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Dan Shaughnessy

Watching, like the rest of us

Email|Print| Text size + By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Columnist / January 4, 2008

FOXBOROUGH - They are not much different from the folks who read the sports pages and call the talk shows. They are football fans and they will watch the games this weekend. Just like you.

Heath Evans says his wife loves to watch football, so they'll be in front of their TV for most of the action. Richard Seymour says he expects Rodney Harrison and Ty Warren to watch the games with him at his house. Junior Seau says, "I got my popcorn, everything on timer. We're ready to go."

These football fans have more at stake than you. They are the 16-0 New England Patriots and they will watch the wild-card games with the knowledge they'll be playing one of this weekend's winners Jan. 12 at Gillette Stadium at 8 p.m.

What about coach Bill Belichick? Will he come into the office late tomorrow to watch the Jaguars and Steelers? Will he view this game from a cold, lonely office, clipboard in hand? Or will he make tomorrow night's game a social occasion?

"I don't know," the coach said yesterday. "But I'll definitely watch it. That game will have . . . that could be one of the teams, so I'll definitely watch it."

This seemed unnecessarily evasive, even by Belichickian standards. Surely the coach has plans for his screening of a game that means so much to the Patriots' future.

"You don't know if you'll come into the office to watch it?" I tried again.

"No," said the NFL Coach of the Year.

Not good enough. Might the coach do what so many of his disciples do? Might he watch the game at a sports bar? Buffalo wings and all?

"Yeah, that's what I was thinking," Belichick said sarcastically. "Maybe hit a couple of them - first half, second half. Get a different flavor for it."

Perfect. Bill could watch the first half at The Fours on Canal Street in Boston, then drive up the Massachusetts Turnpike to Buff's Pub for the final two quarters of Jaguars-Steelers. Think anyone would notice him sitting in a corner booth, wearing the gray hoodie, playing Keno, scarfing wings, and chugging a couple of drafts?

Imagine the thrill for the other patrons.

Hey, is that Bill Belichick over there playing darts with the cheese-eatin', dry-heavin', karaoke-playing local losers?

Unlikely. The coach of the year might not watch these games from his antiseptic office, but he's probably not going to be arguing about his Fantasy Football League prospects with local yahoos while the Jaguars and Steelers duel for the right to play the undefeated Patriots.

New England football fans will watch the games. They know the winner of Pittsburgh-Jacksonville likely will be the Patriots' first-round opponent. But they also know that if the Titans beat the Chargers Sunday, the Patriots will play Tennessee.

"I think most guys know the situation," said Evans. "Hopefully, we're not practicing on those days [Belichick would not reveal the schedule] and we can watch the games. My wife loves football. I'm sure we won't base our schedule around it, but it's good football this time of the year. It's the best of the best. If we're home, I'm sure we'll have the games on."

"You know we'll be watching," added Harrison. "All the games, AFC and NFC. It's time to relax and enjoy football instead of us being out on the field all the time. You can always learn. There's a few different teams and scenarios regarding who we might have to play. When you watch, you put yourself in the position of being a defensive player, whoever has the ball, and you definitely learn from it. We're familiar with these teams. We've played them in the past and we'll see what happens. I'm relaxed. There's no stress or anything like that. They're the ones that are out there playing. You can sit back and enjoy football and find out who you are going to play."

See? They are just like you and me. They have earned this rest and they will sit in their toasty living rooms, eating Cheez Doodles, watching the other guys kill each other.

"We're fans of the game," said Seau. "I'm a big fan. I don't know how other players view the games when they have a bye week, but I'm definitely going to watch. Obviously, I'll be watching San Diego, my hometown, and cheering for them."

"I'm a football fan," said Seymour. "I grew up in a football family. Football was always big in our household, so we'll definitely be glued to the TV. I know it's at 4 and 8 on Saturday and at 1 and 4 on Sunday. I will watch."

So there. This weekend you are just the same as Richard Seymour. You are glued to the TV, watching football. Your heroes are doing the same thing as you. If you are a Patriots fan, this should make you feel warm all over.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com.

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