Comparing coverage of Patriots Super Bowl win (and could the team get there again?)

With the New England Patriots dominating 51-17 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, I found myself slipping into thoughts of another Super Bowl run. I thought I’d throw it back for this week’s post to something I did when the Patriots won the Super Bowl, which was the compare articles written about the Patriots’ win in the biggest game.
1) Magazine: Bill Belichick says Patriots sensed Seahawks ill-fated play call by Vinnie Iyer
• The article focused on a press conference statement from Belichick, which is odd for a gamer, but effective nonetheless. The article focuses on the gamesmanship of Belichick and the mind-chess between Carroll and Belichick
• Predictably, the hero of this article is Belichick who thoroughly outsmarted Carroll by not calling a timeout and therefore winning his team a Super Bowl
• This article emphasized the brazen, brilliant coaching staff for the New England Patriots and de-emphasized the physical prowess and presence of mind required by Malcolm Butler and Co. to actually make the play happen.
2) Newspaper: New York Times, One Yard From Crushing Loss, Patriots Grab Their 4th Title by Ben Shpigel
• The article focused on how the Patriots crushing defeats in previous Super Bowls was handed off to Seattle. It’s kind of a reversal of fortune for the Patriots
• The stars were Butler and Brady, but he didn’t focus on the stars as much as the goat, Pete Carroll. He spent many more column inches to dissecting Carroll’s decision and the Seahawks sideline who sent the play call in
• Shpigel de-emphasized Bill Belichick’s role in playing defense on the play and emphasized the mistakes of Carroll and Darren Bevell, the Seahawks offensive coordinator

3) Sports Website: Grantland, Retro Running Diary by Bill Simmons
• Simmons focused on how the gamesmanship of the final Seattle drive was Bill Belichick’s finest moment, his Mona Lisa or his Jordan taking over the ’98 Finals. He emphasized how smart Belichick (the hero of his column) is, how Patriot fans have known it all along, but never had anything specifically to point to – until now
• Belichick was the star
• Simmons de-emphasized the first three-and-a-half quarters as well as the play call itself by the Seahawks. He focused on Belichick’s genius more than Carroll’s media-purported boneheaded-ness for calling a pass play from the 1-yard-line with Marshawn Lynch.

4) New England Patriots Website: Patriots hold on for epic Super Bowl XLIX win by Andy Hart
• Hart focused on the overall “epic-ness” (a word he used annoyingly often) of the game and gave a brief summary before launching into the “Buy/Sell” part of his column in which he analyzed the strengths and weaknesses in the Patriots game plan
• The stars were (surprise!) Malcolm Butler and Tom Brady, along with undersized slot receivers
• Hart emphasized the Patriots success in the dink-and-dunk passing game as well as the receiving running back role. He de-emphasized the third and fourth corner backs of the Patriots because they played so poorly.

Sam Fortier is a displaced New Englander living in New York. He likes baseball, crunchy peanut butter and the sound Kanye makes in his songs, which he thinks is spelled “HAAH.” He’s not a fan of grammatical error’s. You can read him here every Monday, follow him on Twitter @Sam4TR, or email him at sam.fortier@yahoo.com. 

The Super Bowl: A Holiday

Only the Super Bowl. Only this event can change the church schedule, force states to change laws (Arizona and M.L.K. recognition), and spark debates over whether or not it deserves to be a federally-recognized holiday. It piques the interest of the public, brings people together and emblemizes Americana. Therefore, the Super Bowl host city becomes subject of intense scrutiny. The geopolitical and socioeconomic aspects of a city go under the magnifying glass. Houston, Texas presents a prime example because it’s up-and-coming, set to host the 2017 Big Game. From who foots the bill to the city’s infrastructure to the Astrodome, many questions are raised. Hosting the Super Bowl is an arduous affair even if it’s more than 600 days away. There are many details which need finalizing, which means the public, NFL, county legislature, host committee and stadium landlords all have many questions.

Money: The answer to most questions. It drives countless decisions every day for everyone. The process of reeling in America’s brightest spectacle fares no differently. Politicians and host committee members boast gaudy figures with many dollar signs when discussing the added economic benefit the Super Bowl will bring. Sallie Sargent, President and CEO of the Houston Super Bowl Committee, created a Texas-sized buzz when she appeared on a local NBC-affiliate news program and projected Houston’s game in 2017 could earn the city $500 million.

