According to the ticker on the Boston Globe website, there are 33 days plus a few hours until the Patriots officially kickoff the 2008 season against the Kansas City Chiefs. Coincidentally, the moment I started this post, 33 was also the number in the minutes column.
In the meantime, the hoopla in the national press surrounds perhaps the most annoying story-line in the NFL since Ricky Williams was branded the scourge of all mankind because he dared believe life existed outside of football: Will Brett Farve QB for GB, Or Won't Brett Farve QB for GB? What Will We Do? What Will Happen?
MY GOD HAS THE EARTH STOPPED SPINNING ON ITS AXIS!?!? WHAT WILL BECOME OF US?!?!?
I went to school out in western PA, where considerable debate is devoted to the question of what the "33" on the back of a bottle of Rolling Rock stands for. Everyone has their own theory: It's the sum of the number of words in the Rolling Rock pledge; it's the sum of the letters in the ingredients of the beer; workers at the brewery were in the union: Local 33; the brewery owner bet $33 on horse number 33 and started the brewery in 1933--which was also the year that Prohibition was repealed.
There's no way to find out, 'cause any records pertaining to the number either never existed or have been destroyed. All this debate manages to do is distract from the fact that Rolling Rock is, at best, a mediocre beer at a premium beer price. But more to the point, it does the job: If you drink enough of it, it gets you drunk.
By now you're thinking, "blah de-f'in-blah. What's your point?"
You don't need to care about Brett Farve. You don't need to chose sides, take a stand, get pissed or even mildly peeved. That's my point.
Those of use who were around for the Pats/Colts fire-bombings of the last couple of seasons will recall the bitterly vituperative discourse on many message boards around those games. It's enough to give you indigestion (at least, it did me). Rising to the defense of Bill Belichick, Robert Kraft, Brady, Seymour, Wilfork, Harrison--taking it all very personally.
And it just got worse and worse as the season went on. The Pats are criminals, cheats, scum of the earth. Tra-la, tra-la.
Which brings me to Kevin Faulk -- number 33 in the program, number one in your hearts. A Pro's Pro.
With the retirement of Troy Brown, Faulk takes over the title of Mr. Patriot in my book. I know he's only entering his 10th season, and there are Patriots with longer tenure. Tedy, for a strong counter example, is in his 13th season and has long been the face of the defense. But there's something to Faulk's relative anonymity that makes his case for me.
He'll pound it up the middle. He'll take it around the end. He'll go over the middle on a circle route; he'll take it in the flat on a screen or as a safety valve. He'll return a kick, sometimes a punt. And he's definitely not above throwing a block. And he always, always, comes through when you need it most.
But let me let you in on a little secret: in 33 days, the most salient fact about Kevin as far as the fans of every other team are concerned will be the fact that he was arrested with four spliffs at a Lil Wayne concert in Febuary.
Can't you hear it coming?
And the temptation to shout it down is going to be fierce. But I say: Resist. You don't have to defend him.
'Cause frankly, it has nothing to do with why we love to watch.
Just like Farve: If you want, you can find an argument on this whole "will he-won't he" line of media firehose horse crap. You can tear this apart from every angle and worry it to death.
Or you can sit back and smile, and take pleasure in the career arc of a really remarkable football player, now entering the fifth and final act of what has definitely become a melodrama of Shakespearean proportions.
Just like the hoopla that's sure to rear it's head during the season about Faulk and his phillies, or Kaczur and his Canadian happy pills or Brady and the Babe, it's a distraction for the fan that has the potential to rob us of our joy in the game and the pleasure that we take in this amazing assembly of talent.
It's what's in the bottle that counts. Unlike the Rock, there's no big mystery here. We know what "33" stands for as a player. And in our particular keg is perhaps the most exciting football team to ever play the game. Let the haters hate. But don't let the bastards bring you down. Don't let them sucker you into forgetting that this is nothing more -- or less -- than a glorious game.
Which, finally, brings me to training camp and the 33 days.
As we get ready for the first encounter with strange laundry, coming up at the end of the week against the classy Ravens of Baltimore, let's not forget just how far away from the real fun we are.
You're going to see some ugly things; you might get to see some pretty things.
But there are still 33 days of work to get to "ready." In the meantime (and throughout the season), don't get too high, don't get too low, and don't let the trolls pull you into the mud.
And, yes. I am talking to myself.