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The Five-Time Super Bowl–Winning Mailbag

The greatest comeback ever, the top-10 most crucial coin flips, why Mark Wahlberg really left the game early, and more in a mega–“DO YOUR JOB!” mailbag

(Getty Images/Ringer illustration)
(Getty Images/Ringer illustration)

You’re tired of Boston teams winning titles. You’re tired of Brady and Belichick. I get it. But anytime my football team comes back from 25 down to win a Super Bowl, we have to bang out at least one mailbag, right? Send future questions to themailbag@theringer.com. As always, these are actual questions from actual readers.

Q: On Monday’s podcast, you asked Sal if there was ever a more important coin flip than the Pats-Falcons OT coin flip. What about two that went against my Chicago teams: 1970 (Terry Bradshaw) and 1979 (Magic Johnson)?
— Tim Donovan

BS: I love this question. Opening it up to EVERY coin flip, here’s the top 10 in reverse order …

10. The Wright Brothers

In 1903, Wilbur and Orville flipped a coin to see who would attempt the first airborne flight. Wilbur won … and couldn’t keep the plane in the air. They repaired the plane and three days later Orville nailed the second flight, leading Skip Bayless to tweet, "I know this is Orville’s day but I can’t get over that choke job by Wilbur!"

9. 1974 NBA Draft (Portland Over Philly)

The Blazers landed UCLA megastar Bill Walton, spawning their iconic ’77 Blazers title team as well as the greatest sports book ever written (David Halberstam’s The Breaks of the Game). Philly settled for Marvin "Bad News" Barnes … and he jumped right to the ABA. Ouch. Can you believe that from 1966 to 1984, the NBA FLIPPED A COIN to decide the no. 1 overall pick? And these flips were never televised, creating some of the league’s better conspiracy possibilities. Did the Lakers lose their 1975 coin flip, then go undefeated in their next two after David Stern became the general counsel to the commissioner? Of course they did!

8. ‘Friday Night Lights’ (The Movie)

Coach Billy Bob Thornton’s flip breaks the rarely seen three-team tie to nudge Permian into the state playoffs, followed by a naked Halle Berry jumping on him and screaming "Make me feel good! MAKE ME FEEL GOOD!" Wait, I’m mixing up my mid-2000s movies.

7. 1979 NBA Draft (L.A. Over Chicago)

The Bulls lost the famous Magic Johnson coin flip, then lost it a second time when everyone thought the overthinking-it-Lakers might pick Sidney Moncrief over Magic (before the Lakers came to their senses), and then a third time when Chicago picked David Greenwood over Moncrief. Even 10-Year-Old Me knew that Greenwood over Moncrief was INDEFENSIBLE. This SI cover is immortal.

6. The 1969 NBA Draft (Milwaukee Over Phoenix)

Tails: Lew Alcindor (later Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the future six-time MVP who played for 20 years, won six titles, broke the scoring record and enjoyed the greatest start-to-finish NBA career ever … at least unless LeBron steals that crown in about 2021).

Heads: Neal Walk.

Here’s a look at Neal:

For in-the-moment, kicked-in-the-nuts devastation, no NBA coin flippee ever experienced anything worse than losing out on Kareem. But since poor Milwaukee couldn’t keep Kareem past 1975, it’s not as meaningful a flip as it should have been … unless you’re Phoenix. Why? Because that failed coin flip launched five decades of What-Ifs, Oh-So-Closes, WTFs, Good Gods and What the Hells — they’ve been the most entertaining, star-studded, consistently relevant franchise that hasn’t won an NBA title. And it all started with Kareem over Neal Freaking Walk.

