I’ve had almost 36 hours to digest what the fook (*Conor McGregor voice*) happened on Sunday evening.

Sunday was quite the tiring day. The wind was blowing heavily outside as I had the damnedest time getting my fire started on my smoker. I was going to get everything ready to go, though! I smoked a 10 lb. pork shoulder on Friday, in which leftovers existed for Sunday evening, and on that Sunday I smoked 11 bacon-wrapped, cheese stuffed jalapeno peppers, a family pack of chicken thighs and about 5 lbs. of country pork ribs. Dana and I also made pepperoni rolls.

Our guests for the evening were my de-facto Falcons fan-brother (that I wrote about at the end of this post; I will refer to him as “Falcons Broski” for the rest of this post), his girlfriend, his girlfriend’s son and a mutual great friend of ours that is a Cowboys fan. They brought chips, cupcakes and 8 lbs. of chicken wings (all 8 lbs. of which I deep fried).

Everything was set! Delicious food had been prepared by yours truly, and it was ready at about the time the big game came on.

Falcons Broski was pumped (of course) from the get go, when Devonte Freeman busted out a big run to open the game for the Falcons. Falcons Broski’s palms were sweaty as he kept wiping them on his jeans. And then LeGarrette Blount fumbled the ball away. Not long after, Matt Ryan led the Falcons down the field and Devonte Freeman ran for a touchdown to put the Falcons ahead 7-0 in the second quarter. A little while later, Ryan connected with Austin Hooper in the endzone for another Falcons’ touchdown. 14-0. Falcons Broski was singing Atlanta’s praise at this point. It got even better for him when Robert Alford picked off Tom Brady and ran it back for an 82-yard touchdown. 21-0 Falcons.

And so all was good during the first half as the Falcons took a 28-3 lead into halftime. I was mindblown at how Atlanta was dominating New England. Tom Brady was missing throws and Julian Edelman couldn’t catch a cold. Everybody in the living room was laughing and talking up a storm. I didn’t watch much of the halftime show as I excused myself to the kitchen to fill up on some grub.

Into the second half, the Falcons continued their dominance when Ryan hooked up with Tevin Coleman for another score. 28-3 Falcons. We debated who would win the Super Bowl MVP, Ryan or Julio Jones? Jones had been on fire.

The Patriots scored a little while later, but missed the extra point. 28-9 going into the fourth quarter. Falcons Broski was still all laughs, all a good time… the Patriots hit a field goal to make the game 28-12. A little while later, Matt Ryan fumbled and Brady led the Patriots down the field for another touchdown, this time to Danny Amendola (he’ll always be RAMendola), and they converted on a 2-point conversion to make the game 28-20!

I still figured the Falcons had the game in the bag, y’know? They had been tearing up the Patriots all night with their running game, so all was good. Falcons Broski started getting quiet. Everybody in the whole damn living room was quiet as we locked in on the game.

Y’know that part about the Falcons destroying the Pats with their running game? Yeah, about that… they only ran the ball a few times after securing that 28-3 lead! In the drive following the one where the Pats made it 28-20, the Falcons kept passing the ball! When they were setting up a great drive after what would have been a historically awesome Julio Jones reception, they… passed, and Ryan got sacked. They passed once more… another Ryan sack. Third and long, they passed, and I believe this one went to Mohamed Sanu for little gain. In hindsight (I know it’s always 20/20), the Falcons could have ran the ball, used some clock and hit a field goal to make it a two score game. Instead, they nonsensically passed and it ruined ’em.

Brady cut through the Falcons’ defense on the next drive, when Julian Edelman made one of the greatest catches I’ve ever seen… the Patriots scored and a quick pass to Danny Amendola secured the 2-point conversion.

The Super Bowl saw its first overtime in 51 games. The Patriots won the coin toss, got the ball and the rest is history. Falcons Broski sat in complete silence for about 15 minutes. I reckon we all did. I still can’t believe what transpired. The Falcons completed the biggest choke in the history of the NFL.

My feelings were bipolar on Sunday evening. I say that, because when the Falcons went up 28-3, I thought, “Welp, there goes my thoughts about Tom Brady. I mean, hell, I used Peyton Manning’s 43-8 loss to the Seahawks in 2014 as a way of saying, ‘Brady would never lose like that!’ And here Brady is, losing 28-3 to the Falcons!”

I was also thinking, “Damn, the NFL has evolved and passed Bill Belichick up! The Falcons have all these playmakers that are eating the Pats away, while the Pats have next to no playmakers! Belichick needs to up the ante and draft some playmakers!”

By the end of the game… holy hell!

