ONLY FOOLS WOULD BET AGAINST THE PATS

I’ll admit, Curt, with your retirement just down the road, I was tempted to surrender in our annual showdown, to pay homage to your many years on the football beat and admit, in front of the whole world, that you are superior in predicting Super Bowls.

But why lie?

You dance with the one that brung ya, and obviously, Curt, you’ve saved the last dance for that ugly skunk who has been whispering the wrong Super Bowl team in your ear for years. Philadelphia? That’s how you want to go out? That’s your legacy?

Did Picasso finish by painting a smiley face? Did Mozart go out playing the Macarena? Did General Custer end by…

Well, I guess he did.

So this is your Little Big Horn, Curt. The Philadelphia Eagles. You say farewell by picking a team that hasn’t been to the Super Bowl in 24 years, over a team that has won two of the past three?

Now I see why you’re retiring.

They have treatment for what you’re suffering, Curt. It comes in small doses. It’s called reality. The reality is, New England is a better team. The reality is, Bill Belichick is a superior coach. The reality is, Tom Brady is a craftier quarterback. The reality is, the AFC was much tougher than the NFC.

But you can’t see reality, can you, Curt? You’re still blinded by that time-share in Boca Raton that you can’t wait to get to? Wait. Don’t tell me. A cruise, with shuffleboard? No. I know. You’ve got your eye on a little camper that you’ll drive to Arizona and park by a cactus?

I got news for you, my soon-to-be sun-worshipping friend. It’s not the heat, it’s the stupidity. Picking the Eagles, especially when their only decent receiver, Terrell Owens, could snap like a twig on the first play, is not what we call advanced intelligence. And any team with Freddie Mitchell as its spokesman has to be a bad call.

Then again, Curt. We can’t blame you. Your career has been spent covering the Lions. Obviously, you look at Andy Reid and say, “Wow!” That’s because you’re used to looking at Darryl Rogers and Marty Mornhinweg. Obviously, you look at Donovan McNabb and say, “Oooh!” That’s because you’re used to looking at Scott Mitchell, Andre Ware and Rusty Hilger.

But try this, Curty-O. Try looking at the Patriots. Try looking at a team that stuffed the NFL’s best offense, then ran roughshod over the NFL’s best defense – in successive weeks.

Try looking at Brady, Willie McGinest, Tedy Bruschi, Adam Vinatieri – guys who have already come up in the biggest game.

Try looking at –

Hey. Is that a gold watch on your wrist? Is that a rocking chair in the back of your van? Is that a farewell card signed by the Free Press staff?

Is that a tear in your eye?

Don’t cry, Curt. It’ll be over soon. May I say to you, and to the world, it’s been a great 20 years picking against you. And I can only hope the next guy is this easy.

Patriots by 10.

Enjoy Boca.

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or albom@freepress.com. Catch “The Mitch Albom Show” 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760).

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