5. The 1970 NFL Draft (Pittsburgh Over Chicago)

The 1–13 Bears take on the 1–13 Steelers for Terry Bradshaw! The Steelers let Chicago call the flip in the best mindfuck ever pulled by a 1–13 team; the Bears panicked and called heads; Pittsburgh landed Bradshaw (and eventually, four Super Bowls); Chicago wound up trading its pick to Green Bay, who ended up with some tackle named Mike McCoy. Bradshaw won four rings and two Super Bowl MVPs, becoming so popular that he earned the 1978 MVP with these numbers: 2,915 yards, 28 TDs, 20 picks. You now know him as the completely unprepared, loopy old bald guy on Fox’s pregame show.

4. The 1984 NBA Draft (Houston Over Portland)

Had the following ramifications:

A. Houston won back-to-back coin flips (Ralph Sampson in 1983, Hakeem in 1984) and became The Greatest Team That Never Was (retroactive Abrams alert!).

B. If Portland would have won the flip, the Blazers would have grabbed Hakeem and left Michael Jordan for the Rockets; instead, they lost the flip and panic-picked Sam Bowie in the single most inexplicable NBA decision of all time (covered exhaustively in my basketball book).

C. A whopping eight NBA titles swung on this coin flip — you know, since MJ was the greatest NBA player ever and Hakeem was in the top 12 — and if that wasn’t enough, Nike mushroomed into N-I-K-E with Jordan landing in Chicago.

D. Houston’s back-to-back victories infuriated everyone else so much that the NBA dumped coin flips for a lottery system and … wait, is there a crease in that Knicks envelope?

3. Secretariat

Remember when Penny Chenery and Ogden Phipps flipped a coin for the first pick of two foals that Bold Ruler had sired? And Phipps won and picked a foal born from Bold Ruler and Hasty Matelda? And Chenery settled for Secretariat, the eventual Triple Crown winner that became the most famous race horse who ever lived? And then Diane Lane played Chenery in Disney’s Secretariat movie that was 25 minutes too long? Poor Ogden Phipps.

2. The Super Bowl 51 Coin Flip

We’ve never seen a more important in-game coin flip. The Patriots had just ripped off four straight scoring drives to complete the most astonishing comeback in NFL history; Atlanta’s defense had been collectively gassed for a solid hour; and Brady had already morphed into MJ in Utah during Game 6 of the 1998 Finals and was doing everything short of sticking out his tongue on throws. He needed only the coin flip to complete his version of the Bryon Russell push-off/swished jump shot. And it happened. And by the way — THIS WAS THE SUPER BOWL.

The counterargument for ranking the OT coin flip this high: Sunday’s toss decided only one sporting event, whereas something like the 1984 NBA coin flip determined eight titles and the top spot on the NBA pantheon, swung the fortunes of multiple franchises, spawned the most regrettable draft decision ever, inspired all future NBA lotteries, and led to three-plus decades of Blazers fans grimly staring at one another before sadly shaking their heads.

The counter-counterargument: That coin flip clinched the almost-inevitable ending to the greatest Super Bowl ever, the craziest NFL comeback ever AND the most haunting NFL collapse/defeat ever, while simultaneously breaking the city of Atlanta (Rembert Browne may never talk to me again), clinching QB GOAT and Boston GOAT status for Brady, re-clinching coaching GOAT status for Belichick, writing the final chapter for Deflategate (Ellis "Red" Boyd voice: "I’d like to think that the last thing that went through Goodell’s fingers, other than that handshake, was wondering how Tom Brady got the best of him"), cementing the Patriots dynasty, and nudging Brady into that Jordan-Ali-Ruth-Tiger stratosphere. Can you remember one sporting event spawning more everlasting historical sports narratives? Me neither.

Even better, all of us could watch the coin flip from beginning to end. There was real theater to it. What else would you want from a coin flip?

(Of course, there’s an alternate universe in which Atlanta wins the toss, then someone reminds a still-reeling Kyle Shanahan on the sidelines, "Hey, Julio Jones is superhuman, we should just keep throwing him deep balls and he’ll either catch them or draw pass interferences," and Julio single-handedly swings the momentum of the game because he’s Julio and I would believe anything after that batshit sideline catch he made. I’ve never seen a more athletic/improbable/inconceivable/clutch football catch — it’s no. 1 for me. Just about every famous NFL catch contains at least a sliver of luck, OR you could argue that others might have made the same catch. But that Julio catch contained zero luck and 100 percent Julio superhero DNA. It’s a one of one.)