But, there’s a catch. Though NRG Stadium (formerly known as Reliant Stadium) only opened in 2002 and hosts the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and the Texas Bowl every year, it still must undergo $50 million in repairs to satisfy the NFL’s host requirements. The renovations address needs in club seats, suites, the general concourse and seating area, concessions, restrooms, infrastructure like plumbing or air handling systems, and especially WiFi capability, which the stadium doesn’t have at all now. Those demands, set forth in the NFL’s 153-page manual of hosting stipulations, are in addition to growing fresh sod for the game.

Who pays for all of this, however, is creating a political plume of smoke which doesn’t seem far from fire. The host committee – an extension of the NFL – does not have a budget; its only power is to fundraise. Sargent appeared on the news program to implore the citizens of Houston to invest $50 million for a $500 million return. But citizens are hesitant to pay. This leaves the NFL looking at corporate sponsors, who look at the city of Houston, who looks at the landlord of the property of NRG Stadium, who looks at the county, who looks at the NFL because the region has invested heavily into its own infrastructure. Political jockeying ensues as each group blames the others while progress stagnates. The manager of the county’s budget said Harris County has neither the funds nor the power to underwrite the Super Bowl.

Harris County Commissioner Steve Radack said to the Houston Chronicle in April 2015 that appropriating public funds to improve suites for corporate executives and billion-dollar companies would not happen. “I’m not about to vote to spend a single dollar of county money updating these luxury suites,” he said. Furthermore, Precinct 4 – the landlord body of NRG Stadium – and its Commissioner Jack Cagle said they would not pay for the improvements either, but a clause in the lease agreement says the county must maintain the facility in “first class” condition and “a manner comparable to other stadiums.” At the time of the 2004 Super Bowl, it was first class at just two years old, but now the tenants of NRG Stadium (Texans, Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo) argue the prevalence of WiFi requires the county to pay because it’s not comparable to other stadiums. Currently, negotiations between the tenants, county, and the NFL are ongoing and strained. A high-ranking executive on the Host Committee board said that the taxpayers shouldn’t be on the hook for anything and that the committee is raising money.

Who raises the money isn’t the only concern host cities have. How much money will be brought in? The average Houston tourist (non-Super Bowl) spent $103 in 2001, which is $137.66 in 2014 dollars. But that’s not a fair valuation of how much people will spend because the city grew tremendously since 2001. Business Insider minted Houston America’s best city in a 2014 article and Forbes called it “one of America’s coolest cities” in 2012, citing the fact that the city actually grew during the Great Recession with 2.6 percent in job growth. If the city was a skinny, pimply high-schooler struggling to lift weights in the early 2000s, Houston is now a 250-pound linebacker with a sub-4.3-second 40-meter-dash time. In 2013, 13 million visitors to Houston spent $16 billion, which equates to $175.82 per tourist per day – a 28 percent increase from the expected value. Super Bowl visitors spent between $350 and $375 per day in 2004, meaning a Super Bowl tourist spends more than triple the regular tourist. The 300-plus percent increase in spending by Super Bowl tourists has been established as a baseline through games over the last decade. By this extrapolation, Houston can expect visitors to spend nearly $525 per day in 2017. The average visitor stays 3.7 days – Friday through Monday, usually – and Houston expects just over 100,000 tourists to head to the Bayou City the first weekend of February. If the averages of visitors and money-spending habits follow expert prediction, $250 million should be invested into the local economy.

But it’s not that simple. In 2004, the host committee expected the impact to be around $330 million, but the Houston controller found that it only made $129 million of direct impact in the week before and the week after the game. The disparity is because the host committee accounts for all Super Bowl spending in addition to regular spending without overlap. Also, a lot of money is made by large hotel and restaurant chains, which increases local tax revenues, but most of the money doesn’t stay in the community because business’ corporate owners pocket it. (Also, the NFL affords heavy tax breaks during the Super Bowl, which lowers local profit.) Host committees also tend to leave out how much the city will need to spend in order to prepare for the Super Bowl, according to CBS.

While host committees bandy about gaudy figures, they explain little about how significant the impact will be. For example, Harris County, Texas, where Houston resides, is the 34th-richest county in the state, of 254. The county has nearly $160 billion in personal economy (roughly equivalent to economic activity), so the Super Bowl – if it reaches $500 million, like the committee said – will only be adding 0.31 percent to the economy. It is an addition, but it may not overwhelm like projected.

