I’m counting on you, Dane

The local-boy-makes-good angle is over for me. The stakes are way too high.

Besides, you can never have too many championships. Especially ‘round here in Boston.

Yes, we’re greedy.

Each of our major sports teams has won a title over the past decade, with the Patriots, of course, leading the way. They’ve won three and somehow – I still can’t believe they lost to the Giants four years ago, wiping away a bid for perfection – just missed out on a fourth.

The Sox wiped out 86 years of frustration by winning the Series in 2004. And the Bruins won the Cup last year, their first since I was 4. The Celtics have been darn good as well.

But I want another championship parade to snake its way through Boston.

That’s where you come in, Dane Fletcher.

You’ve been fun to watch over the past two years. I always look for your No. 52 whenever the Pats are on defense or on special teams.

I watched you play at Bozeman High School and at Montana State – from the sidelines or press box – then sat up in awe when you nearly sacked Brett Favre last season. On national TV.

But I’m not in Bozeman anymore. I’m back in Beantown. I’m an obnoxious Boston fan again. I always was.

So here’s the deal. The Super Bowl is coming and I’m counting on you to make something happen. Something big.

Jump on a fumble. Force Eli Manning to throw a pick. Stop Hakeem Nicks from getting past the first-down marker.

Anything to help the Pats win. It’s been eight looooong months since our last championship here. We need another one.

You see, Dane, I grew up with nothing but heartache. My first experience of getting my hopes up – only to get them squashed – happened in 1976. Long before you were born.

The game I’m referring to can be summed up in three words: roughing the passer.

Steve Grogan and the Pats wore red and white then, with the classic “Pat Patriot” symbol on their white helmets. In the playoffs, New England seemingly had the (insert Boston accent here) Raidas beaten.

But after a late third-down play, they were flagged for a late hit on quarterback Kenny Stabler, who later snaked into the end zone for the winning touchdown. I left the room in tears.

Three years later, six words: too many men on the ice.

I’m referring to hockey now, Dane. The sport you nearly gave up football for.

In ’79, the Bruins nearly had the Canadiens on the ropes. Back then the B’s could NEVER beat the Canadiens, who won the previous three Cups.

On this night, the Bruins led 3-1 in Game 7 of their best-of-seven semifinal series. Of course, I had to go to bed at this point. I was only 11. It was a school night.

When I woke up, the radio was my alarm. It was on WHDH and the glum sports report said that the Bruins had lost 5-4 in overtime.

Not a great way to greet the new day.

The B’s actually had a late 4-3 lead, but because they were whistled for having six skaters on the ice, the Habs went on the power play, where Guy LaFleur scored to tie the game with 1:14 to play.

Now don’t get me wrong, Dane. It wasn’t all bad. The day I graduated from high school – June 8, 1986 – Larry Bird’s Celtics won the NBA title.

But just four months later, days after you were born, the heartache returned. The Red Sox, leading three games to two, played the Mets in Game 6 of the World Series and led by two runs in the bottom of the ninth. There were two outs and Gary Carter had two strikes on him when ….

I actually don’t remember much from that point. All I remember is Ray Knight crossing home plate and Vin Scully exclaiming, “and the Mets win it!”

So close and yet …

Well, now you see where I’m coming from, Dane.

I just returned to a Boston suburb two months ago. I’m a Masshole again. I’m no longer unbiased. It was great to witness your climb from Hawk to Bobcat to Patriot. Good for you.

During our conversation for a story that ran in the Bozeman Chronicle last week, you told me you were focused on nothing but winning the title. As a fan, that’s what I want to hear.

You said you didn’t want to waste this opportunity. More good stuff.

But the Lombardi Trophy is on the line here. It’s Boston vs. New York. Tom vs. Eli. Bill vs. Tom (Coughlin, that is).

The last thing I want is to lose another title to New York.

To put it another way, it would be like losing to the Griz – with the Big Sky championship on the line.

Congrats on making it to the Super Bowl, Dane. It’s not every day that a Bozeman High grad plays in the NFL, let alone the last Sunday of the season.

Now get ‘er done!


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February 2012
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