And yet, somehow, it’s not the most important coin flip ever because …

1. The Last Seat on Buddy Holly’s Chartered Plane (1959)

As legend has it, Ritchie Valens or Tommy Allsup (a guitarist in Holly’s band) were up for the last seat. They flipped a coin, Valens won … and everyone perished when the plane crashed. Even Bears fans agree that this was way worse than not getting Terry Bradshaw.

Q: In your Retro Running Diary for Super Bowl XLIX, you wrote that "Super Bowl XLIX was like a Paul Thomas Anderson movie; you need to watch it 12 times before you can process everything." What about Super Bowl 51? Would you say it is like a David Lynch movie — you can watch it 100 times and yet you won’t be able to process everything?
— Alexandre, Brazil

BS: I would say Super Bowl 51 played out like an old-school, by-the-book, cliché-laden, stereotypical sports movie that Hollywood has churned out for 43 years and counting. You had the handsome superstar QB fighting an evil commissioner, fending off his handsome successor, battling advanced age and hiding his distress about his mother’s ongoing cancer battle. (For the actor, think Kevin Costner circa 1995–96.) You had superathletic rivals with more raw talent who should have prevailed and couldn’t stay out of their own way. (Think: South Bend Central in the climactic Hoosiers game — and by the way, this hourlong Falcons meltdown might have been more egregious than South Bend inexplicably running plays up four with a minute left and no shot clock.)

You had a cast of goofy sports movie characters including 2017 Sound FX MVP Julian Edelman (think: Tweeter from Varsity Blues), Rob Gronkowski (think: Rob Gronkowski), LeGarrette Blount and Dont’a Hightower (lovable, charismatic teammates with a knack for putting our hero’s greatness in perspective at the very end) and, of course, the mercurial curmudgeon/genius/guru Bill Belichick (think: Gene Hackman in The Replacements crossed with a non-evil Bud Kilmer).

You had the everything-goes-wrong first-half debacle (followed by the inspirational halftime speech), followed by the everything-goes-right second-half comeback in which the scoreboard seems like it’s on drugs and the comeback team keeps the ball for 20 straight scenes because it’s a movie and who needs to see defensive stops? (Think: The Longest Yard.)

You had our underdog easily completing those usually difficult two-point conversions, pulling off miracle catches and relying on its opponents’ ongoing stupidity, which ranged from "Why aren’t they killing more clock?" to "Why are they still flinging the ball like they’re down 10?" to "Why in a million years did their dopey owner ever in a million years think it was a smart idea to walk down to the sideline before the game was clinched???" (think: every football movie ever).

You even had the overtime victory and the long-awaited Goodell-Brady postgame handshake, which was the real-life version of The Longest Yard’s ending, when Paul Crewe rammed the football into the Warden’s stomach and said, "Stick this in your trophy case." That reminds me …

Q: Did you notice when Brady and Goodell shook hands, Roger pulls his hand away not once but twice? Both times Brady pulls him back in with a flexed forearm, in my eyes attempting to emasculate him. I was quite proud of Brady and although he will say their exchange consisted of "congratulations" and "thank you," there was for sure a subliminal "F you" from Brady. If you watch it, note the top of Brady’s forearm, fully flexed. Similar to the dad-meets-daughter’s-new-boyfriend move, right?
— Caleb Hawkesworth

BS: I’d say it was more of a "You’re dating my ex-wife, you might end up being the stepdad to my kids, you don’t have a job right now, you seem like a complete bozo and there’s a slight chance you could be Vince Vaughn’s evil stepdad character from Domestic Disturbance, so yeah, I’m keeping my eye on you, and by the way, sloppy seconds" type of keeping-the-power handshake. But I might be overthinking it.

