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Mentor forced to watch Brady from afar

Michael Silver
Yahoo Sports

On a warm, late-summer evening in 1992, Tom Brady came home from football practice with a severe case of stage fright. It was the eve of his first career start for the Serra High School JV team, and the 15-year-old quarterback walked through the front door of his family's San Mateo, Calif., residence looking anxious and scared.

"I don't know how to throw," Brady told his father, Tom Sr.

"What do you mean?" the elder Brady asked. "Of course you know how to throw."

"No, Dad, I've lost it. I just don't know how to throw a football."

"Get in the car," Brady Sr. told his angst-ridden son. "Let's go."

Together they made the short drive to the College of San Mateo, where the junior college's esteemed offensive coordinator, Tom Martinez, was presiding over a staff meeting. Brady had attended Martinez's quarterback camp two summers earlier, where he had begun to learn the fundamentals and mechanics that would one day help propel him to the top of his profession, with a chance to win a fourth Super Bowl for the New England Patriots next Sunday in Glendale, Ariz.

When Martinez answered Brady Sr.'s knock on the door on that long-ago Friday night, the surprised coach said he'd be another 10 minutes. Six hundred seconds later, the meeting adjourned. Martinez handed the young passer a football, and they went outside and walked about 35 yards to the school's track.

Then Martinez had Brady throw the ball – for three minutes.

"That's the best part about Tom," Brady recalls. "Within three or four throws, he figured out the problem, and the next thing I knew I was throwing the tightest spirals in the perfect spots."

Says Brady Sr.: "The bottom line is that Tommy was as anxiety-ridden as a kid could be, and Tom Martinez was his comfort zone."

More than a decade-and-a-half later, Martinez remains a pivotal figure in Brady's life, a man the Patriots star considers both a mentor and the world's foremost authority on quarterbacking mechanics. Martinez is a cross between a football horse whisperer and a personal swing coach for the game's best QB.

In recent years, Brady has taken to carrying a list of reminders espoused by Martinez in his wallet, often glancing at the wrinkled sheet before games.

"When it comes to breaking down his game, I don't know that there's anyone Tommy trusts more," Brady Sr. says of Martinez.

The last time Brady spoke to his mentor, however, the quarterback didn't talk much about football. Brady called earlier this month, a few days before Martinez, 62, underwent life-threatening surgery that included the repair of a collapsed lung. It is not a stretch to say that the two men weren't sure they'd ever speak again.

"He has lung problems, heart problems and his kidneys stopped functioning." Brady Sr. said. "He has diabetes and a bunch of other issues. He is very, very sick."

On Monday, as he rode the team bus back from practice in Arizona, where the Patriots are preparing to face the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII, Brady spoke to Yahoo! about his feelings for Martinez and the impact the coach has had on his career.

"He's a tough guy, and he's been battling his health for a long time," Brady said. "He's an extremely tough man, and I knew if there was any way he could fight through (his surgery) he would. And that's exactly what he did. I just hope it continues, that the good Lord's looking out for him."

Martinez, who recently completed a 12-day hospital stay, will be pulling for his ex-pupil from home on Super Sunday.

"There's no way I can travel," Martinez said Saturday in a phone interview. "I had a pretty serious deal there; I still do. I can't say I haven't been emotional watching what he has accomplished. I was in the hospital (during the Patriots' AFC championship game victory over the San Diego Chargers), and I'm yelling at all the nurses to turn on the TV so I could watch."

What Martinez has witnessed for most of this magical season has been an old coach's dream: The Patriots are undefeated, a victory away from completing an unprecedented 19-0 season. Brady, after years of sacrificing personal statistical achievements for the benefit of his team, put up historic numbers in '07 while earning his first Most Valuable Player award. Brady's 50 regular-season touchdown passes broke Peyton Manning's three-year-old NFL record, while star wideout Randy Moss eclipsed Jerry Rice's 20-year-old mark with 23 receiving touchdowns.

"Look at Tiger Woods," Brady says when asked to explain his recent exploits. "The foundation of his game is his sound technique, and he's able to replicate the same thing over and over and over. When other variables break down in his game, he can always rely on his mechanics to give him a successful foundation, and they hold up under pressure.

