“On Monday, indulge in a few cocktails and start the next great American novel…”
It was the first entry on my To Do list.
Sure, “successful” people will tell you it’s important to set goals, but I have no idea what the Hell inspires me to think I am any sort of writer.
I might have a similar affinity for drinking and bullfighting, and plenty of inner demons of my own to cope with, but that is as close as any sort of comparison to Hemingway might go.
I hated On the Road.
My writing skills are so subpar they resulted in my English teacher my sophomore year of high school telling my parents I would never amount to anything in life because I could not write.
Sure, the next time I saw that same English teacher after that school year was some 15 later as I was sitting in a coffee shop, writing an article I was being paid to submit to a newspaper when she walked in. The fact of the matter remains “next great American novel” is very likely beyond my skill set.
Yes, there is still a kathartic fantasy of dimly lit rooms, smoke and whiskey and keyboards that drives me to write, regardless of whether or not it’s good. The escape of creation. A depth to persona. A mystery of character.
Yes, there are plenty who will argue I have the talent to string words together; just ask my Nana. (We’ll get you your chapter later, E.) I did make my living as a sports writer for a while, but sports is easier. Watch the game, ask the players and coaches what they saw, polish those thoughts up and string them together coherently.
“Quakers over Avengers, 3-1. Game 7 next Friday, 10 p.m., at the Vet.”
That is sports, but the “next great American novel”?
You have to come up with the words to string together for that one. As my track record with women will tell you, creating opportunity was never really my specialty.
Even before I got to sophomore year in high school, my freshman year English teacher took issues with my abilities as well. She didn’t tell me my life would be an abject failure. Her message was far more complicated to understand.
“So what?” is all she would write on any paper I turned in.
Pretty sure I still have no damn idea, Miss Wood.
Hell, that “Monday” I was speaking of in the opening sentence was more than a week ago and I’ve only gotten this far. Hounded by the question that always seems to get thrown at me of “What, exactly, is it you you do here?”
I couldn’t fuckin’ tell you.
A new adventure?
A new chapter?
I don’t really know.
“Champagne dreams on a beer budget,” is what the Momma once told me.
Here is what I can tell you: We could spend some time debating whether or not I quit, was pushed out or was fired, but four days ago – from the time I penned this sentence – I was excommunicated from a company I had dedicated almost nine years to. I am 35-years old, vastly underemployed and now I’ve also had those cocktails I was talking about in that opening line and think I can use this space to create something.
That is the goal.
Whether or not I know where this story begins, ends or where Chapter 2 is, I just want to get something out there. I’m not sure I have the arrogance or the self-confidence to really undertake such a journey, but cheap rum can make you say some crazy shit.
Photos and adventure. That’s the goal. With good stories to weave it all together.
Now the real work begins.
Last Row Sports is going on the road.
There was a time in my life I wanted to be a sports writer.
I wouldn’t say it’s a dream that died, but it was certainly laid to rest long ago. Much like the Golden Age of Sports Writing itself.
I actually did it for a while, albeit to varying degrees of success, but I was paid to have my words printed. It’s a career that started to blossom at my college newspaper. The first column I ever wrote came in early 2002 on the heels of the New England Patriots defeating the St. Louis Rams 20-17 in Super Bowl XXXVI.
The game held February 3, 2002.
I was still a few months shy of turning 20. I also noted in that article there was a good chance it was the only championship New England may see for some time.
One of the big no-no’s in sports writing is to avoid the clichés – which onto itself is a line I have used in a number of columns – but if only I knew now what I knew then…
Some 15 years and two days later, I was on my couch awaiting a storybook ending. The New England Patriots were back in the Super Bowl – their seventh appearance since their win over the Rams – Super Bowl LI versus the Atlanta Falcons. From the opening kick, that storybook ending began slipping away. The beers began to flow as preparations began for the journey to end not with a bang, but with a whimper.