Q: Can we can start calling the Edelman catch "The Incr-Edelman Reception"?
— Tommy B.

BS: Why are we overthinking this? Why not just the Incredelman? By the way, I think Edelman officially grabbed no. 11 from Drew Bledsoe on Sunday.

Q: On a scale of 1 to 10, how shocked would you be if it eventually comes out that Putin has Brady’s Super Bowl jersey?
— Jason from Minneapolis

BS: Like a 3.5.

Q: I’m a Falcons fan. I live in New England and always have. Go ahead. Try and cheer me up. I dare you. You can’t. Is this how Mike Winchell felt when he said "You ever feel cursed, coach?" I managed to get over blowing 17 points in the NFC championship game, our coach leaving via love letters left in lockers, and even our once-star QB going to jail over a dogfighting ring. Over/under 40 years until I feel better about this? I personally am pounding the over.

One truly disgruntled, still drunk, heartbroken Falcons fan.
— Cody Bronson

BS: You’re talking to a once-tortured Boston fan who lived through much of an 86-year Red Sox drought and wrote a book in 2005 called Now I Can Die in Peace. Nobody knows reliving the past, beating yourself up, torturing yourself with stale highlights and bemoaning every play that could have gone differently (and didn’t) better than Red Sox fans. Win the title and all that stuff immediately fades away. After 2004, I never thought about the Buckner Game or the Boone Game anymore. Take solace in all the supposedly doomed franchises who won championships this century: not just the Red Sox but the White Sox, S.F. Giants, Saints, Cubs, Cavaliers and everyone else. There’s no such thing as a sports curse. Well, unless you’re the Clippers.

Q: Hey Bill, this is Atlanta. Can we get our own Level of Losing now, you smug sonofabitch? And don’t you dare stick us in the middle somewhere like this is just another loss. You build us a goddamn addition. Top floor. Penthouse. [Rage scream.]
— David Fitzgerald, Athens, Ga.

Q: After having a full day to let the emotions from Super Bowl LI sink in, I decided to revisit your "Levels of Losing" column to see where this one might rank for the Falcons and their fans. It easily checked all of the boxes for a "Level 1 — Guillotine/Stomach Punch" loss, but that STILL didn’t feel adequate enough to fully encapsulate the magnitude of blowing a 25-point lead with 17 minutes left in the Super Bowl. For a team that has never won a championship and a city that has only one title in its history, I think a new Level of Losing has to be created: Level Zero — The Decapitation Dismemberment. Thoughts?
— Shawn P., Pueblo, Colo.

BS: I mean … if we’re going to have a higher level than The Stomach Punch, weaving in decapitation and dismemberment is probably the right idea. But that final Level of Losing covered the specific scenario of Super Bowl 51: a long-suffering fan base believing it’s about to win a championship, then suffering an improbably devastating sports defeat that makes them question whether they should even keep following sports and whether their favorite team and/or city is just screwed for life. It’s the definition of a Stomach Punch Game. I would say Level Zero could happen under that same scenario only if EVERYBODY lost because an asteroid struck the stadium.

One additional note: I can’t remember an NFL team losing a playoff game that could have flipped on more individual plays. Once Atlanta took that 25-point lead, had any one of NINETEEN different plays gone differently (not counting Matt Ryan’s failure to kill more clock just by delaying the snap on multiple Atlanta plays), the Falcons might have won the Super Bowl:

Amendola’s fourth-and-3 catch; Brady’s 15-yard third-down scramble; three post-onside-kick plays when Atlanta had second-and-1 from New England’s 32 and went backward (holding, dropped pass, sack, along with a wasted timeout); a 25-yard Bennett catch on third-and-1 (set up a field goal to make it 28–12); Atlanta blowing second-and-2 and losing the ball (Coleman stuffed, then the Hightower strip sack); Mitchell’s first-down catch on third-and-11; White’s two-point conversion; Roberts’s game-saving chase-down tackle on Freeman’s 39-yard screen pass; Atlanta blowing the chance at the clinching field goal on New England’s 22 (Freeman stuffed for minus-1, Ryan sack, holding, deadly incomplete pass to stop the clock); Brady’s third-and-10 pass from New England’s 9 to a double-covered Hogan for 16 (his best throw); the Incredelman; Amendola’s two-point conversion; the coin flip; and, finally, the ill-advised first-and-goal pass to Bennett that Atlanta could have picked off. Nineteen plays!