Yes, the Falcons choked the game away. Kyle Shanahan made piss poor calls (by not running the football more). However, the Patriots’ D played out of this world, and Tom Brady was invincible, as if you were playing All-Madden on a Madden video game and trying to stop the CPU.

Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback I’ve ever seen in my life. Albeit a short life, I’ve watched Brady from the get go.

Let me tell anybody who cares to read this story: on February 3, 2002 I watched my St. Louis Rams, a team that was heavily favored in Super Bowl XXXVI, shockingly fall to the New England Patriots 20-17. The Rams were down 17-3 but battled back with a HALL OF FAMER Kurt Warner quarterback sneak and a Warner-to-Ricky Proehl touchdown pass. In the Patriots’ final drive, a young man by the name of Tom Brady, who took over for an injured Drew Bledsoe earlier in the season, stepped up to the plate and led the Pats down the field as John Madden recommended that the Pats play for overtime. Adam Vinatieri hit a 48-yard field goal and gave the Patriots their first Super Bowl win in NFL history after they were embarrassed by the Bears in ’86 and clowned by the Packers in ’97.

I was pissed off. I watched the game next to my dad, and he grinned from ear to ear. You see, I think deep down my dad liked the Rams and thought Kurt Warner was a hell of a quarterback, but he liked to get under my skin in order to aggravate me. I digress. As we watched the post-game celebration and Tom Brady was anointed the game’s MVP, I rolled my eyes. “He’s the MVP with just 107 passing yards and a touchdown? That’s crap!” My dad looked over at me and said, “Tom Brady is going to win a bunch of Super Bowls. He plays with poise and he’s a winner. He doesn’t let the pressure of the big stage get to him”.

My dad had no reason to say something like that. No bias. He was a fan of the Miami Dolphins, a divisional rival of the Pats. He passed away a week before Christmas in 2003, so he didn’t see the Patriots’ subsequent Super Bowl appearances and victories (at least in this realm), but he was absolutely right in his prediction that Brady would win a ‘bunch’ of Super Bowls.

I often wonder what my dad would say about Brady now. Dad was born in 1954, so he grew up watching Joe Namath (he always said that he and his brothers idolized Namath when they were young boys), then he became a Dolphins fan in the early ’70s and remained one the rest of his life. He got to witness Joe Montana’s greatness in the ’80s, and I mention that because he always told me that Montana was the greatest ever. Since he was a Dolphins fan, I asked, “What about Dan Marino?” And my dad would say, “He’s great, he has the stats but he didn’t get it done in the playoffs. He couldn’t rally the troops.” I went and looked at Marino’s playoff performances and noticed how many times the Dolphins were ousted by double digits. Dad had a point.

Since my dad’s death, I’ve had a billion dreams about him where we talk about sports, from football to basketball to boxing to MMA. After Sunday evening’s game, I’d love to be able to talk to him about what transpired.

My dad also made a bold prediction about another quarterback, and although he ended up being wrong, he was almost right about this next prediction. I’ll never forget one day when my dad and I were passing a Nerf football around in the driveway in the summer of 2001. I remember that Peyton Manning was on the box. Manning was coming off his third year in the NFL. Dad thought that Manning was robotic on the field, when I asked him his thoughts about ol’ #18. “He’s robotic and a control freak. You don’t want that in a quarterback. Makes the rest of the offense nervous. He’ll never win a Super Bowl.”

Years later, with Peyton and the Colts’ meeting failure after failure, being dominated by the Pats in ’04 and ’05, stifled by the Steelers in ’06… I thought my dad was going to be correct in this prediction, too. As luck would have it, in January 2007 the Colts’ defense came into full fruition, with safety Bob Sanders (remember how dominant he was?) leading the charge. The Colts had the luxury of playing an overrated Chicago Bears team in the Super Bowl, a Bears’ team that featured Rex Grossman, the worst quarterback to ever start a Super Bowl (at least since Vince Ferragamo with the ’79 Rams). For a while the game was close, but Grossman’s incompetence as a quarterback failed the Bears and Peyton won a Super Bowl with a score of 29-17.

I always thought Peyton lucked out by playing the Bears in that Super Bowl. When the Colts made it back to another Super Bowl when they played the Saints in 2010, the Saints won by two touchdowns, including a pick-6 from Peyton Manning that sealed the victory for ‘Nawlins. A few years later, Peyton went to Denver and we saw him and the Broncos go to another Super Bowl, this time in 2014, against a Seahawks team. The Seahawks blew out the Broncos 43-8; Peyton couldn’t do anything to stifle the Seahawks’ defense that game, and the majority of the game Peyton spent his time on the sidelines, looking down and sulking. A year later, the Seahawks played Tom Brady and the Pats, and well, even though the Seahawks screwed their chances in the closing seconds, Brady and the Pats came out with a close victory.

