Foxborough, Mass. — Before I make this sound like a Peter King coffee nerd post, let me stipulate: I do not drink coffee. As a rule, I do not go to Starbucks. But I went this morning because I was given a $10 SBUX gift card by the nice folks at the Marriott at Copley Square. So I used it on green tea, a low-fat slice of bread and a banana. And when I turned to leave, I saw …
I said hello. I also said, “I remember covering one of your teams up here. I also remember you personally inventing the Dirty Bird that day.”
He laughed. “Long time ago,” he said. And it was.
It was Nov. 8, 1998. The Falcons came to New England 6-2 but still largely unloved back in the A-T-L and largely unproven in the eyes of the national media. They came to the old stadium off Route 1 and won 41-10, and O.J. Santiago — not Dan Reeves — unveiled the Dirty Bird in the end zone that afternoon.
And I remember standing nearby as the Patriots’ coach exited the field to a heavily accented chorus of boos and more than one hurled cup. The coach’s name: Pete Carroll.
The Falcons beat the 49ers in Atlanta the next week at a time the Niners were considered the power in the NFC West, and at his Monday press conference I asked Reeves: “Let me preface this by saying I’ve never before asked this question of any Falcons coach, but is this a Super Bowl team?”
Lo and behold, it turned out to be. Now I’m not saying the Falcons will have stamped their visas to Miami — yes, the next Super Bowl is in the same town as the site as Eugene Robinson’s arrest — if they win today, but winning against Belichick and Brady on the road would be the strongest sign yet that these Birds are bona fide.
Let the record show, however, that both Boston papers pick the Pats. The Globe has it 27-21, the Herald 27-20. A month ago, this idiot correspondent picked New England to win 41-14, but that was at a time when the Falcons’ defense seemed suspect and when I was operating on the premise, which seems pretty flawed already, that the team would start the season slowly.
And I still kind of think New England will prevail. But the Pats are up to their usual injury-list chicanery, listing Randy Moss as questionable late Friday, so there’s that to ponder. But Reeves is here doing the game on radio, and if O.J. Santiago shows up in a golf cart, I’m changing my pick and going with the Birds.
Weather update: Yesterday was gorgeous. There was such a crowd of walkers around Copley Square you’d have thought it was Patriots Day — I was here for that festive Boston event during the NBA playoffs in 2008 — but it wasn’t. It was simply one of those fall New England days of which postcards are made.
Today, by way of contrast, is less picturesque. It has been raining, and it’s supposed to rain more this afternoon. Traffic is already horrible on Route 1 — this is one of those one-way-in stadiums, situated 40 minutes south of Boston — and esteemed colleague D. Orlando Ledbetter left at 8:30 a.m. Had we left at 9:30, we’d still be idling in Walpole.
And the thinking is that a wet track favors the visitors. Because they have Michael Turner, and the Pats don’t seem to have a running game. So file that away.
Media event: You’d think every card-carrying media type would be in Philadelphia today — and please note this is the first I’ve mentioned that game — but the seating manifest indicates that Michael Silver of Yahoo! Sports, Albert Breer of Sporting News Today and Damon Hack of Sports Illustrated are coming here, and I’ve already seen John Clayton of ESPN. So I guess this is itself a pretty big game.
And stop back often! This will be another in our series of live chats, which have come to be the highlight of every week. (At least for me.) I’ll be here until the final horn or Belichick chooses to run off the field in a big fat huff, whichever comes first.