"That's the way I try to approach my throwing motion. If you're able to duplicate the same mechanics over and over again, even when it's chaotic out there, it gives you the best chance for success.

"I've been with Tom for 17 years now, and I really felt that this year was the first time I could self-correct the things I was doing wrong and knew exactly what I was trying to do. I'm hoping at the point where I can just reflect on the mistakes I've made in the past and figuring out how to avoid them in the present."

It's tempting to conclude that Brady, at 30, has suddenly upgraded his game after consecutive seasons that ended with disappointing playoff defeats. But Martinez believes the Patriots' offseason acquisitions of Moss and fellow wideouts Wes Welker and Donte' Stallworth – and a change in coaching philosophy – are behind the quarterback's breakout campaign.

"From my perspective, having coached him mechanically, I think he's been this good for a long time," Martinez says. "Obviously, how guys get open and how teams choose to cover those guys will impact a quarterback's performance. It's the same thing in basketball – if you only have one scorer, the other team will figure it out and shut you down, because that guy is the lone ranger.

"If you think about it, they were a couple of catches away from winning five Super Bowls. I don't think any of the receivers from last year's team could've started for this year's team. So now you combine these talented receivers with Tommy's maturity and ability to lead and make the most out of their skills, as well as some incredible play-calling and the coaches taking the reins off, and you have something truly momentous."

This is not to say that Martinez can't find the occasional flaw in Brady's footwork or throwing motion. The man has a perfectionist's streak, which helps explain how he amassed more than 1,100 victories (some estimates put his total in the 1,400 range) while coaching football, women's basketball and softball at the College of San Mateo. He has worked with each of Brady's three older sisters, Maureen (an All-American pitcher at Fresno State), Julie and Nancy, on their batting strokes.

In the summer of 2005 Martinez, at Brady's behest, flew to Boston to give him a refresher course on his mechanics. He also worked with the Patriots' other quarterbacks, particularly impressing former LSU passer Rohan Davey. Says Brady Sr.: "My understanding is that Rohan Davey said, 'I never knew any of the stuff he was talking about.' He told the people at LSU about it, and that's how JaMarcus Russell ended up working with him before the (NFL) draft."

Russell worked privately with Martinez in preparation for last spring's draft, in which the Oakland Raiders made him the No. 1 overall pick. Two months earlier, the Raiders had interviewed Martinez for a position as their quarterbacks coach, though he balked at pursuing the job because of his failing health.

Earlier this month, Brady Sr. received a call from Douglas Smith, whose son, Alex, was the No. 1 overall pick of the '05 draft and became the San Francisco 49ers' starting quarterback shortly thereafter.

"He called and said, 'Alex has actually had no coaching on fundamentals in three years. His mechanics have gone to hell. You've got to get me in touch with Tom Martinez,' " Brady Sr. recalls. "I told him that Tom was very sick. I'm hoping that his health will start to improve and that I can make that connection. But he has a long road."

Just as the younger Brady, mostly through his father, has kept tabs on Martinez's condition throughout the season, the mentor has made a point of watching his student's transcendent performances. Yet for all of his success in '07, Brady has still been solicitous of and receptive to Martinez's critical analysis.

"He's so – what's the word? – desirous of being the best there is, and the best he can be, that he doesn't take any of my input out of context," Martinez says. "This year, in our conversations, he basically said that really, for the first time, he's felt very comfortable both mechanically and in terms of his knowledge of what everybody's trying to do to him, and how he can exploit it."

Says Brady: "He's been so dependable. I started needing him when I was 13, and every time I've ever called him he's always been available. He's got such a great understanding of what it takes to play the quarterback position, and the thing that makes him so great is he's able to convey his thoughts in a way that a young player can understand.

"The style he teaches is the Joe Montana-John Elway style of throwing, which is what I consider the ideal technique. They throw the ball overhand with perfect form, and that's so important to me. I really think that's the only way you'll truly improve as a player. You think of a basketball player, if someone's got bad technique, sometimes your timing and hand-eye are great, and you're on a hot streak. But when those things are just a little off, it all unravels."