Q: A few years ago you wrote that Jay Z was 39 years old, had all the money in the world, a ton of no. 1s, married to the hottest chick in the game, and was already in the conversation for greatest of all time … And THEN he released "Empire State of Mind." SB51 is Brady’s Newwwww Yoooooork, right?
— Chris, Medford, Mass.

BS: Now I’m worried about Brady’s version of Tidal and Lemonade.

Q: What are the odds of Brady retiring AFTER Gronk?
— Sean, Chicago, Ill.

BS: I would say plus-500. Throw away the 12-year age difference (!!!) and assume Brady wants to play four more years. I wouldn’t bet against him since he’s banked years and years of 10-hour sleep sessions, egg-white omelettes, plyometrics, sleep chambers, free-range chicken, harness training, world-class weight training and God knows what else. If you ever forced Brady to eat a McRib sandwich and tater tots and wash it down with a root beer, he’d probably start sobbing like you were torturing him. Meanwhile, Gronk plays a more debilitating position, has taken many more career-shortening hits, has battled multiple surgeries and infections and has named himself the captain of the Gronk Cruise. If you gave him an egg-white omelette he’d probably whip it at his brother’s face to see if he could make it stick there. So who knows? Will Gronk even be playing football in four years? I think plus-500 seems fair. If Sandra Bullock can outlast Reese Witherspoon as a bankable A-list actress, Brady can outlast Gronk.

Q: New England is down 21–3. Then, Lady Gaga looks into the camera, and with the pent-up aggression of every Pats fan sings the following line as if she were singing directly to Tom Brady: "I want your love and I want your revenge." Could there have ever been a more perfect foreshadowing of that second half?!
— Aaron B.

BS: I missed that one because I was busy rearranging the furniture and the seating positions in my living room. First half: me on the left, my nephew in the middle, my dad on the right, everyone else hanging out in the kitchen, the living room’s ottoman turned 90 degrees so we could more easily reach my wife’s buffalo chicken dip, and the cable TV feed. Second half: moved the ottoman back, switched seats with my dad, switched to DirecTV’s feed, made my mom leave (she was secretly rooting against the Pats because of the Trump connections), brought my daughter (the good-luck baby from the 2004 World Series) to sit next to my nephew, then brought my wife and son in when it was 28–9. And nobody moved for the rest of the comeback as I kept screaming "Do your job!!!!!!" at everyone. By the way, I didn’t make up like 98 percent of the things in this paragraph. SPORTS FANS ARE INSANE. WE ARE INSANE.

Q: You said Brady winning the Super Bowl is the greatest accomplishment for an older athlete. What about George Foreman and Bernard Hopkins? In their 40s, they won world titles by kicking the asses of men 10 to 20 years younger than them.
— Patrick Finn, Wilmington, Mass.

BS: If you’re combining age, miles, degree of difficulty, quality of opponent, punishment during the game, level of quality and the stage itself, it’s pretty undeniable. Nicklaus won the ’86 Masters by shooting a 65 on the final round; Brady basically shot a 62 on Sunday and went 10-under on the back nine. With, like, 110 million people watching. That’s a little more impactful than, say, Foreman knocking out Michael Moorer, or even a 38-year-old Ali winning the heavyweight title back from Leon Spinks. And it happened during the Super Bowl, which trumped, say, a 35-year-old Federer winning the Australian Open or any of those Hopkins fights that few can remember.

