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The Bitterman’s Super Bowl preview: Groundhog Day in the NFL

Tom Brady and Bill Belichick's New England Patriots are back in the Super Bowl. (AP)

Feels like Groundhog Day, doesn’t it?

Well, that’s because it is Groundhog Day – not just on the calendar, but in the NFL. Only instead of waiting to find out if Punxatawney Phil sees his shadow, we’re waiting to see if Constipated Bill, the New England hedgehog, comes out his regular hoodie or a shirt whose sleeves he has chewed off.

New England’s Gronkowski cleared from concussion protocol

This is the eighth time Bill Belichick’s Patriots have made the Super Bowl in the past 16 years. So every other year, he glowers and grumbles his way through a week of “festivities” before his Patriots take the field. Throw in his two Super Bowls as New York Giants defensive coordinator and the one he worked for the Patriots in 1996 back when Bill Parcells was in charge and Sunday will mark the 11th time in 52 Super Bowls that Belichick has been working the sideline.

Amazing, right?

Yep. Amazingly awful. Because at this point I’ve heard about everything I can stomach regarding Belichick and his Patriots. I don’t care to read any more long-winded investigations into the origins of the team’s greatness or the expertise of his coaching, and I definitely don’t want to hear any more accounts of palace intrigue or potential cheating.

I have heard so much – both positive and negative – that it all jumbles together. I’ve read that Belichick is a football genius. I’ve read that he’s evil. I’ve read that he’s an evil genius who combines his understanding of the game with a diabolical willingness to stretch every rule to its limit and then some.

And it’s all been jumbled together and recycled to the point that it’s one big goulash of equally logical storylines.

I’m sick of the storylines. Every single one of them. I don’t want to hear about Belichick or his sweet father Steve or his weird assistant coach Ernie Adams. I’m sick of people telling me how they think the Patriots are cheaters because they got “caught” twice by the league, and I’m putting “caught” in sarcastic quotes because in one case the Patriots were doing something that had only recently been forbidden (taping signals) and in the second case, the league was so stupid that it reached conclusions regarding the inflation level of footballs that were debunked by actual scientists.

I’m tired of watching the Patriots come back from double-digit deficits in the second half of playoff games while everyone marvels, “That Tom Brady, he just did it again.”

It’s like watching an inordinately rich guy fill out a tax return. He’s already got more money than he could ever need. In fact, he’s so rich that you’re actually rooting for Uncle Sam to take a bite out of his backside if nothing else than to cause a little momentary discomfort on the man who already has so much of a cushion. Then he starts putting in his deductions and his write-offs, and what do you know, he’s getting money BACK. Again.

Whatever, maybe next year Constipated Bill will get stuck inside his little hedgehog hutch, and we won’t have to see him or his glowering mug on Groundhog Day.

Philadelphia vs. New England, 3:30 p.m. Sunday, NBC

It’s the biggest quarterback mismatch since Stan Humphries started for San Diego against Steve Young’s San Francisco 49ers. The difference is that Young also had the better team behind him. The Philadelphia Eagles have the better overall team, but they’re starting Nick Foles, which is kind of like playing with an arm tied behind your back. And as much as I’d like to say that the Eagles’ run game and defense will be enough, the Falcons couldn’t beat Brady and the Patriots last year and Atlanta had both a good quarterback and a 25-point second-half lead. The Eagles don’t have a good quarterback and they won’t have a 25-point second-half lead.

Pick: Patriots 28, Eagles 23.