Comeback Puts Patriots at the Top

Bryant Park's favorite Monday morning quarterback, Bill Wolff embraces Boston's new sports hegemony.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

ALISON STEWART, host:

Well, if your world is anything like mine: your weekends are just chock-full of sports and you have no idea what's going on or you maybe have a little bit of an idea because it's your significant other who's got the remote control.

Every Monday on the BPP, we recap the weekend's sports action with ESPN veteran Bill Wolff who happens to be my husband...

BILL WOLFF (Announcer): Yes.

STEWART: ...for exactly one year and one day.

WOLFF: That's right, woman.

(Soundbite of laughter)

LUKE BURBANK, host:

Cute.

STEWART: How are you?

WOLFF: I'm fantastic. How are you?

STEWART: I'm doing well. So we're on the plane back from L.A. last night...

WOLFF: Yup.

STEWART: ...and the pilot gets on and starts giving sports scores.

WOLFF: Good man.

STEWART: Because I know...

WOLFF: I'm going to fly that airline again.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: I know that you've already TiVoed the New England Patriots versus Indianapolis Colts game.

WOLFF: That should tell you something. I don't really typically TiVo live events because, you know, half - not even half - 99 percent of the fun is being there while it's happening. But that one was big enough that I actually watched it after you went to sleep last night knowing that you might get up and do THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT early in the morning.

STEWART: There you go. Why the hype about this game, first of all?

WOLFF: Because there - I don't - in no one's memory have there been two teams this clearly better than all the rest of the teams this deep into the season. We're halfway through the season, and going into this game, both Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots were undefeated. and not just undefeated, but wrecking the opposition - wrecking them. And they'd also won the last two Super Bowls and they've sort of been the elite class of the league for a while. And this year, they are just destroying those who would contest their greatness. So that was the big hype, and it was...

STEWART: So...

WOLFF: It paid off. It was a classic.

STEWART: The Patriots pulled it out just at the end.

WOLFF: Yup.

STEWART: Final score 24-20.

WOLFF: Correct.

STEWART: Because Tom Brady threw - how many touchdowns in the last minute?

WOLFF: He threw two touchdowns...

STEWART: Two touchdowns.

WOLFF: ...in a period of about four minutes, starting with about eight minutes to go. So he threw one about eight minutes to go and he threw another one about three minutes to go - something like that.

STEWART: Is he a guy who's known to behave like this - to play like this in clutch or?

WOLFF: He's very poorly behaved.

(Soundbite of laughter)

WOLFF: He is known to win lots of games. It turns out that, statistically, and during the fourth quarter, they put up the statistic that he has led something like...

(Soundbite of meowing)

STEWART: Is that the cat?

WOLFF: It's the cat.

BURBANK: Is that - what's your cat's name? Clubber Lang?

WOLFF: Sonny Liston.

BURBANK: Sonny Liston.

WOLFF: Hey, hey. Get out of here.

(Soundbite of laughter)

WOLFF: Anyway, he left a gift this morning, too, by the way. Anyway...

(Soundbite of laughter)

WOLFF: It turns out that Tom Brady has in his career - since 2001 when he became the quarterback - led 21, I think, 21 fourth-quarter comebacks. But that's not really what he's known for so much as he's just known for winning whether it's by comeback or by wire-to-wire domination. So...

BURBANK: The thing about this game that killed me was that Tom Brady just - I feel like he will disfigure the team. They weren't playing particularly well at the beginning of the game. They're at Indianapolis. It - I was in this bar in Brooklyn where everyone's cheering for Indianapolis. I just feel like there's all this momentum. And Tom Brady was like, I refuse to lose this game.

WOLFF: Well, I think that's part of it. I mean, certainly the throws he made in the fourth quarter to win the game were just exceptional athletic moves. I mean, that's something we often forget, I think, about quarterbacks and pro football. It's really hard to throw a football. It's really hard to throw a football accurately. It's really hard to throw a football far, and then throw on shoulder pads which decrease the range and motion in your arm and then have a bunch of 300-pound monsters coming to try to kill you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

WOLFF: And to be able to put it right where you want it in the big moment with everything on the line, it is just - it is a remarkable, remarkable skill. And I agree that Brady seemed to elevate the level of his performance right in the key moment. But they got a lot of big performances from guys. I mean, they did a lot of - a lot of the - Rosevelt Colvin made a big play and...

