A Denver pawn shop dropped 900 pounds (8,600 bar) butterfingers in Copley Square about a block from my office yesterday with a sign thanking Wes Welker. I heard Wes interviewed after the game saying how he’s made that catch a million times in practice and hundreds of time in game situations but couldn’t yet understand how “in the biggest game of my life I was unable to do what I always do.”
I met Wes at a party just before Christmas. He sat on a couch quietly with his girlfriend sipping a soda and smiling graciously. Matt Light’s wife sat next to him and became obsessed with the fact that my wife has a striking resemblance to one of the cast members on LOST (Claire) and called to Matt sporting his beard to confer on the issue. Matt laughed it off, as did Wes.
Seeing that huge man with that little guy was strange in terms of their physical difference. But the interaction left me thinking how normal they were. These are just guys who happen to play football for a living. All the tabloid stupidity about Wes’s love life and the glaring lights of the Super Bowl couldn’t shake that from my mind.
Now a confession. I watched the game and nearly threw up. I am what you call a closeted sports fanatic. I don’t like to admit it too openly, even to myself. But I care a little too much about these games with balls and pucks. It wasn’t so much the loss but the way we lost that broke my heart and put me in a horrible mood until I read a story my buddy Johnny O, a former ranger with the 82nd Airborne who served in the first Iraq war, sent me about his brother with Turrets’ Syndrome and their abusive step father (“Scuba Diving with Stuffed Animals”).
That brought me back to sitting on the couch with Welker. And to the fact he’s just another guy. Sure he dropped a ball in front of a couple hundred million people. But which of us haven’t dropped a ball once in our lives when we most wanted to catch that MF’er?
It also brought me back to the role of the Boston Sports fan. It’s this deep-seated illness as far as I can tell. We hate LA, sure. But it’s New York we really can’t stand. The Yankees and the Jets are our most bitter enemies. Despite the fact that Don Zimmer was once our manager when he went to the dark side we were glad to have our biggest guy punch the fat old bastard in the face.
But the insult to injury is that it’s not the Yankees and Jets that have done the most damage. Sure we’ve lost to them in excruciating ways. But nothing compares to the Mets and the Giants. It’s like the double whammy because these aren’t even the New York teams we really hate (Bob Kraft said repeatedly before this Super Bowl how close he was to the Giant’s ownership). And yet there is Bill Buckner and now Wes Welker.
I can dissect the game until the cows come home: our defense absolutely sucked until by some miracle they woke up against the Ravens and a practice squad guy made an amazing life saving play: Brady started the game with a safety; a critical fumble erased with 12 men on the field; Gronk tried but was useless leaving the game in the hands of Brady and the receivers left standing.
It all comes back to Wes Welker going up for a difficult but makable catch. Pan to the bench where Vince Wilfork and the rest of the d-line react with horror going to their knees because they must have known right then and there what might have been–a championship ring slipping to the ground like so much pigskin in the back yard during a pick up game with the neighborhood kids.
So what I’ve realized is not only is football and the Super Bowl a game, but the guys who play it are human beings. And human beings, me and you, we make mistakes often at the worst possible moments. Dumping thousands of candy bars in Copley Square doesn’t really change anything. The lesson to be learned here is that we all might want to try to be a little less die-hard sports fans and a little more devoted human being fans.
I am sure Wes Welker will come back and play again. I hope I get the chance to see him again at that same Christmas party, if we are invited and he attends. I am going to tell him how much I admire him. Not for making the catch but for missing it and living through the aftermath.