Brady never seems to age (he’s like David Robinson or Tony La Russa back in the day), and he’s taken such phenomenal care of his body that you can tell him apart in different seasons only by his haircuts. But he’s also turning 40 in August — he’s the same age as retiring Cubs catcher David Ross (remember, "The Old Guy!"), or Kareem during the 1987 Finals, or Brett Favre during Minnesota’s 2009 playoff run, or even Tiger Woods two years ago. And he’s getting absolutely pounded in these playoff games. During the first half on Sunday, Brady absorbed enough knocks that I remember thinking to myself, "My God, I hope this isn’t his version of the Favre/Saints playoff game in which Brady gets his ass kicked and his body never really bounces back." Had 59-year-old Tom Watson pulled off that British Open title in 2009, there’s a different answer for this question. But I think it’s Brady.

Q: It’s cute that Tom Brady won his fifth Super Bowl … but the real news is that Eli won the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. Just more evidence that Brady will never be able to best Eli. And you know where Brady’s jersey is? In Eli’s trash can, after he used it to polish his award and then wiped his ass with it.
— Dennis, Aberdeen, N.J.

BS: MJ has the ’95 Orlando Magic … Brady has Eli going to his grave with a 2–0 lifetime Super Bowl record against the Patriots. It’s their GOAT cold sores.

Q: I think Belichick is well versed in Dark Magic and that Tom Brady is a robot.
— Eric Davis

BS: Noted.

Q: Did you buy Mark Wahlberg’s excuse that he left the Super Bowl early because his child wasn’t feeling well?
— Kenny Thomas

BS: You mean one of Boston’s most famous celebrities, as well as the star of Patriots Day (Boston’s ultimate never-give-up movie), seemingly giving up on Tom Brady at the worst possible time with video footage to boot???? How do you live that down? Even worse, Miami Heat fans were working on a four-year title defense (dating back to the 2013 Finals) of being the go-to joke for any sports fan leaving way too early, only now "Pulling a Wahlberg" is in play.

Wahlberg explained his departure on Instagram by explaining that his youngest son wasn’t feeling well. Hmmmmmm. Anyone with kids knows that you blame your kids any time you cancel on plans, show up late, leave early, you name it. My son is sick … we couldn’t find a sitter … my daughter lost her soccer shoes … my son and daughter were throwing up on each other … someone snuck into our son’s room and took one of his kidneys. Just blame your kids. It never fails.

But here’s why I think Wahlberg told the truth: He specifically blamed his youngest kid for being sick. He singled the kid out! And you know who can’t keep secrets under any circumstances? Little boys! You can break them with one noogie. They’re the worst. So if Wahlberg covered up one lie with a second lie, now he’d have to trust his son to head back to school and keep covering it up like he’s Troy Vincent helping Goodell frame Brady for Deflategate? No way! You can’t trust little boys with anything. As far as I’m concerned, Heat fans still have the crown.

Q: My wife and I have had two sons, both born the week before the Patriots Super Bowl wins in 2017 and 2015. My wife doesn’t want to have more kids, but I really feel an obligation to play my part for the Patriots in another two years. The Super Bowl is scheduled for February 3, 2019, meaning I need to find a way to consistently seduce my wife between April 15, 2018, and April 29, 2018. Any suggestions?
— William, Worcester, Mass.

BS: Lemme think about this one.

Q: I just had my second kid and I feel like all the skin in my body was stretched around an automobile. I stink of breast milk and baby throw-up. And all my husband can do is talk about having sex with me one year from now so the Patriots can win Super Bowl 53, like our other two kids had anything to do with the past two. Should I stab him in his sleep or just drug his coffee so he dies that way?
— Betty, Worcester, Mass.

BS: (Just kidding — I made that up.)

