By: Kevin Rousseau - Kevin's Articles are Sponsored by
August 08, 2006

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Every year it means just a little bit more than it used to.

What I'm talking about is uttering the seemingly throwaway line of "The Patriots first pre-season game is in a few days” to my now 89 year-old grandfather Donald.

Every year for a long time â€" probably going back to when I was about 12 years old or so â€" his response has been along the lines of "I know. I can't believe it.”

So what is so special about this simple exchange? It's nothing more than the mere fact that he is still around for me to utter this observation to him. From a medical standpoint, this guy has taken more hits than Corey Dillon but he has always gotten up and returned back to the huddle of life.

Those of you who have been regular readers of this space over the last five years have come to realize that the reason I care about this silly sports stuff has a lot to do with the fact that our teams bookmark the events and people in our lives. I'm sure you feel the same way.

I remember the concerned look on my then-girlfriend's face back in 1996 when she watched a Patriots game with me for the first time and the team nearly blew a game at the end to the lowly Jaguars. Ten years later, she still thinks it's a little much but has resigned herself to the fact that this is the way it will be for the rest of our lives together.

For my grandfather, it's a number of things. It's the memory of nearly knocking him over when the Patriots came back from a 20-0 deficit to beat the Minnesota Vikings in overtime back in 1994. I'm pretty sure it was the last game we attended together. Looking back, there were few other games played in Foxboro that were nearly as exciting. I'll gladly accept that game as a great gift of our time together.

How could I forget calling him from inside the Superdome after Super Bowl XXXVI and not believing that our team had actually won the damn thing? Then like many other New Englanders, I toasted his then recently-deceased wife of 62 years back in October 2004 when my grandmother's beloved Red Sox finally settled all past due invoices. Now her namesake, my daughter Evelyn, falls asleep in my arms in Red Sox pink.

I am sure that there must be an easier way to remember our friends and family over the years but I haven't discovered it yet. Maybe it's the literal equivalent of renewing my subscription to Hyperbole Monthly but the recent championships in New England has lifted a tad of the cynicism and resignation that our region patented over the years. I'm just glad that he's been around to see the answer to the question of "What if…?”

As for the upcoming pre-season, my grandfather and I agreed on three areas that will be worth keeping an eye on as August creeps to a close.

Most importantly, the wide receiving corps is thin right now and that's before an inevitable injury or the annual underwhelming performance from a newcomer. Unless a veteran wide receiver is picked up off the scrap heap or Ben Watson turns into the second coming of Ben Coates, it's going to be the Dillon & Maroney show for 35 plays a game. Balance wins championships, folks.

As for the guys asked to connect with this wide receiving corps, raise your hand if you wish there was a veteran backup quarterback taking some snaps in a red practice jersey down in zip code 02035. Give me just a minute; it's taking me a while to count all of you.

And if this question mark-filled offense gets in the position for a game-winning kick, make sure to keep the oxygen on hand in your living room as rookie kicker Stephen Gostkowski trots out onto the field.

We'll all be holding our breath hoping that the magic ride of the last few years hasn't come to an end. And with it all those good times that we shared with one another and subsequently dog-eared into our book of life's memories.

"The Patriots first pre-season game is in a few days.”

Neither my grandfather or I can believe it.