Welcome to Life Without Tom
FOXBOROUGH - Welcome to Day 1 of Life Without Tom.
It's not a wonderful life. Food doesn't taste good. Sleep doesn't come easily, and the air is polluted. New England sports fans are lost boys and lost girls. They have lost their leader and their mojo. They have lost their way.
It was just two days ago that the football season was starting and hope was infinite. The Patriots were going to go 18-0 again and this time they were going to finish the job. Jealous haters across the land were going to be forever silenced. Tom was going to win the Super Bowl and there would be no tarnish on the Patriots' claim as "greatest ever."
Then it all went away. Kansas City safety Bernard Pollard crawled out from under a Sammy Morris block and banged into the planted left knee of Tom Brady. There went the unbeaten season, the Lombardi Trophy, the MVP, the ESPY, the Lifetime Achievement Oscar, and Time Magazine's Man of the Year Award.
Sunday, Sept. 7, 2008, goes down as the day the music died at Patriot Place. The hideously overhyped CBS Scene, open just two days, now stands as a monument to bad luck, hovering over the scene of New England football's crime of the century.
At 3 p.m. Monday, the Patriots released a one-paragraph statement acknowledging that Brady's left knee will require surgery:
"He will be placed on injured reserve and will miss the remainder of the 2008 season."
At 3:05, a grim-faced Bill Belichick stared at 16 television cameras and said, "We feel badly for Tom. Nobody's worked harder and done more for this team than Tom . . . He played one position. He played it well. There'll be someone else playing that position now."
Right. Someone else playing that position now.
This is sort of like going to a Springsteen concert, waiting for the Boss, then hearing a bow-tied announcer tell you, "Bruce cannot be here tonight. Someone else will be fronting the E Street Band."
Best of luck to you, Matt Cassel. Nice job Sunday. And could you please furnish press clippings from that high school game of Nov. 24, 1999 - the last time you ever suited up as a starting quarterback?
The Patriots would not give the precise nature of Brady's injury. Nothing unusual there. We all know that if we played for the Patriots, our quadruple-bypass surgery would be described in the team press guide as "treated for chest pain."
This being Boston - a town ever fueled by politics, sports, and revenge - we're into blame.
How about Lil Wayne?
If not for Kevin Faulk's weed bust at a Lil Wayne concert, Faulk would have been blocking Pollard instead of Morris.
What about Gisele Bundchen? Might she be the Black Widow of Patriot Place?
It's easiest to blame Pollard. The league issued a statement clearing Pollard, but Randy Moss said he thought Pollard made a dirty play and Monday Belichick tossed Pollard under the Fung Wah.
"We have always taught our players that it is their responsibility to hit the quarterback above the knees and below the shoulders," said the coach.
Belichick made a reference to Vince Wilfork's takedown of Buffalo quarterback J.P. Losman in Week 3 last year. Wilfork was slapped with a 15-yard penalty and fined $12,500 after crashing into Losman's left knee. Wilfork claimed he was knocked into the Bills QB.
"It's not the same, but there are some similarities," Belichick said.
Small wonder the coach is seething. Like the rest of you, he'll never get over what happened in Glendale last February, and this was going to be his chance to come back and finish the job.
That's all gone now, and wiseguys are already questioning whether Belichick can win without Brady. Red Auerbach used to hear the same thing about not being able to win without Bill Russell. And Red had as many enemies as Coach Bill.
It's going to be a fascinating four months. A lot of ticked-off teams see this as their chance to punch back at Belichick and the Bradyless Patriots. Think Eric Mangini is eager for Sunday to come?
"We make no excuses," said Richard Seymour. "A guy goes down, that's part of the game. We always feel like there's always a way to win."
"We feel bad for Tom, but life goes on," added Mike Vrabel. "There's a lot of games left. There'll be a game at 4:15 at the Meadowlands Sunday, regardless of who our quarterback is."
Life Without Tom is going to be very different, but it doesn't have to be a disaster. The Patriots still have a great coach and a lot of good players. Their schedule is not particularly taxing. They're no longer a Super Bowl-bound, 14-win team, but there's no reason they can't win nine or 10 and make the playoffs.
Even in a World Without Tom.
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.