While most of the world focuses on Brady's sore right ankle, which he sprained in last Sunday's 21-12 victory over the Chargers, and his supermodel girlfriend, Gisele Bundchen, with whom he was stalked by paparazzi in Manhattan last week, Martinez studies the intricacies of his drop, delivery and release. His mantras – "Keep your elbow high," "Throw it down the hall," "Keep your hips closed" – are carried in Brady's wallet and embedded in the two-time Super Bowl MVP's memory.

If all goes as planned on Super Sunday, Brady will be as steady as he has ever been and make an ailing friend prouder than the quarterback knows.

"I can't say that it's not special for me because I've known Tommy all these years," Martinez says. "It's hard not to be in awe of what he has done. Not to take anything away from Peyton Manning, but when he set that (touchdown-pass) record in '04, he played most of his games in a dome. Tommy has played about seven in a row in the cold and wind, which really impacts what you can do sometimes. So yes, what he has done is incredible.

"On the other hand, I love football, and it's fun to watch that team, whether you know anybody or not. So many things in sports don't turn out the way they should, and it's good to see that this team has won in spite of that tendency, and that the happy ending is possibly there.

Is Martinez worried? The Patriots are 12-point favorites, but they had to rally to beat the Giants by three in the regular season finale, and Brady is coming off a game in which he threw three interceptions against the Chargers.

"I think it's going to be a much different game than people think," Martinez says. "They've been in the snow, wind and sleet in recent weeks, and it's hard to operate in those conditions. Put them in good weather, or maybe with a closed roof, and this is going to be like summer ball, like 7-on-7 drills. I think it's going to be a very high-scoring game, like it's being played on a racetrack. And I think Tommy will be as good as he's ever been."

Chances are, the kid who momentarily forgot how to throw the night before the first game of his career won't be quite as anxious this time. And though Martinez will be roughly 632 miles away on Super Sunday, fighting to regain his strength, Brady understands that his mentor will be right there with him.

As Martinez once assured him, he knows everything there is to know.

I'M HOT 'CAUSE I'M FLY …

A few weeks after Jon Gruden made overtures to old sparring partner Keyshawn Johnson about making a comeback with the Bucs, it looks like Warriors coach Don Nelson is on the verge of re-signing Chris Webber. I absolutely love the concept. I covered the team back in '94 when Webber's immaturity and Nelson's obstinacy led to the eventual departure of both men and set the franchise back more than a decade, and it's heartening to see that they've put aside their differences to join forces for a common goal. I'm not exactly sure how Webber, at this stage of his career, will fit with the run-and-gun Warriors, but Nelson will figure that out. And while we're on the subject, Dave Campo may be headed back to the Cowboys as a defensive backs coach. Next thing you know, Mike Holmgren and I will be doing a book together. Uh, maybe not.

IUPUI basketball coach Ron Hunter went barefoot during last Thursday's game against Oakland University to raise awareness for needy children in Africa – and generated donations of nearly 110,000 pairs of shoes (and almost $20,000). "My feet hurt so bad," Hunter said after IUPUI's 82-69 victory. "But imagine a child or a human going their whole lives without shoes." Good for Hunter, and good for IUPUI, which now may be known for something other than having one of the most absurd names (Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis) in academia.

I'm sure this is just the start of it, but here's a recent post on craigslist from an MIT-educated economist offering a creative trade for a Super Bowl ticket: "Seeking one ticket to the Super Bowl. I am a big Patriots fan and a professor of economics at Loyola Marymount University (MIT Ph.D. 2005). I can offer my services as an economist, in addition to face value for a ticket. I can offer repeated tutoring services for a student in your family or a negotiable number of hours of consulting services. I am also happy to provide witty banter at the game if you're looking for someone to attend the game with you (or to remain mute if that's what you prefer)." Maybe President Bush has an extra ticket? Just a thought.

