I could not help but notice that four different members of the New England Patriots have appeared on three of the last four SI covers--Tedy Bruschi (Jan. 24), Tom Brady (Feb. 7) and Rodney Harrison and Mike Vrabel (Feb. 14)--as they earned their third championship in the last four years. Coincidence? I think not.
"Fancy Footwork" is the caption for Heinz Kluetmeier's great photograph of Patriot Deion Branch in Three-Ring Circus (Feb. 14). Indeed, Branch's feet are inbounds after he makes the reception, but check out the line judge's eyes. We love to criticize players and refs in all of sports, but this photo shows that the official, Mark Steinkerchner, is in the perfect place to make the call.
Polly MacMullen, Brentwood, N.H.
Michael Silver writes, "Because they do not ... beat their chests in triumph, the New England Patriots are forever being cast as commonplace champions," then goes on to compare them to milk shakes and the Beach Boys. A photo that ran with the story shows Vrabel helping Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb to his feet, but flip back to LEADING OFF and there's Vrabel mocking Terrell Owens in a celebratory dance--and on the previous spread there's David Givens flexing his muscles in celebration after a touchdown. The Patriots are the best team in professional football, but they're not choirboys. These photos prove they're just as flashy and gaudy as any other NFL team.
Jonathan Sexton, Montgomery, Ala.
The Patriots answered the dynasty question with a resounding Yes on Super Sunday. But where will Bill Belichick be without both of his genius coordinators--Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel--who have gone on to other jobs? Next season is going to be a time for the coach to put all the critics to rest.
Zach Schneider, Duluth
That Time of Year
This week I opened my mailbox to once again find the February issue that I dread to see, let alone read. I try not to look, but I can't help it: the graphic pictures, the public exposure, the sordid details of yet another Philadelphia Eagles playoff loss.
Rick Reilly shows that Deion Branch, even if he had not been the Super Bowl MVP, was a winner before the opening kickoff (LIFE OF REILLY, Feb. 14). Branch understands that no matter who you are or what you do, you're only as good as the people you have around you.
Vince Foti, Oneonta, N.Y.
If I had known before the Super Bowl about Branch's thank-you calls to all the coaches who helped him get there, I might have found myself actually cheering for him over my beloved Eagles. Thank you, Deion (and Rick), for showing my children that good guys do win and that manners do count. While I hope our Eagles win the big game next year, I wish Branch all the success and happiness that life has to offer.
Lisa Wilson, Wycombe, Pa.
Appreciation could be infectious. Maybe next year Terrell Owens will hold up a sign thanking his grade school teacher for giving him the chance to play with markers. You never know.
Max Fitzgerald, Evanston, Ill.
In your Feb. 14 SCORECARD you say that Marlin Carlos Delgado will pay zero state income tax if he leaves Florida, which has no income tax, to play in a state that does. This is so, you report, because "a clause in his contract would require his next team to foot his tax bill." But if he ever moves to another state, Delgado will pay income tax because every penny his new team pays to "foot his tax bill" is additional income to him. The new team, however, can increase his gross salary so that after taxes, his net income would remain the same. California's tax collector would love to explain it to him.
Bill Amsbary, Orange, Calif.
I really enjoyed your article on the Diener basketball family of Fond du Lac (Wisconsin Pride, Feb. 14). The Diener kids are great athletes, but knowing all of them and having taught most of them in school, I can honestly say that they are even better people. It all starts with Grandma Diener.
Steve Zimmerman, Mount Calvary, Wis.
Charles P. Pierce glossed over the fact that Travis and Drake Diener were both held back one year before starting high school partly in order to "physically mature." This sort of parental behavior implies that winning at athletics and getting the almighty college scholarship are more important than normal academic and social progress.
Brian Coughlin, Oak Lawn, Ill.
How utterly heartbreaking: The Sacramento Kings had to play basketball two days in a row (Double Whammy, Feb. 14). What would they do if they had to take a 95% to 99% pay cut and do something important and genuinely difficult like teaching children five days a week, or going into a burning building with pounds of heavy protective gear on while trying to save property and lives, then returning to the firehouse and answering another call?
Edwin Cohen, Walnut Creek, Calif.
My eyes hurt from reading. Maybe I should stop and take two days' rest before reading the next story.
Eric Smith, Findlay, Ohio
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