The NFL’s generous estimates also don’t include the fact that many of the things people buy – beer, lawn gnomes, other Super Bowl-branded items not attached to the local economy – get-outta-Dodge as soon as the game’s over. Holy Cross professor Victor Matheson, an economist who’s studied Super Bowl impact, says, “Imagine an airplane landing at an airport and everyone gets out and gives each other a million bucks, then gets back on the plane. That’s $200 million in economic activity, but it’s not any benefit to the local economy.” This is also comparable for when Super Bowl visitors buy up all the hotel rooms, it leaves none for other visitors. The Super Bowl economic impact is not on addition, it is addition by subtraction – but usually the addition is bigger than the subtraction. Ultimately, a Sports on Earth columnist concludes – through extensive research of about a dozen economic analysts – that the safest “guesstimate” is about $100 million in economic impact. It’s not nothing, but it’s also not the wild fantasies the NFL and some economists forecast. Some experts doubt economic impact is the real reason cities so badly want to host the Super Bowl anyway.

Perhaps economic impact is only a peripheral vision of the Host Committee’s. After all, when Houston won the bid in 2013 to host Super Bowl LI, all city and county officials either said they did not know what the economic impact would be or referred the asker to the bid committee. The committee said trying to forecast the impact of an event nearly four years out was like “nailing Jell-O to a wall” to the Houston Chronicle. They pointed to New Orleans’ net of $480 million in 2013 from the Super Bowl and Greg Ortale, president and CEO of the GHCVB, said, “You have to assume we’ll be bigger.” Still, there’s assumption there. Usually, to tax-paying citizens, assumptions aren’t good enough explanation. So if the economic uncertainty didn’t deter any bidding, there must’ve been another factor spurring Houston forward.

Chalk it up to civic pride. When visiting the official site of the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee – housuperbowl.com – a 60-second video montage consumes the screen. It’s a heart-pounding, prideful anthem which makes even someone from New England want to move to Houston. The first screen reads, “Houston is…” followed by “The Home of Friday Night Lights,” “The Home of Team Work” and finally, “The Home of Team Spirit.” The text is interspersed with highlights of the Houston Texans football team and fans with face-paint, Texan hats and other garb cheering at stadium-shaking levels. It flashes a clip of J.J. Watt, the NFL’s most interacted with player on social media, spurring on crowd noise as if to market one of the league’s most visible – and liked – faces as synonymous with the stadium, even though the Texans likely won’t be playing in the game.

The promo focuses on the mystique of Texas football. The home of transcendent books about high school players, the state which produces countless legends in the League, and the setting for a television series which shows crazed-parents pushing 10-year-olds as if they play in the Super Bowl every day at practice. There’s a reason ESPN the Magazine produced a special issue about Texas, which a cover teaser blared, “America’s football holy land.” Texans know their reputations for football, so what better plan than to host the Super Bowl? The crowning jewel of America’s most popular sport will be played in the place it’s most popular.

To say that the Super Bowl induces civic pride bordering on jingoism within the city of Houston may be an understatement. In a clip of the video, a crowd of 30 passionate fans stand outside of NRG Stadium dressed in Texans colors and yell, “We live for Houston! We live for football!” It seems as if the host committee is trying to make the words ‘Houston’ and ‘football’ synonymous. The music begins to fade away, but before the video ends, the official logo glosses over the screen and a voice growls, “We live for football.”

Houston hopes to capitalize on its state’s reputation for football prestige, but the state won’t benefit unless Houston, like the player’s on the field, showcases it prowess under pressure. This means the city will improve its infrastructure and progress community development in order to “put its best face forward,” like Sargent said. Houston already figures to be ahead of where it was in 2004 when it hosted for the first time. Then, Houston’s hotel sector downtown had only four properties with 1,800 rooms. Now, the city maintains about 25 properties and 7,500-8,000 rooms, not including the 1,000-plus room new Marriott hotel scheduled to open months before the Super Bowl in September 2016. The hotel – named the Marquis – will have over 100,000 square feet of meeting space and will be connected, via skybridge, to the George R. Brown Convention Center, the second-largest convention center in Texas. Also, per the Marriott website, the Marquis utilizes “a one-of-a kind Texas-shaped lazy river and affinity pool, a full service spa and fitness center, high energy two story sports bar, two specialty restaurants, wine bar, cafe, and pool bar & grill.” The hotel is smack-dab downtown and overlooks Discovery Green Park, which is conveniently where the NFL plans to host Super Bowl Central, its entertainment zone for 10 days leading up to the game.