My babysitter's back and you're gonna be in trouble: Emily Azevedo, who used to watch my kids before she decided to take up the sport of bobsledding, teamed with driver Erin Pac to finish ninth in a World Cup competition Saturday in St. Moritz, Switzerland. Azevedo and Jamia Jackson finished 12th the previous weekend in a World Cup event in Cesana, Italy. As inspiring as it is to watch Azevedo push her way to incredible heights, it's not completely surprising – my wife and I only employ exceptional sitters.

… YOU AIN'T 'CAUSE YOU'RE NOT

Hines Ward is missing an ACL in one knee and might lose a 40-yard sprint in track shoes to about 85 percent of his fellow NFL receivers. But he is one of the best wideouts in football, largely because of his exceptional intelligence, physical and mental toughness, and unsurpassed competitive desire. That's why I wish Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger wouldn't recently have told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "I'm always going to ask for a tall receiver. That's just me. Our receivers are unbelievable, but our tallest guy might be Hines. Or Santonio (Holmes). Hines is going to say he's six-foot, but he's 5-11." Ward, understandably, was peeved, responding, "I don't hear Tom Brady or Peyton Manning asking for that. I don't know, whatever he says, I have no idea. To me, it's a rare combination of receivers out there who are good and tall. We won a Super Bowl, we didn't have a tall receiver then. I don't see Tom Brady caring about who's tall or not. He got Randy (Moss) this year, but he did it before without him." Like a pass that gets floated into double-coverage, this is one comment, I'm guessing, that Roethlisberger would like to have back.

Brady Sr. laughed when he turned on a San Francisco TV newscast Tuesday and saw an interview with the orthodontist to whom he sent his kids, complete with X-rays of his son's teeth at age 7. He rolled his eyes when the family barber was contacted by another reporter. He shrugged off the paparazzi as it stalked his son around Manhattan. But when the New York Post ran an item questioning whether the Patriots' quarterback had visited a hair-restoration clinic? Well, that one hit home. "There was a quote in one of the Boston papers that said, 'Of course he's going bald, just look at his father,' " the elder Brady complained. "Now that is going too far."

Dan Snyder, it's your team, and I believe you'll end up hiring a good coach. But I personally believe you made a big mistake in losing Gregg Williams, who'll be a much better head coach the second time around.

I was really impressed by the coaching job Romeo Crennel did this year with the Browns, and I think there's great reason for optimism in Cleveland. But if he and his agent think they're getting a lucrative extension based on this year's 10-6 campaign, they may be out of luck. With reports out there that Dolphins director of football operations Bill Parcells wanted to hire him, Crennel had perceived leverage. But with that job having been filled, and two years left on his contract, Crennel will likely have to prove last year's progress was not a one-hit wonder.

Nate Kaeding, good for you for sucking it up and playing through what we now know was a fractured lower left leg for nearly five full games. Norv Turner, bad for you for lying about your kicker's injury. On Jan. 10, Turner was asked directly whether there was a fracture or a chip to Kaeding's fibula, which the Chargers had characterized as a bruise. The coach said, "No." A few minutes later, Kaeding was asked the same question and, commendably, managed not to lie, saying, "I don't know, man. That's what we got to say. It is what it is. We're just going to play through it and get it good." Given that the Chargers neglected to mention that quarterback Philip Rivers had a torn ACL before the AFC championship game and didn't even list LaDainian Tomlinson on the injury report two days before facing the Patriots, I pretty much believe nothing that this organization has to say.

OK, so Giants offensive lineman Grey Ruegamer once assisted in the castration of 200 young lambs – with his teeth. Remind me not to write anything bad about Mr. Ruegamer. Ever.

So Joe Gannascoli, the guy who played Vito in the Sopranos, dyed his dog blue to try to demonstrate his loyalty to the Giants in a New York radio station contest? Are you going to handle this, Tony, or do we need to resurrect Phil Leotardo to do the job?

TWO THINGS I CAN'T COMPREHEND

1. The intensity with which flight attendants want to confiscate my newspapers, as if the desire to retain such printed matter after landing is a deviant notion.

