Sunday, December 15, 2013

A fantasy football game to remember in Miami

DAVIE, Fla. – My oldest son, Drake, attended his first NFL game today. It was an NFL fantasy football game.

At Sunday’s New England Patriots-Miami Dolphins game, Drake shared a press box with Sal Pal – ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio. He met Zuri Berry, a Boston Globe reporter covering the Patriots who first worked as an intern at the Marin Independent Journal, in the lunch room. Then he watched Tom Brady up close and personal in the post-game interview room.

“We made some good plays and some shitty ones,” Brady said, cutting the post-game interview short.

Drake figured out why.

He followed Brady, the superstar Patriots’ QB, into the hallway outside the interview as Brady was met by his wife, superstar model Gisele Bundchen, who was accompanied by another young lady. They were not a happy Brady bunch. Brady grabbed three chairs in the hallway and they all three sat down for a post-game huddle.

“I should have taken a photo,” Drake said. “This was so cool.”

The fantasy football day was courtesy of Jason Jenkins and Fitz Ollison, who before joining the Dolphins were assistants in the media relations department with San Francisco 49ers when I covered the team for the Marin I.J. They arranged for Drake and me to get press credentials to the game so Drake, an intern with the Golden State Warriors and Oakland Athletics, could see how an NFL team staff works behind-the-scenes
For me, it was the opportunity to re-connect with great, hard-working people I consider friends and re-visit a place that has a special memories.

The last time I was at Sun Life Stadium, then called Joe Robbie Stadium, was in 1997 for the first two games of the National League Division Championship Series between the San Francisco Giants and Florida Marlins. I flew into Fort Lauderdale hours on a Tuesday morning before Game One from Charlotte where I had covered the 49ers game against the Carolina Panthers, the first ever Monday Night Football game in Charlotte.  The 49ers stunned the Panthers – and the 49ers’ media – by running the ball 41 times for 219 yards, 141 yards on 28 carries by Garrison Hearst, in a 34-21 victory.

The Giants weren’t as fortunate. They lost both games the Marlins in the bottom of the ninth inning and went on to win their first World Series.

Sun Life Stadium has hosted five Super Bowls and I covered the first two and they were remarkable and unforgettable.

The first one, capping the 1989 season, ended with Joe Montana driving the 49ers 92 yards for the winning touchdown – a pass to John Taylor with 34 seconds remaining in the game in the back of the end zone near where my future wife, Caroline, was sitting. I missed the game-winning TD pass live as most members of the media were either taking elevators or walking down ramps to field level. This after we had turned in our votes for the game’s Most Valuable Player – Jerry Rice – prior to Montana directing the most incredible game-winning drive of his career.

The second Super Bowl at Sun Life Stadium was Steve Young’s crowning moment in Super Bowl XXIX. He threw a Super Bowl record six touchdown passes in a 49-26 rout of the San Diego Chargers. As the final minutes counted down, Young had the proverbial monkey pulled off his back.

Brady may have felt the same pressure on Sunday. He is carrying the weight of the Patriots’ on his back. He doesn’t have all the talent around him as Steve Young had and he couldn’t pull off a Montana-like game-winning drive at the end, as three consecutive passes into the end zone didn’t reach his intended target.

In the end, Brady walked out of Sun Life Stadium on Sunday with his supermodel wife, looking for better days.  But, my son Drake had a best day. He had his fantasy date.


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