The NFL event in Discovery Green Park was originally called “Super Bowl El Centro” in an attempt to attract fans from Mexico, Central America and South America, but the plans were scrapped and the name changed to the Anglicized equivalent because they wanted to be more inclusive to all fans, currently and potentially, a member of the host committee said.

The hotel industry isn’t the only one being re-vamped before the game. “I believe between now and 2017, there is $3 billion worth of development happening in and around downtown alone,” Sargent said in a September 2014 article in the Houston Business Journal. A.J. Mistretta, senior public relations manager for the GHCVB, said the investment is closer to $3.5 billion. Upgrading hospitality is the biggest concern because the food and beverage sector is “pretty good,” and the entertainment and attractions part of it “seems to be really doing well,” said Bob Eury, the President of Central Houston and director of the Downtown Management District. Houston also has a new 48-story, 1.05 million-square-foot office tower under construction downtown, scheduled to open in early 2017. No tenants have been announced, but the city continues work on 13 other projects including a 1,600-space parking garage, thousands of rooms in smaller hotels and more than 3,000 units of apartment buildings. All projects are scheduled to open between the end of 2016 and early 2017 – just in time for the Super Bowl.

While the accommodations and business sectors make a push to give Houston a good name in 2017, Sargent still has one big fear for the city.  “The last thing we want to do…” Sargent said in a 2015 Houston Business Journal article, “Is have people be disappointed because they couldn’t make it from one location to another because of traffic.” In February, a rough plan was established which utilizes light rail and a park-and-ride service to reduce stress on Houston’s congested highways. The light rail would connect direct to NRG Stadium with many stops on the way because Sargent sees opportunity to place events at various locations like Minute Maid Park (MLB’s Astros) and the Toyota Center (NBA’s Rockets).

To make these strides in bettering an already-successful Houston, the city will boost employment in order to meet the demands of construction leading up to the event and to accommodate the high-volume influx of tourists which comes with the Super Bowl. One of the construction projects currently underway in Houston is southeast and east end land lines for METRORail, extending 6.6 miles southeast of downtown and 3.3 miles east. This created about 100 jobs. When Atlanta hosted the Super Bowl in 2000, 2,736 jobs were created. The new jobs helped not only the citizens of the city hired to do those jobs, but also the local economy because the employees are more likely to spend their earnings in the area. Besides the direct economic impact, hiring citizens also required interviews and training for the employees, which helps the education of the employees, a boon for the Houston population and businesses.

Houston’s costly initiative to better itself by drastically improving its infrastructure, developing its community, and employing locals is in search of something money cannot realistically buy. Reporters gushing on television, column inches devoted to description of the city of Houston, and tourists returning home thinking, “Wow! Houston was incredible. I should go back.” The advertisement and positive impression – the chance to receive “free” advertising from the media and rope in first-time visitors – is an invaluable opportunity. Houston essentially has 10 days to pitch its city’s greatness to people with millions of followers on Twitter. Look at the Sochi, Russia Olympics. Journalists slammed the place over and over, tweeting pictures of deficient amenities and laughing at the preparation. Should Houston pull a similar stunt, its reputation would be damaged with its visitors, but even more negative words would spread to the public. This is why Houston has spent so much time preparing. If the masses flocking to Houston for the Super Bowl enjoy themselves, then they create a reputation and lasting image for all its visitors. That could generate an economic impact of return visitors or intrigued visitors far beyond February 2017 and well into the long-term.

The Host Committee wants to leave that impression, but there must be something to distinguish from Houston from all the other cities, a “wow factor” as Sargent calls it. New York City had a fan toboggan in 2014 and Glendale had a locally-built rock wall the next year. The Host Committee has yet to pick their specialty, but one blogger suggested Houston use its iconic, seldom-used, “8th Wonder of the World” as it’s called by the Houston Chronicle, the Astrodome, vacant since 2006. The world’s first domed stadium, where Elvin Hayes led the University of Houston in an upset of Lew Alcindor’s top-ranked UCLA, where Billie Jean King beat Bobby Riggs in the famous “Battle of the Sexes,” and where Earl Campbell and Warren Moon ran the Oilers in the “Luv Ya Blue” era. In a poll at the bottom of the article, 53 percent of the over 10,000 voters wanted the stadium stripped out, converted to venue space and used to house activities before the Super Bowl.