Q: First off, I would never shamelessly plug your sponsors in an attempt to get into your mailbag column. But as I was watching the Super Bowl halftime show, wearing my famously comfortable MeUndies underwear, drinking delicious Miller Lite and eating wings with 20 different flavors of sauces and seasonings from Buffalo Wild Wings, I couldn’t help but think "Wow, I feel incredibly safe now that I have the home security of SimpliSafe." I also couldn’t help notice that Kyle Shanahan went up to Bill Belichick during Lady Gaga’s "Poker Face" and said something like this, "Hey Bill, I’ll run the ball only five times after we get up 28–3, and I will decide to pretend Julio Jones does not exist, save for him having one of the most ridiculous catches of all time. I will also throw the ball when I am within field goal range, so as to ensure you get the ball back with plenty of time to score. All you have to do is lower your price on Jimmy Garoppolo from a first and a third, to a second and a fourth, so I can start in San Francisco with a competent quarterback." Did I hear that whole conversation correctly, or was there more that I missed?
— Brett Biestek, Connecticut

BS: My dream scenario: New England trades Jimmy and no. 32 for San Francisco’s no. 2 overall pick, then Belichick trades down five different times from no. 2 and settles around no. 27 while picking up an extra first and something like 20 extra draft picks, followed by Belichick’s head exploding and Belichick scalp shrapnel spraying all over the Patriots war room like a fire hose. Perfect way for him to go out.

Q: Your football team is a dynasty, they’ve won multiple championships, they get accused of cheating, the commissioner has it out for them, and nobody in America likes them. Tell us, how does it feel to be a Yankees fan?
— Vydas

BS: (Searching for a comeback.)

Q: If you had to rank your top-10 days as a Boston sports fan, where would February 5, 2017, rank?
— Joe Russo, Baltimore

BS: I used the following formula for this top-10 list: ("Significance of the game" + "Quality of the game" + "In-the-moment excitement") x ("Uniqueness of the game as a fan experience"). That rules out, say, Game 4 of the 2004 World Series or Game 6 of the 1986 Finals. And I ruled out Game 6 of the 1975 World Series and Game 5 of the 1976 NBA Finals (the famous Triple-OT game between Boston and Phoenix) because I barely remember them (even though I was there for the triple-OT game). Anyway …

1. Game 7, 2004 ALCS
2. Super Bowl 36
3. Game 5, 1986 ALCS
4. Super Bowl 51
5. Game 5, 1987 NBA Eastern finals
6. Super Bowl 49
7. Game 5, 2004 ALCS
8. Game 7, 1984 NBA Finals
9. Game 7, 1981 NBA Eastern finals
10. The Snow Game, 2002

Q: Listen to "We Are the Champions" by Queen. Isn’t the whole song literally a microcosm for the Patriots from Deflategate all the way to this historical Super Bowl win? GO PATS!
— Matan Dragon

BS: Let’s see …

Done! Great call! Let’s close the mailbag with the inevitable run of emails comparing the Patriots’ comeback to various movies because you knew it was coming …

Q: Wasn’t the Falcons refusing to run the ball on the 23-yard line with under four minutes left basically Apollo in the 15th round of Rocky II? Instead of taking the sure field goal, the Falcons wanted to knock out the Pats and leave no doubt … but instead got sacked and eventually knocked out. Someone needed to yell to Kyle Shanahan "Don’t go for the knockout, you’ve got him beat on points!"
— Adam B., Los Angeles

BS: Nah, we can do better.

Q: Super Bowl 51 is basically the fight scene from Rocky IV, right? You have a whole nation outside of New England rooting against the Pats. They’re reveling in the early miscues, the interception, etc. But then the Pats make it a game and people get into the comeback. Then they win in OT. And begrudgingly, tweets start pouring in of Belichick being the greatest and Brady being the greatest. All we needed was for Brady to say in the postgame interview, "You know, Terry, I’ve seen a lot of changes going on … If I can change … and you can change … EVERYBODY CAN CHANGE." Incredible game. And as always, fuck the Patriots.
— Chris, Denver

BS: We need a movie that came out less than 30 years ago. What else is out there?