BURBANK: Wes Welker.

WOLFF: The runningback Maroney made a big play and Kevin Faulk made a big play, and Wes Welker made a big play. They're just an excellent, excellent team. And when it counts most - that is when they have to be excellent like they - like the fourth quarter yesterday down by 10 points, they all seemed to just be better than the other team. They make the amazing play that keeps the other team from doing what it wants to do and then it imposed - then the Patriots imposed their will. It was really a classic. It lived up to the billing, all right.

STEWART: All right. So the Patriots beat the Colts 24-20.

Let's talk about people who aspire to be in professional football or at least they used to.

WOLFF: Mm-hmm. Me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: The players at Notre Dame?

WOLFF: Oh, my dear lord.

STEWART: We have two powerhouse teams losing. Football - college football teams this weekend.

Let's start with Notre Dame...

WOLFF: Yeah.

STEWART: ...loses to Navy.

WOLFF: Oh, dear. Well, in the history of college football, which dates back to, like, prehistoric times, the first college football game was played in the velociraptors plant.

(Soundbite of laughter)

WOLFF: It goes way back. The longest streak of one team beating another team year after year was 43 straight. Forty-three straight years they played and 43 straight years, one team beat the other. And the one team that did the beating was Notre Dame and the one team that absorbed the beating was Navy until Saturday at South Bend, home of Notre Dame, in the shadow of Touchdown Jesus, Navy beat Notre Dame, sending Notre Dame to a record of one win and eight losses.

STEWART: Oh.

WOLFF: And I mean - and that's really…

STEWART: There's a…

WOLFF: …really bad and also, I think, largely unexpected. You might've expected that Notre Dame would win five or six games and sort of hover around even. But to see them floundering, just floundering is a shocker. And as - I'm sure Luke knows, the alumni of Notre Dame are extremely impatient.

STEWART: And I'm sure, also, the school itself. I mean, this is a big money…

WOLFF: Well, it's money and at the moment…

STEWART: …problem - issue.

WOLFF: …that's not at risk because they're locked into a, you know, a large network contract with NBC for money they get that nobody else gets. But down the road, it's going to have financial implications, and Notre Dame just takes its football no matter what it…

BURBANK: Yeah.

WOLFF: You know, you could have the man who invented the vaccine or just a guy working at Duane Reade, if he or she went to Notre Dame, he or she loves that football team and they do not take kindly to losing, let alone to being humiliated.

BURBANK: Yeah.

WOLFF: Which when you start losing to Navy at home, it's - it's huge humiliating levels. It's a shock.

STEWART: All right.

BURBANK: My cousin, Kelly Anne(ph), the pride of Bucks County, Pennsylvania. She - she went to Notre Dame and she schedules her pregnancies…

WOLFF: Yup.

BURBANK: …she's on her third kid - around the Notre Dame football season.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: Oh, no.

WOLFF: Really?

BURBANK: Because she knows her husband will not talk to her if there is a game on.

WOLFF: Well, God bless him. He's got the right idea, that guy.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: The next one I want to talk about, this headlines in USA Today, Carnage at Nebraska.

WOLFF: Carnage. Carnage.

STEWART: Carnage is actually the correct word to use.

WOLFF: Yeah.

STEWART: Right?

WOLFF: This one is really amazing. So you've got Nebraska, like Notre Dame, a traditional power. It's in a bit of a period of ebb. I mean, they haven't been great for five or six years. But it is Nebraska and, typically, they're always at least okay. And they're playing Kansas, and Kansas is typically one of the very best basketball teams in the country, always a great basketball team. But equally as good as their basketball teams always are, their football team are that bad.

Traditionally, Kansas? They haven't been good since Gale Sayers, and that was 1964. So suddenly, you have Kansas playing Nebraska, and Kansas is undefeated. They ranked fifth in the country. And they put 76 points on Nebraska.

BURBANK: Yeah.

WOLFF: Which I cannot - it's like if Granada invaded the U.S. and it took 15 minutes.