Whether or not Houston decides to utilize the Astrodome, the Super Bowl will have a “wow” factor, simply because it is singularly the largest and most tuned-into event in America every year. Though the economic impact may not be as rewarding as the host committee may portray, it still offers some direct economic impact. More than the direct, though, is the ability to host hundreds of thousands of visitors and the opportunity to give them an incredible impression of the city. As media members write about their experiences, if it’s a good experience, then it’s advertising money couldn’t even buy. And then there’s civic pride. The biggest game will be played where the sport is the biggest. If the blend of parties, patriotism and pride doesn’t make the Super Bowl worth it, then it wouldn’t be played every year. But it will be, because it’s ingrained in the fabric of America. Only the Super Bowl.

Sam Fortier is a displaced New Englander living in New York. He likes baseball, crunchy peanut butter and the sound Kanye makes in his songs, which he thinks is spelled “HAAH.” He’s not a fan of grammatical error’s. You can read him here every Monday, follow him on Twitter @Sam4TR, or email him at sam.fortier@yahoo.com. 

Summer Recap 2015

Sunday, when I returned to Syracuse from Maine, I stepped off the bus and felt thoroughly too cold. It was jarring. When I left Friday, Syracuse was balmy, too hot even. A sweltering 93 degrees on day. This was more my speed. I know this Syracuse.

But putting on sweatpants for a trek downtown signaled to me that summer is over. I’d been ignoring the signs for weeks, but I now I have to give up.

So in homage to summer, here are some of the adventures I traveled on since May:

It all started when I got the Esquire gig.

Before I left campus, I had to illegally stream a boring boxing match and found out why boxing is dead. In more realizations before New York, I tracked Bill Simmons’ saga right after leaving ESPN for Part I and then in Part II the one month later fallout was dissected.

Then I got to New York and THINGS STARTED HAPPENING.

I saw Bartolo Colon, Least Likeliest Major Leaguer to Hit a Double, hit a double.

I saw an unbelievable baseball game in Yankee Stadium featuring a crazy comeback in the ninth inning that a friend of mine wanted to skedaddle early from.

After that, history in Belmont Park as American Pharoah raced to the Triple Crown. I was totally under dressed and under duress.

Coney Island, Brooklyn, a train ride away, was the site of summer’s greatest moment: The Hot Dog Eating Contest, and the summer’s greatest man: George Shea.

I also got time this summer to write a story about Strafford, New Hampshire’s own, Bobby Wegner, he of the 7-foot-8 stature.

Then I started wandering around Harlem. First, I went to historic basketball court, Rucker Park.

Then I realized Harlem represents the struggle baseball and basketball are having for national attention.

It struck me, through my friend Joey, that relationships are like saving baseball games…everyone will blow some every once in a while, just have the confidence to come back out and pitch.

Lastly, and most dreadfully, I spent a lot of time at Citi Field and sort of fell in love with the New York Mets. I’m sorry, everyone.

Then I came home. And after subjecting me to a summer of dreadful offense and atrocious pitching, the Red Sox did a nice thing for me.

(End note: This is a list of me getting very lucky and being in the right place at the right time. I feel #blessed to have been able to do all this. Thanks so much to my family and my friend Sam Blum, who made many of these adventures possible.)

Sam Fortier is a displaced New Englander living in New York. He likes baseball, crunchy peanut butter and the sound Kanye makes in his songs, which he thinks is spelled “HAAH.” He’s not a fan of grammatical error’s. You can read him here every Monday, follow him on Twitter @Sam4TR, or email him at sam.fortier@yahoo.com. 

Uncomfortable Thoughts While Watching Football

With the 40th pick in our fantasy football draft, my friend Andy selected New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman.

The pick received some nods, most figure Edelman will be good. He plays for our hometown New England, which is a bonus to cheer for in fantasy.

But I couldn’t shake one thought.

Last year’s Super Bowl has one of the most-played football highlights in history. Malcolm Butler, a former practice squad guy, intercepting superstar Russell Wilson to seal a Patriots victory. But it’s a few plays prior which loops in my mind.

Third-and-14 from deep in New England territory, about 11 minutes to go in the 2014 season. Patriots down by two scores. Tom Brady hits Edelman deep down the middle for a 21-yard, season-saving first down.

Also on that play: Edelman is annihilated by Seattle Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor. I’m pretty sure he’s concussed. He looks woozy running and can’t maintain balance as he tries to stand. (The Associated Press reported he underwent concussion protocol testing after that drive and passed. Sure.)

Back to my porch and Andy’s drafting of Edelman. Though, that could’ve been any fantasy draft with any group of friends. Still, the thought I had is this:

My friends and I, like so many football fans across the nation, salivate at how many touchdowns someone will score. Yet we hardly consider, “That’s the guy who got concussed last year.”