2. Why Chiefs Pro Bowl defensive end Jared Allen, who was suspended for the first two games of the '07 season after a pair of DUI arrests in the previous year, would unveil plans to open an 11,000-square-foot sports bar in Kansas City next month. What's next: The Robert Downey Jr. opium den? Seriously, shouldn't Allen be spending his time away from the field somewhere other than a place that has, like, 800 bottles of liquor on the premises and 15 beers on tap? Just wondering.

OVER-THE-TOP, EPHEDRINE-LACED DIATRIBE AT 4:19 A.M.

Al Davis, congratulations – you are the worst owner in the world. Even scarier, you are the worst NFL owner in the San Francisco Bay Area. You care more about flexing your stupid power and dominating a coach you hired and, most of all, trying to screw him out of his money than you do anything else – like, say, winning football games. You want to fire Lane Kiffin after one 4-12 season, because you think he forced you to trade Randy Moss or tried to get the Arkansas job or wanted to fire Rob Ryan or whatever else? Fine. Knock yourself out. But you want to strip Kiffin of any influence over his coaching staff, personnel decisions or choice of deli sandwiches during staff meetings in an effort to bully him into resigning? That makes you cheap, pathetic and the embodiment of everything that is in direct opposition to "Just win, baby." Ah, but you may save $1.7 million (what my source says is the real amount Kiffin would be owed if terminated) – or make Kiffin fight for every penny through legal means – by doing it this way. And even if doing it this way means your 2008 season is guaranteed to be a dysfunction-filled disaster? Hey, that's so worth it. I hope you rock out during the Super Bowl halftime show, Tom Petty, because you are so far out of tune, it's migraine-inducing.

TRIPPIN' ON E(MAIL)

"Thanks for the time with (Michael) Strahan. As a longtime Giants fan now living in N.C., it is nice to hear some positives about him. The media just crushed the man about the divorce. Though the Giants most likely won't pull off the big upset, it is nice to know that Strahan will be there in the trenches. However, maybe we will see a repeat of the 'greatest game ever played: Wide Right.' Oh yeah, thank you for being an entertaining 'piece dirt.' "

Andrew V.
Greenville, N.C.

Like Strahan, I enjoy doing the dirty work.


"After all that has been rumored and mistaken for truth about you, how do you maintain the level 'headedness' about your game and the precision in which you deliver on defense? I've been a fan for 15 years and I sure hate the fact that all great things come to an end. May God continue to bless you in all your endeavors and strides for a brighter future! Peace and Love, AGF … TSU never had better!"

Angela Green-Foster
Houston

Why thank you, ma'am, I appreciate your kind words. The way I maintain the level-headedness is, each night before I go to sleep, I close my eyes and reflect back on … wait, you sent this email thinking I was Michael Strahan, not Michael Silver. Never mind.


"I just finished reading your column about Lt. Col. Greg Gadson and the NY Giants. I've never sent a letter to the editor or responded to a story online before, but for this I just had to. What a truly inspirational story. I didn't want it to end. Your column transcended sports, putting the games we watch and the players we root for in proper perspective. Thank you for bringing this to light and giving me a rooting interest in the Super Bowl. With all the negative news we hear about athletes, it was nice to find out that there are players in the NY locker room who give credit to our country's true heroes."

Kevin Kidd
St. Louis

Thanks for breaking your streak, and please continue to provide feedback in the future – even if it's not as flattering as this email.


"I'm a Vet and a big fan of Michael Strahan. Like others have said, we appreciate you giving veterans attention. We must salute you."

Richard F. Hadden
Chicago

Ha – you've got it backwards, but thanks!


"What an original story line: underdog team inspired by 'war hero' whose complicity in genocide in Iraq was tragically cut short by roadside bomb. So are the Giants going to level and invade New England and imprison and torture its citizens, all to pilfer its resources and elbow out the competition? Leave the propaganda to the front page, you tool."

JS
Los Angeles

The left has turned on one of its own – what a shocker. Dude, don't Barack and Hillary have enough problems without the two of us getting into it? We likely have similar feelings about the war and the people who (mis)led us into it, but please, please don't take it out on the brave troops who are serving our country.