Q: Is Tom Brady the John Wick of Football? Maybe this idea came from a combination of beer and promos, but the more I thought about, the more sense it made. The Deflategate suspension of Brady by Goodell was just like the Russians killing JW’s dog and stealing his car. The aftermath was an all-out FU tour de force of revenge.
— Rob, Newmarket, N.H.

BS: Not bad. Let’s keep pushing. (BY THE WAY JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 IS COMING OUT TODAY LET’S DO THIS!!!)

Q: In the closing scene of The Martian, Matt Damon — safely ensconced in a NASA classroom at this point — is speaking to a group of astronaut candidates about how he survived 549 SOL’s on Mars: "At some point, everything’s gonna go south on you … everything’s going to go south and you’re going to say, ‘This is it. This is how I end.’ Now you can either accept that, or you can get to work. That’s all it is. You just begin. You do the math. You solve one problem … and you solve the next one … and then the next. And if you solve enough problems, YOU WIN THE SUPER BOWL!" OK, so I tweaked the ending a bit, but isn’t this Matt Damon revealing the end to the greatest Super Bowl comeback we’ve ever seen?!
— Jesse McMeekin

BS: Well done. Recent movie, unexpected parallel, it’s been on HBO a ton lately … I like what you did there. And Brady did everything in Super Bowl 51 short of fertilizing crops with his own feces to feed his teammates. But I swear, we can still do better.

Q: I was trying to make sense of how EVERY Patriots Super Bowl is insanely dramatic. Isn’t the Patriots dynasty like the Fast and Furious franchise? The first three Super Bowls were exciting games but had nothing that made you wake up the next morning wondering to yourself, "How in the world did that happen?" Same with the first three F&F movies. The first Super Bowl/movie will always have a special place in my heart; the third Super Bowl/movie was the weakest for excitement. The fourth Pats Super Bowl/movie took a turn from ridiculously believable to just plain ridiculous, and the fifth and sixth ones became even more ridiculous. Then, Super Bowl 51/Fast 7 took it to another stratosphere, whether it was the 25-point comeback, Edelman’s catch or the Fast 7 crew parachuting out of planes and landing their cars on a mountain. The eighth F&F movie trailer even premiered during SB 51 — does that mean we should expect an eighth Brady/Belichick Super Bowl? I can’t even imagine anything topping 51, but then I would have said the same thing for 49.
— Alex Costa, Bloomington, Ind.

BS: Amazing. You even left out this tidbit: The Fast and the Furious was released on June 22, 2001 … and Tom Brady became New England’s starting QB three months later. Does that mean Brady and Belichick are like Dom and Brian? And what about how the supporting characters kept changing with the Super Bowls/movies? Or Gronk/the Rock showing up for the fifth Super Bowl/movie, helping to carry the sixth one and battling injuries in the seventh one? Or Brady and Dom never really aging? Or the bad guys changing in every Super Bowl/movie? You did it, Alex — you came up with the single most preposterous Patriots/pop culture parallel that actually makes sense. Congratulations.

Q: Halftime. 21–3. I am a rational, levelheaded adult but because of your stupid halftime music mythos, all I could do during Lady Gaga’s (incredibly athletic and LIVE SUNG!) performance was analyze how each song correlated to the game. She landed and sang the phrase, "I’m on the edge!" Fuck. Totally a Falcons omen if she sings that song. But then she quickly pivots to safe, neutral songs. No phone is smashed during "Telephone," and by "Just Dance" I wondered if your theory was running dry. But then I heard it: "I’ve got a hundred million reasons to walk away / But baby, I just need one good one to stay." That was it. I had contemplated leaving my dad’s house midgame, but I knew that if there was any way the Pats somehow won this game it would be the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history, and I couldn’t miss it. There’s your SB song. #TheLegendContinues
— David T., Reno

BS: And yup, these are my readers.