(Soundbite of laughter)

WOLFF: Wait a minute…

STEWART: The final score were 76-39.

WOLFF: Kansas isn't any good. Nebraska doesn't stink, oops, Kansas is really good and Nebraska stinks out loud.

(Soundbite of laughter)

WOLFF: Seventy-six points - nobody puts 76 points on anybody. And Kansas especially doesn't put 76 points on Nebraska, except that it happened. That is a - if you follow college football for any period of time, that one is a shocker. And here's Kansas - is now 5th in the country, and like I say, they are famous, famous, famous for having great, great basketball. But to see them at fifth in the country in football is something amazing. Something totally amazing and…

BURBANK: And their head coach probably weighs 500 pounds.

WOLFF: You're right.

STEWART: That's what you said; you said he was a big boy.

BURBANK: He's, like, the biggest head coach of…

WOLFF: He is wide as he is tall, I guess you could say.

(Soundbite of laughter)

WOLFF: He's a large individual. You know, he inspires greatness. What can you say?

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: Okay, we've got about a minute, thirty left, Bill Wolff…

WOLFF: A minute, thirty, okay. Which way are we going?

STEWART: We're going to Friday, you and Adam Felber from WAIT WAIT… DON'T TELL ME.

WOLFF: Right, yeah.

STEWART: We met Adam Felber for the first time.

WOLFF: Yup.

STEWART: The two of you standing there…

WOLFF: Yeah.

STEWART: …Adam with his iPhone, you with the Blackberry actually trading NBA scores at a cocktail party.

(Soundbite of laughter)

WOLFF: Well, there was nobody like Bill Maher or you or the guy from the Daily Kos or Martin Short standing around. It was just…

(Soundbite of laughter)

WOLFF: …it's just us two.

STEWART: What was so darn interesting, if anything? I mean, the NBA season just started?

WOLFF: Everything. Everything.

(Soundbite of laughter)

WOLFF: What's interesting? Well, first of all, if you love the NBA, and not all that many people still do, it's just great every second if you really love the pro game, which I do. But I think probably early on, there are two things most interesting about the NBA that's a little throwback to the '80s. One is the story of Kobe Bryant with the Lakers, and that's part of - that's half of the '80s equation. And it's that Kobe Bryant has been such a sourpuss, such a whiner and he seems to try to be - he seems to be trying to dictate the terms of his leaving Los Angeles, the only team he's ever played with.

STEWART: He's telling them he will only go to certain other teams, right?

WOLFF: Well, not only will he only go to certain other teams, but he will only be traded for certain other players because he wants his destination still to be stocked with enough - enough good players that he might be on a great team when he gets there.

The problem is he's so great. I mean, Kobe Bryant is so great that the Lakers are not going to trade him for, you know, a bag of potato chips and 50 bucks. They're going to take really good players in return and that will leave the team to which he goes a little depleted. So he's sort of blocking the move that he's requesting. He says, I want to go, but I only want - I really want to go, but I only want to go where there are a lot of other good players. So we had to see what Kobe was doing Friday night. And it turns out that he was sort of single-handedly dismantling the Phoenix Suns who are an excellent team. So he's already off to a great start. And then the other part of it is…

STEWART: Oh, the other part of it, I'm going to have to ask you to…

WOLFF: (Unintelligible) it's unbelievable, they have three incredible great players and they debuted on Friday night and they really took it to the Washington Wizards…

BURBANK: Wait the whose?

WOLFF: The Washington Bullets, the Washington Wizards.

BURBANK: Oh, okay.

STEWART: All right.

BURBANK: Watch out for the Wizards and Agent Zero, Gilbert Arenas, is that what you're saying?

WOLFF: I'm saying they stink and the Celtics are good.

BURBANK: Oh, okay. The Celtics are good.

STEWART: All right. Celtics are good. Bill Wolff?

WOLFF: Yup.

STEWART: Thanks so much.

WOLFF: My love - my pleasure, doll. See you.

BURBANK: Wait a second, now Boston has the World Champion Red Sox, the best football team in the history of time…

STEWART: Good to be from Boston.

BURBANK: …and freaking Celtics are good.

STEWART: Good to be from Boston.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.