"Your column is absolutely the best thing on the Internet. Thank you for your inspiring wit and your on-point commentary. While I agree that the article on the Giants and their war hero practically wrote itself because it is so stirring, you still didn't have to touch on it. The fact that you did speaks volumes of your character. If you ever come to Corvallis (and you should take the opportunity to see your beloved Cal team take on the Beavers Nov. 15!), I would be honored to buy you a beer. Keep writing, you are a breath of fresh air."

Jillian Bower
Corvallis, Ore.

Sweet. I'll be bringing a gang of age-inappropriate friends who are absolutely the best thing on the Pac-10 road circuit. Too bad 'The Beaver Hut' isn't still up and running, or we'd know where to congregate.


"Thank you Mr. Silver for a great column. May God be with you!"

Wild Bill
Waco, Texas

Ah, Bill, you don't sound so wild after all. Thanks.


"You're an awesome writer, I love your work. I do have a question for you: You've been picking the Pats and Brady all season. I read your piece the other day and read you were picking the Giants. Why the flip-flop?"

Tom Pegg
Location unknown

Please don't mention flip-flopping and anything to do with Massachusetts in the same email – it gives me bad flashbacks. As for the question, I haven't officially made my pick yet. I merely expressed the belief that the Giants absolutely are capable of winning this game, and they seem to have played better football in January than the Pats. Stay tuned.


"Great article on the Packers-Giants game. Glad you finally got out of frozen Green Bay. Can't believe you are going for the Giants over the Patriots. Your father-in-law!" --."

Larry Goyette
Location unknown

Uh oh. I'd better give this pick a lot of thought.


" 'News spouses that fight.' It doesn't seem to matter, even if you're the best writer on the internet. You still have to answer to the wife. Now maybe I don't feel so bad."

Steve
Iowa

I have to answer to the wife and her dad. But trust me--I'm still getting the better end of the deal.


"I was just wondering if this Brady 'situation' reminds you at all of a certain Cal QB? People can say, 'high ankle sprains are nothing' all they want, but I just keep remembering how I said the same thing during the Oregon game. Longshore had two weeks to rehab also!"

Bryan
Newport Beach, Calif.

In general, Tom Brady reminds me of Nate Longshore about as much as Ice Cube reminds me of Vanilla Ice.


"I don't know about you, but I think Al Davis was getting tired of everyone thinking that the Knicks and the Falcons are more dysfunctional than the Raiders. At the rate Davis is going through head coaches, the only person who'll want the job will be a six-year-old Raiders fan."

Max
San Diego

Be careful, or I might have to call Child Protective Services.


"Hahahaha. I love that Bon Jovi reference to Jared from 'location unknown' although I don't know where that is."

Kyle
Kent, Wash.

Right – by definition.


"Those very sensitive Patriots fans must be a big burden for you."

Ted
Pittsburgh

It's hard having to say "I love you, you're the best" 100 times a day. Just ask my wife.


"First of all, let me say I just recently discovered your articles and I love them. I love sarcasm and love dishing it out myself. Nice to read a article written by a fellow smartass. Second, forgive the sensitive Pats fans. Not all of us can handle people hating us. … I could care less. Just means were great and I'd rather have that than be a lovable loser. OK, now for my question: Why does Peyton Manning feel the need to do so many damn commercials? I mean, do the Colts not pay him or something? Is he bored? Does he need a hobby? I sat and tried to think of another athlete who did more crap and I couldn't in all sports in my lifetime (I'm 26). I can't remember another athlete being such a commercial whore. And also, that whole Sprint commercial is a lie. A Dolphins player about to sack someone? Come on! Now, we all know that is a complete lie."

Danielle
Hudson, Mass.

One athlete who was more a commercial, uh, working girl than Peyton: Michael Jordan. I suspect the reason he felt the need to do so many is the same as it is for Manning – both like money, fat contracts notwithstanding.


