It wasn't just because they were playing on the road today that I was hoping both the Niners and the Ravens would win. The Niners are a scrappy outfit with a quarterback who plays like RGIII; the Ravens have been a solid team for some time and were really better than the Redskins--despite losing to them. They just weren't as lucky during the season. I also like them because although Flacco had a great day, if you remember the time they won the Super Bowl, they proved you don't need the greatest QB to win the big one.
Perhaps appropriately, I started the day out in Boston, where if you listened to the local news types both on screen and in print, you mightn't have bothered to tune in today much less traipse out to Foxboro. It was a dead solid cinch. The Herald, now owned by Rupert, was more focused on rousting some local pols, always of course of the Democratic persuasion.
I do think that today's results show that great teams gain strength from quieting down the home crowds. And in the Greater Boston area, they always give you some good basis for wanting to do just that. The one Boston team I liked was the old Celtics, but as much as I enjoyed Red Auerbach, and even more from reading his memoirs as told to John Feinstein a few years back, he probably did have his finger on the old Boston Garden clock, just like today with the two-minute warning coming up, somehow the clock operator let Brady get an extra play in.
Comparative advantage in sports is never that simple, though. Some years ago, when The Wall Street Journal broke the sports-history discovery that Leo Durocher had set up an old German army telescope in the Giants' clubhouse out in center field of the Polo Grounds to use for stealing signals from the other team and relay them through an incredible Rube Goldberg series of buzzers and hand signals back to Leo coaching third to pass to the batter, I immediately concluded that of course Leo did it. The man would do anything to win. And before he died, Bobby Thomson more or less nodded when they asked him if he had been the recipient of this intelligence.
However...then there's the rest of that story. Despite this contraption and Stone Age-style communications system, the Giants won more games in the stretch on the road in '54--the year of their World Series triumph. So go figure.
Earl Weaver was cut from similar cloth as Leo, except he was a rube and Leo a city slicker--both would skin you alive if you gave them the chance. Both would do anything to win--and became renowned for taking umpires on. Earl really was the prototypical dandy little manager who stayed a bit aloof from the great players he deployed so expertly. But Leo's one-on-one style was different: he really did know how to treat the young Jackie Robinson (on the Dodgers) and Willie Mays (on the Giants) so that they became acclimated to playing in the majors, where both had plenty more obstacles than players starting out now do.
And then Stan Musial picked the same day to call it a life at 92. There may be hardly anybody left in his class who was great for so long. He was one of those fantastic ballplayers who was always on everyone's list of the all-time greats. He just went out there every day and usually beat you, and rarely struck out, as the stats indicated. But more than that, he had the class that the rest of the Redbirds lacked in the late 40s, especially, when they acted like the "Southern team" of baseball that they then were--just as George Preston Marshall's Redskins were the same in football.