I didn’t want to be “That Guy,” so I didn’t say anything, but I couldn’t shake the thought.

I thought of all the stories I’d read, or seen in documentaries on TV. About players who’d slowly lost their bodies and minds and freedom.

I know about Steelers legend Mike Webster. I know about Bears great Dave Duerson. About Vikings player Fred McNeill, highschooler Owen Thomas, Hall of Famer Junior Seau. About the countless other players who dealt with their pain alone and away from the media, that there are most likely many more players who lost so much to the game of football.

About every NFL star and high school scrub with concussion-related CTE mentioned in the NFL-damning book, League of Denial. I know that 76 of 79 deceased NFL players studied by Dr. Ann McKee, one of the central characters in the League of Denial, had CTE. I know LeBron James, possibly the world’s greatest athlete, won’t let his kid’s play football.

Yet I’m impatient with giddy anticipation for the Patriots to kickoff the 2015 NFL season on Thursday.

This sport that I love so much and devote time—way too much time—to is inherently dangerous. Football has brought me so much: Things to write about, time with my mother, unexpected time and bonding with my sister, a sport to love, heroes, villains, joy, frustration, pride, sorrow, the best (and most unpredictable) reality TV ever.

Yet it’s a parasite.

As I sit on the couch watching football, where the only injury I can sustain is pulling a muscle by leaning over to scoop a chip into dip, men are risking lives for livelihood on the screen before me. It feels strangely like a 21st-century, High Definition version of gladiator fights. Except in gladiator fights injuries are easily seen in red pools. The most devastating football injuries aren’t seen at all.

Most Sundays I don’t think about concussions. On those that I do, I rationalize it. That guy, whoever he is on the field, is roughly my age but he’s making a minimum of $435,000 per year while I try to make a living by writing for free and deepening debt in college.

I marginalize, and I am not proud of it.

Part of me argues that, since we know so much now about CTE and concussions that the players accept that responsibility and that risk when they step onto the football field. I think of Chris Borland, the 24-year-old former 49ers linebacker who walked away from an NFL career and multimillions in fear of brain injury. I’ve tried to think of it from his perspective: He trained his entire life to become one of the nine children out of every 10,000 to make the NFL. Borland left money, fame, his entire life’s work out of fear. So if everyone else knows about it, they should quit too if they’re worried.

But it’s not that simple. Whether pride, or drive, or financial necessity keeps them in the game, some players need the sport. It’s not fair to simply expect them to stop.

I wonder if marginalization, or at least the ability to forget about the implication of each hit, is a necessary skill for football fans. If a sport like that can survive.

Then I think about those who didn’t even make it to the NFL. The men who had football taken from them by brain injuries before they could even make that $435,000 minimum salary. Like Tyler Marona, who left Syracuse because they wouldn’t let him play football anymore.

I think of the future. At 50, there is a greater likelihood I’ll have my health than any NFL player does. But I don’t like that thought process. Watching Jamaal Charles take a hand off is harder that way.

Maybe it’s easier for me to think about concussions as a case study and statistics because I don’t really know the names I listed above. I learned of them by reading, but I can’t remember highlights, or how I felt when they played.

What if I read that story one day and it’s not Duerson or McNeill? What if it’s Richard Sherman or Russell Wilson or JJ Watt? What if it’s the men that I admire so, the men who absorb these savage hits, and they’re like the men I read about now? Do I feel guilty for paying to see them play and therefore supporting the structure which allowed their minds to fail?

What if, one day, it’s Julian Edelman? What happens then? Does guilt taint pride when I think of that Super Bowl?

This is uncomfortable. I love football. I don’t like thinking about it like this, but I wrote this post looking for something to take comfort in, a rational that explains why I feel guilty for cheering. Something that would make me feel better about watching football and quiet the uneasiness I feel when I’m not wrapped up in the drama. When I’m watching football and I’m just seeing brains hitting one another and men in wheelchairs and men who forget their wives’ names and cannot physically play with their children.

I didn’t find that comfort. I don’t think I ever will.

Yet on Thursday when the Patriots play, and every subsequent Sunday or Monday night, I’ll try to push those thoughts from my head as I sit to watch football.

Sam Fortier is a displaced New Englander living in New York. He likes baseball, crunchy peanut butter and the sound Kanye makes in his songs, which he thinks is spelled “HAAH.” He’s not a fan of grammatical error’s. You can read him here every Monday, follow him on Twitter @Sam4TR, or email him at sam.fortier@yahoo.com.