One Final Piece of Patriots Magic

When a team like the Patriots—preseason Super Bowl favorites that started 8-0 and handily won the AFC East—loses the way they did last week against the Tennessee Titans, the typical fan reaction is sadness, anger and disgust.

That’s not what happened in Foxborough this past Sunday night. A pick six might have ended Tom Brady’s legendary New England career, but the attitude in the locker room, in the crowd, and for Patriots fans across the country was something much different–acceptance, appreciation and deep gratitude. For a franchise that has had its share of miracles, this felt like one final piece of magic.

Dynasties don’t typically end in glory, and it’s even rarer when they end with a modicum of dignity. Consider the Golden State Warriors, whose final year included Kevin Durant and Draymond Green getting in shouting matches on the bench. Shaq and Kobe took as many shots at each other as they did on the court. Patrick Roy, the great Montreal Canadiens goalie, walked off the ice in the middle of a 1996 game after a disagreement with his coach and never played a game for the Habs again.

There were rumors of tension in New England, but they never amounted to anything more than a whisper. The crowd showered Brady with chants all game long on Sunday. Robert Kraft heaped praise on his quarterback, and then remarked, “How lucky we’ve been.” Brady, at his locker after it was all said and done, repeated to reporters, “Nobody could have had it better than me.”

There wasn’t any name calling or finger pointing. No bitterness. Only a requisite appreciation for the greatest quarterback of all time and the greatest dynasty the NFL has ever seen.

Now come the unknowns. Does Brady head to a different team? How does Bill Belichick remake the roster? Will there be one more season of this dynasty after all? We’ll find out these answers soon enough.

Right now, though, there’s a palpable acceptance that change is here. Rather than hold on to the past, players and staff are simply proud of what they’ve accomplished in the last two decades. Fans are awestruck and grateful that they were allowed to go along for the ride. For once, there’s no ego, swagger, or expectations. Those qualities helped make the Pats dynasty, but if it has indeed come to an end, humility works just fine now.

-Joe Levin

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Sean Gardner / Getty Images

No Ordinary Joe

Whatever happens in Monday’s National Championship game, this much is certain: there has never been a player who has captivated a local fanbase more quickly and thoroughly than Joe Burrow has in Baton Rouge. From his recruiting visit when he requested a meal of crawfish (Coach O obliged and phoned in a 15-pound order) to his senior day entrance wearing a jersey that read “BURREAUX,” the Ohio native has gone out of his way to revel in all the things that make Louisiana a “Sportsman’s Paradise.”

College football is at its best when it feels like teams actually represent where they’re located. It’s part of what makes it so difficult to root for Alabama; they feel like a team that could be from anywhere. LSU, from its homegrown coach to its transplant QB, feels as authentic as a big bowl of gumbo. Maybe that’s why it feels like it’s only a matter of time before the school erects a Joe Burrow statue outside of Tiger Stadium to go along with other LSU greats such as Shaquille O’Neal and one planned for Pete Maravich. It’ll be right at home.

Will Burrow remain unstoppable? LSU takes on Clemson in the National Championship game on Monday at 8 PM EST.

Nicole Fridling / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Holy War

Sure, Princeton-Penn isn’t the first game that comes up when you think of the fiercest rivalries in college basketball. But maybe you should take a closer look: The two schools dominate the Ivy League—incredibly, from 1963-2007, Princeton or Penn won or shared the league title every year except for two. There’s a long history, too. They’ve been playing each other annually since 1903 (Duke-Carolina didn’t tip off for the first time until 1920). And if their history has taught us anything, it’s that anything can happen in this game. In 1999, Penn stormed out of the gate, leading 40-13 at halftime. But Princeton then went on a 37-9 run in the second half, winning 50-49 and locking up first place in the Ivy League in what’s become known as “Black Tuesday.” So in other words, check out this game for some of the best college basketball of the season.

Penn travels to Princeton tonight at 5 PM EST on ESPN U.


National Pride

By Amos Barshad • Victory Journal

Meet Besim Hasani, the incredible man who believes that every citizen of Kosovo should play their part in helping build up the young Balkan country. And what role can Hasani play? “A country, without the gymnastics?” he muses. “It doesn’t make sense.” Read on to see what he did next.

How a West Seattle Woman Is Making History with the New York Yankees

By Nicole Brodeur • Seattle Times

Rachel Balkovec’s dream was to coach for an MLB team. She applied to team after team, citing her experience as an All-American softball catcher. No responses. Then she tried to send out new applications, where she claimed her name was “Rae” and didn’t specify that her All-American status was in softball. This Spring, she’ll report to Spring Training as a hitting coach for the New York Yankees.

Ready, Set, Trump: Big-Money Faith, Football, and Forgiveness at Jerry Falwell Jr.’s Liberty University

By Jordan Ritter Conn • The Ringer

The story begins with a recruiting visit that features a phone call from the President. This deep dive into Jerry Falwell’s Jr. attempt to turn Liberty University’s football team into an Evangelical version of Notre Dame only gets stranger from there.

Lachlan Cunningham / Getty Images

Home is Where the Heart Is

There were nights when star Raiders rookie running back Josh Jacobs would sleep in the backseat of a car while his father stayed awake through the night, a gun nearby just in case. They didn’t have a home, and Jacobs’ father just wanted his boy to be safe. A few months later, they moved into a tiny apartment, cramped with Jacobs and his four siblings. And a while after that, the family bounced from budget motel to budget motel.

This week, Jacobs bought his father a house. Watch the video Jacobs posted on his Instagram page. “Why are you trying not to cry, dude?” he asks his dad, as they walk through the new digs. You’ll be hard pressed to avoid tears yourself.

Old Testament

Jerry Football (2014)

By Don Van Natta Jr. • ESPN The Magazine

Twitter had a field day last week when news broke that new Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy spent the night with owner Jerry Jones before agreeing to take the job. This 2014 profile of the most powerful owner in sports reveals how desperately Jones wants to win a Super Bowl—and how much he loves Johnny Walker Blue.

Last Words

“You wanna know which ring is my favorite? The next one.” – Tom Brady

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