"I'm a Jets fan, and I'm not pulling for these Giants because the Pats are a divisional rival or because of any bitterness from the Spygate nonsense. I'm pulling for them because their story is the reason why I love sports. No one gave them a chance all season. The press, especially New York City-area press, was hardest on Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin. The fans were even worse, calling for Coughlin's head and holding up signs at Giants Stadium suggesting that Eli was adopted. The Giants made the playoffs with an inspired win over Buffalo, and then their own season-ticket holders sold tickets to Patriots fans for the 'meaningless' last game. Starting the playoffs as 16:1 underdogs to make the Super Bowl, Giants fans jumped on the bandwagon – half-heartedly – with the win in Tampa, commending Manning from their armchairs for not screwing up the game. The win at Dallas had Giants fans crawling out of the woodwork – a bold feat considering the number of Cowboy fans here. But even then, they'd rather thank Jessica Simpson for the win than give any credit to the Giants coaching staff for getting its team ready to play a divisional rival on the road that had kicked their asses twice that season. And then there was Green Bay, and finally this team had everyone's attention. The same fans that were ready to throw Tom and Eli under the bus a few weeks ago were officially on the bandwagon. Short memories, those 'fans.' Look closer and you'll probably see a dejected-looking Tiki Barber mingling with them. I'm rooting for the Giants because no matter what, they're always underdogs in their own stadium. They are now, by strength of character alone, the toughest team in football. You pointed out the inspiration that Lt. Col. Greg Gadson gave to them, which made that team believe in each other. No obstacle too high, no challenge too great, I know these guys are going to play like it's the last game of their lives against a team that no one thinks they can beat – except for those who believe. And that's what makes sports so beautiful. If they go out there and play their hearts out on Feb. 3, no matter what the outcome, they've earned the respect of anyone who's been to hell and back in life. But if they win … that will be one of the greatest stories ever told. Won't those Giants fans be just so proud of them then? Keep telling the human side of sports, Mike. You're damn good at it. Best wishes, Tony"

Tony Gonzales
Cranford, N.J.

There were signs suggesting Eli was adopted? That's cold.


"Are you kidding me? Are you (expletive) kidding me? I submit phenomenal content and you choose to publish some (expletive's) scientific analysis about (expletive) asparagus! I suppose if I had a vagina and wrote about your forehead warmers, I would get published. As always, your writing is brilliant, you are a deity and I share your love for sarcasm, road soda, football and Tom Brady! The Pats are absolutely going to destroy the Giants. Bet the farm! Patriots 49, Giants 17!"

David
Dallas

You're right – you deserve to get published. Welcome to Trippin', male equipment and all.


"I wonder sometimes if you like the verbal abuse you get in your e-mails. I know damn well you like the attention. Anyway, I am just putting in my plug for the Giants early. I think the Pats have peaked, and New York has something to prove. I am calling the Giants for my stone-cold lock in the Super Bowl. At the very least, I got some money on it, and i'll take the 12½ points thank you very much! C'mon, admit it: the Pats' losing has crept into your mind over the last week or so, right?"

Jack Martin
San Diego

Yes, I admit it. But do not tell my father-in-law.


"Silver is a baller! Seriously, your articles are off the chain and speak the truth. I am a high school student and your frequent grammar lessons have really helped me. I must say that some of the credit for my A in English goes to the grammar clinics that you put on when stupid readers send you even stupider comments with the stupidest grammatical errors. All hail Silver! PS: Can you write me a recommendation to Cal?"

Nish
Location unknown

Absolutely, young man. There is hope for the next generation. Shoot me another email and we can talk about the world's greatest academic institution

TEXT/IM/EMAIL/PHONE MOMENT OF THE WEEK

"Great article … very insightful on Strahan especially all that he has endured in the public eye. And love the lyrics on the boots and the shoes … now the hair plug piece, that is funny … They also say he has capped teeth … funny … I guess they have never seen a Brady grill … we have big teeth – straight, but big! Lol …"
Email Thursday from Nancy Brady, reacting to reports of her brother's alleged follicular miniaturization and dental issues.

"Not sure … clubs close @ 2"
IM from Cardinals halfback Edgerrin James Sunday night, on whether he's coming in from Miami to enjoy the excitement of Super Bowl week.

"Hollywood sucks"
Text Tuesday from my wife, reacting to the news of Heath Ledger's death.