall of Fame.
Young quarterback Tom Brady slept on the locker room floor an hour before he was going to perform another piece of magic and woke up feeling… well… he didn’t know how he would feel playing his first Super Bowl, this is the end of a season where he became a star after being a nobody, this is an american festival so clad in red, white and blue that… wait a minute.
You’ve never seen so much red, white and blue. If it’s possible to have more than enough red, white, and blue in these perilous times, Super Bowl 36 came dangerously close to that patriotic overload. There were dancing Statues of Liberty twined in the colors, hundreds of torch-carrying maidens testifying to our national spirit. Red, white and blue lights sparkled in the darkness of the arena as our national anthem was sung. One wondered, albeit briefly, about the colors of Rudy Giuliani’s Skivvies. On the other hand, a Bourbon Street reveler one night chatted up a soldier, “Where are you from?”
The boxy man with the American flag patch on his shoulder said, “Fort Bragg.”
Fort Bragg sends out heroes. His Special Forces warriors do the hard stuff that makes our soft lives possible. When the warriors of Fort Bragg want to show Osama bin Laden a thousand red, white and blue spots in a Super Bowl awash in red, white and blue, this is the way to think about it: hooray, hooray and damn hooray.
So those wonderful colors kept us warm, and we all felt good, and there, in the Patriots locker room, on the floor, young quarterback Tom Brady woke up from his nap and wondered when they were going to get back to the game.
A smile much later, Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady, his Patriots 20-17 winners and young quarterback told reporters, “It’s taken so much friggin’ time. I hope you all enjoyed the pregame show. We hated it.”
Even old Abe Lincoln got a call at that first Super Bowl since September 11, 2001. As former Presidents Ford, Carter, Clinton and Bush recited lines from Lincoln, in the Superdome we heard words meant to rouse a nation to a resolve for liberty and equality – a determination just as necessary in the 21st century as we are in the 19th century. We’ve heard the famous Lincoln quote: “Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history.”
Even the Rams, dear football fans, couldn’t escape history. As many times as the Rams’ kaleidoscopic offense has amazed, the lessons of football history remain true. power wins. Smashmouth wins. defense wins. Beat the other guys harder than they beat you, you win most games. The more important the game, the more important it is that you are the attacker.
Listen to the percussive sounds of the victor’s defenders. Linebacker Bryan Cox: “We wanted to hit Marshall Faulk early and on every play.” Cornerback Ty Law: “We challenged them physically.” Linebacker Ted Johnson: “We hit them hard today.”
And listen to the happy, lilting voice of Tom Brady, 24, the youngest quarterback to ever manage a Super Bowl winner, a boy who took a nap before the game: “When I woke up, I thought not that i feel so good. I said to myself it’s a football game. It’s all about playing football. … I felt calm and confident.”
Such a world by Tom Brady. A year ago he was a sixth-round draft, made with the 199th pick. Last season he threw three passes and completed one. As a backup for Drew Bledsoe, a $103 million star, Brady’s place in the Patriots’ system was reflected in the team’s 2001 media guide:
Bledsoe’s biography filled 26 pages; Brady’s three-quarter page. But an injury to Bledsoe gave Brady the starter job in Week 3. His win-loss record from there: 14-3.
To say that such work, let alone a world championship and a Super Bowl MVP award, exceeded Brady’s ambition is calling Britney Spears a blonde. Moron. When asked about his realistic hopes for this year, Brady replied: “I was hoping to be a far better player at the end of the year than when I started.”
Now 29 seconds remain in Tom Brady’s Dreamworks… Tie, 17-all… Patriots on their own 41… Brady’s play call is 64 Max, All In, meaning every offensive lineman gets his big butt in between puts the Rams and Brady and keeps it there…while three wide receivers run patterns into the middle of the field. Nothing conservative. No waiting for an extension. “We played to go out and win the game.” said Brady.
The boy takes it to wide receiver Troy Brown, who puts the pass 23 yards to the Rams’ 36. Another Brady pass, a short one, his fifth completion in a minute, and Adam Vinatieri’s 48-yard field goal wins it, and, like the Patriots in red-white-blue uniforms, their first playoff game 15 days earlier in a blizzard, suddenly a blizzard of confetti blown up by wind machines rose from the Superdome floor and the confetti fluttered around Tom Brady’s smiling face, and the confetti was of course red, white and blue.