By: Bob George/BosSports.net
October 30, 2004

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How do you top Wednesday night? Simple. Instead of 1918, the new magic number is 19-0.

Patriots/Steelers
Close-Up
Where: Heinz Field
Pittsburgh, Pa.
When: Sunday 10/31/04
4:15 PM EST
TV National:
TV Local:
CBS
WBZ-TV 4
DSS: DirecTV
Channel 714, 930
2003 Team
Records:
Patriots 6-0
Steelers 5-1
Latest Line: Patriots by 3
The Patriots simply need to run the table. They need to reclaim their top spot in everyone's Boston sports conscious. They worked their tails off to become top dogs, building a brand new stadium and furnishing it with two nice looking Super Bowl banners. But in one fell swoop, one Wednesday night in the same structure their Week 2 opponents used to call home, the Red Sox are back on top.

2.5 million people came out to both Patriot victory rallies combined. They expect twice that many on Saturday in Boston when they break out the duck boats again. The boats won't stop, not even for a rally (it is considered too dangerous to hold a City Hall ceremony, which is a lousy shame). The route, similar to the Patriot victory route, has been lengthened to accommodate the mob, and they are predicting that Saturday will be the busiest day in the history of the MBTA.

Eighty-six years. From Harry Frazee to Johnny Pesky to Jim Burton to Bucky Dent to Bill Buckner to Grady Little, all those miserable memories of failures past instantly evaporated with one little ground ball which was fielded cleanly by Keith Foulke and lobbed underhanded to Doug Mientkiewicz at first base. The Red Sox are the new world champions. Boston and New England simply don't know what to do with themselves. But when they strike up the big parade Saturday morning, they'll know.

They'll scream. Yell. Holler. Cry. Wave. Praise. And the most important word of the moment and of the day: Party. This shebang has been going on since Wednesday night in St. Louis and won't likely stop until Monday morning. Perhaps many weary and hung over nor'easters will forget about this tremendously important football game Sunday at 4:15 PM.

Put it this way. The Patriots won't need Jerome Bettis and his ridiculous comments last weekend to motivate them on Sunday at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. The home front will provide plenty of motivation.

The Patriots have to be sick of the Red Sox. On the surface, they'll say all the right things. Bob Kraft and John Henry are often seen together, usually at Fenway. Tom Brady and Tedy Bruschi expressed interest in the World Series, and professed their allegiance to the Sox. But with all this World Series hoopla going on, combined with the nonsensical saturation coverage last year, the "other world champs"ť have to be feeling a bit huffy right now.

We aren't trying to be wet blankets. Who in their right mind can't be happy for the Red Sox right now except those from St. Louis or New York? You cannot understate the significance of the 3-0 win by the Red Sox Wednesday night, as the Sox won the World Series in a stunning four-game sweep over a team which won 105 games in the regular season. History was completely rewritten, and New Englanders will never look at their baseball team, or perhaps even themselves, the same way ever again. The six-state region was literally turned upside down.

What we'd like to do is to offer up some perspective here. Yes, the Sox have been around longer and waited 86 years for this while the Patriots only waited 42 for their first. But the Patriots have not been known for the classic chokes the Sox are famous for. They have been done in by bad officiating, treasonous behaviour by a head coach, and having the bad luck to be facing the best one-season defense in NFL history. Everything else has pretty much been either expected or merely disappointing.

As 2004 will be known as the watershed year in Red Sox history, 2001 is the same such year for the Patriots. The Patriots did what the Red Sox did, and that was to defeat a St. Louis team in the championship round. Adam Vinatieri's 48-yard thunderbolt sent New England into outer space, and can arguably lay claim to the most electrifying moment in the history of the entire National Football League.

So what? You can say the same for Carlton Fisk in 1975. Sorry, but this is the best moment in televised sports history, not baseball, or Red Sox history. Besides, this was not a clinching win for the Sox and they lost the next night. Vinatieri's kick blows this moment away.

In a league dominated by parity, the Patriots own two of the last three Vinces, including the most recent. The Patriots have not lost since late last September, and have won 21 straight regular season and postseason games. The Patriots are currently in the midst of one of the most, if not the most, dominating era by one team in the history of the NFL. When you have experts calling the Patriots a "dynasty"ť, it is hoped that you understand what an incredible statement that is.

Meanwhile, all the Red Sox did was break a curse, if you subscribe to such folk whimsy.

The Red Sox won their sixth world championship in franchise history. But this was their first since 1918. The Sox won four titles between 1912 and 1918. 86 years later, the Red Sox finally found the right formula and sent their fans into total delirium with a richly satisfying World Series win.

Simply stated: Since 2000, the Red Sox have one title and one huge choke job. The Patriots have two titles and a 21-game win streak. You tell me who's been more dominant in their sport and who deserves to be accorded the top spot in the region.

If you need more convincing, consider this: Go and find out how many Red Sox fans out there are more excited over the Sox beating the Yankees than they are over the world championship. You may be shocked at what you find. You also won't ever find a Patriot fan who treasures an AFC Championship more than a Super Bowl win.

Now, in addition to this victory parade which will in all likelihood make even more Boston history, and rightfully so, the Patriots have to deal with a Pittsburgh Steelers team on the road on Sunday which still thinks they are a better team and that the Patriots are both dirty and lucky. Bettis bragged on CBS last week that he was rooting for the Patriots to beat the Jets because he wanted his team to snap the streak. Wide receivers Plaxico Burress and Hines Ward took shots at Ty Law and the Patriot cornerbacks, saying that they cover receivers illegally.

The Patriots first and foremost need to shut up Steeler players who are subscribing to the theory of "those who fail to remember history are doomed to repeat it"ť. If you compare this Steeler squad to 2001 or 2002, the only significant change is at quarterback. In rookie Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers finally have their first decent signal caller since Terry Bradshaw. He provides the Patriots with a lot to think about, although he is still a rookie and, like the Jets, his team forged its 5-1 record against poor teams

Another thing that will challenge the Patriots is the fact that they are coming back to Heinz Field for the first time since the 2001 AFC Championship Game, where the Patriots parlayed two special teams touchdowns into a 24-17 win and a berth in Super Bowl XXXVI. This crowd will be out for blood, much the same way they assume their football team will. The crowd will lift up the Steelers, but it will be nothing that the Patriots cannot handle.

The Patriots need to continue the streak for their own good. If you thought the coverage of Grady's Folly and the Alex Rodriguez chase was obscene last year, this year will top all. The parade on Saturday will be the tip of the iceberg. It's not going to drive attendance down at Gillette Stadium. But it will make an indentation in the Patriots' slice of Boston sports history they are so proudly forging.

Face it, Saturday will be a day to go totally nuts. Much of Patriot Nation will be there, screaming at Curt Schilling, Manny Ramirez, Johnny Damon and Kevin Millar. The Red Sox deserve it. The joy they have brought everyone will be forever sweet and delicious.

And when the parade passes by, put back on those Elvis Patriot shirts and hats and train your attention back to where it belongs.

And cheer your favorite football team towards a 19-0 season. Why not? The Sox have shown us these last two weeks that anything is possible.


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