A hobbled Peyton Manning that could no longer effectively play the quarterback position won a Super Bowl with a stacked, all-time top 15 defense on the Broncos last year in 2016, but that was effectively the Denver defense’s doings.

I digress. I’ve tried so hard to hate Tom Brady over the years, but I just can’t. I watched my Rams lose to them in upsetting fashion 15 years ago in Super Bowl XXXVI, and ever since — as I’ve watched my Rams’ toil in losing season after losing season since 2004 (I still love ’em, whether they are in St. Louis or Los Angeles) — I’ve watched Brady go to seven Super Bowls. Brady would have seven rings if his defense would have stymied the Giants in ’08 and ’12. (I always thought that the Super Bowl on February 3, 2008 — five years after the Rams’ loss — was poetic justice as the 18-0 Pats fell to the underdog Giants…. y’know, once upon a time I always thought it was my dad looking down from heaven and preserving the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins’ perfect record from being broken by the Pats….)

Last week, when the little kid at media day asked Tom Brady who his hero was and he kinda choked up and said his dad, I’m not gonna lie… when I watched that, I shed a couple of tears and thought about my hero — my dad. My dad was the smartest, most hardworking man I’ve ever known. He believed in true hard work and embracing the grind. He believed through hard work and perseverance that you could accomplish anything and everything, all criticizers’ and detractors’ words be damned! He passed that mindset on down to me, I’d like to hope/think. He always believed that hard work beats talent all seven days of the week. My dad was only about 5’6″ or 5’7″, his nickname among his brothers, his two sisters and his childhood friends was always, “Stubby” because of his hands (although he always had an inappropriate — albeit hilarious — joke about that), but he was genuinely the strongest, smartest and relentlessly hard working person I’ve ever known. And when I say, “smartest”, I don’t mean naturally. I mean he craved learning! When he wanted to learn something, he’d go and do it. We got a computer in the early ’90s and he learned how to use it himself. He was incredible at math. He wasn’t all that great at spelling (he’d be happy with spell check these days), but he was a pretty damn good writer, too! He was a businessman that treated people the way he wanted to be treated, and he loved joking/teasing the hell out of everyone. I’m so damn proud to carry his name. If I can even become 1/4th the man he was, I will be happy.

I digress. Before I finish this up, I just want to point something out. I will never understand the popularity contest and the polarizing love/hate-fest between Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. The country hates Brady but loves Manning. They see Brady as “smug and arrogant” (how?) and Manning as the everyday guy. This is 110% due to advertising and marketing. You don’t see Brady in very many ads at all. Yet you see Peyton advertising for Domino’s, Nationwide, DirecTV, Buick and Oreo. You see Manning on Saturday Night Live. Every time, he’s portrayed as the average everyday guy, when that couldn’t be more opposite. Brady is actually originally more of an ‘everyday’ guy than Manning will ever be. Manning was born with a silver spoon in his mouth; his dad was an NFL quarterback and is in the college football hall of fame for his time at Ole Miss. The Manning family is probably one of the richest in all of sports combined. Manning had the option to go to school anywhere, went to Tennessee and was the first pick in the ’98 NFL Draft.

On the flipside, Tom Brady embodies the All-American Dream. Brady grew up in northern California in a middle class family. His whole life as an unathletic quarterback was an uphill battle. No college coaches even looked at him. He was sending high school highlights tapes to every college he possibly could. As luck would have it, he attended the University of Michigan, but he had to sit for his first couple years. He had to battle with Drew Henson for a starting position in his last two years as a Wolverine. He was overlooked in the 2000 NFL Draft and was lucky to be picked in the 6th round, pick #199, by the New England Patriots. If Drew Bledsoe didn’t go down in the 2000 season, we might’ve lucked out and never seen him on the playing field. Brady has gone on to win 5 Super Bowls and appeared in 7.

Don’t get me wrong. I actively root against the Pats. I will always feel that Super Bowl XXXVI was emblazoned with controversy (Marshall Faulk being held, roughing the passer not being called when Kurt Warner was receiving late hits, Brady not being flagged for intentional grounding, etc.), but Brady truly embodies the All-American success story. I think that’s why my dad was an instant believer/fan of Brady, even as early as 2002, because he saw the struggle Brady went through, and he appreciated that.

I would love to be able to sit down with my dad and his best friend Sonny (who was like a second dad to me) one more time and listen to them trash talk each other’s NFL teams. Every time a wild or big moment happens in sports, I always wonder what my dad would’ve thought about it.

I know this post went all over the place. No rhythm, nothing. But I don’t care. I needed to write/document this.

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