The Patriots started the game falling behind 21-0. Their greatest deficit was 28-3, coming near the middle of the third quarter. To that point, the greatest deficit ever overcome in a Super Bowl was 10 points.
New England finally got into the end zone on a five-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady to James White that made it 28-9 with 2:06 remaining in the third quarter, but kicker Stephen Gostkowski missed the extra point attempt. No team in NFL history – in any game – had ever overcome a 17+ point fourth quarter deficit. The Patriots trailed 28-9 with one regulation quarter remaining in the 2016 NFL season.
When Gostkowski doinked the upright on that PAT, that was the moment I assumed the Patriots were finished. Nothing was going right. No one player was playing well. No one or two plays. Even the things that went right still kind of went wrong.
The only thing that was going up was the alcohol content.
I was confident that if the Patriots could just get the game to overtime, the game would be theirs. I just did not think they would ever get the game to overtime.
And then Gostkowski made his next kick.
Atlanta led 28-12. There was 9:44 left in regulation.
And then Dont’a Hightower came up with yet another victory inspiring play that will get overlooked because of everything else that happened in the game, sacking Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan and causing a fumble.
Brady led another touchdown drive, this a six-yard scoring pass to Danny Amendola before White ran in the two-point score.
Atlanta led 28-20, with 5:56 remaining.
The Falcons got the ball back and were on the move, picking up 68 yards on their first three plays. They were in field goal range to all but ice the game.
And then Trey Flowers sacked Ryan for a 12-yard loss.
And then the Falcons committed a 10-yard holding penalty.
They were out of field goal range. They had to punt.
Falcons’ punter Matt Bosher, who had a stellar game, had another dandy. Pins the Patriots at their own nine-yard line. There was 3:30 remaining.
If there was to be any hope, the Patriots would have to go 91-yards for the touchdown, which would be their longest scoring drive of the year.
They also needed to get a second two-point conversion with it.
Prior to Super Bowl LI, five times in the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick Era the Patriots had attempted two two-point conversions in one game. Prior to Super Bowl LI, they had failed all five times.
Sixth time’s the charm, perhaps.
The script flipped from the last score. This time it was White with the touchdown and Amendola with the two-point conversion. In the previous 50 tries, there had never been an overtime in Super Bowl play. There would be overtime in Super Bowl LI.
The game was now tied 28-28.
The Falcons got the ball back with 0:57 remaining and timeouts to play with, but unlike New England on their final drive of Super Bowl XXXVI, opted to play conservative and get to the extra session.
And then the Patriots won the coin toss.
And drove the field again.
And then White scored again.
And then the Patriots won the Super Bowl again.
After being dead and buried just about 22-minutes on the game clock earlier.
Super Bowl LI was held on February 5, 2017 in Houston, TX. It was not until Tuesday, February 7, 2017 in Waltham, MA, that it set in and I believed they won the game. The final score was 34-28.
It wasn’t quite the storybook ending I was hoping for heading into the game – one in which to ride out into the sunset on – but it was certainly a storybook ending. So, here I am again, behind the keyboard, cranking out some droll. Another point in time inspired by yet another Patriots’ Super Bowl Championship.
Super Bowl XXXVI began my career as a columnist at the Connecticut College Voice. (Presto’s Perspective.) Super Bowl LI begins my story anew here. (My Silly, Sad Life.) Seems only fitting.
Yet, while I assumed that column after Super Bowl XXXVI was the beginning of a great and fulfilling career, I am not sure if this is a beginning or an end?
If this is the beginning, I am not yet sure what exactly it is the beginning of?
If this is the end, am I marking this as the end of my career as a sports writer?
I’m not particularly sure a Never Was such as myself actually gets a send off column, but I have been left wondering in the post-Super Bowl LI haze wondering if this is the right time to just go out on top as a Patriots fan?
Every beginning has an end.
Every end has a beginning to follow it.
This is mine.
This one's for you, E.