Here's a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily about the Tim Hortons hockey card promotion that is exclusive to Canada:
The 2016 New England Patriots could never be the subject of a movie. The finish was too improbable.
Trailing 28-3 late in the third quarter of Super Bowl LI, the Patriots scored 25 unanswered points to tie the game, and then drove for a touchdown in overtime to beat the Atlanta Falcons.
You’ve read all the hyperbole, starting with “a comeback for the ages.” No hype this time — it was pro football’s version of rope-a-dope, as the Falcons punched themselves out and were gassed by the end of regulation. Once the Patriots won the coin toss in overtime, you knew it was over.
Veteran Patriots watcher Christopher Price puts that game — and the 2016 season—into proper perspective with his latest book. Drive For Five: The Remarkable Run of the 2016 Patriots (St. Martin’s Press; hardback; $27.99; 303 pages) is a must-read for New England fans, but it also is a primer on the genius and ability of coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady. And that makes for some interesting reading.
Brady became the Patriots’ starting quarterback in 2001. From 2001 until the end of Super Bowl LI, the Patriots were 196-60 in the regular season, a .766 winning percentage. New England went 25-9 in the playoffs during that span and won five Super Bowls in seven appearances.
Numbers don’t lie. Even the Patriots’ harshest critics have to concede that this franchise has put together an NFL dynasty.
Price has written three other books. Two are about the Patriots: 2010’s New England Patriots: The Complete Illustrated History (which was updated in 2013), and 2007’s The Blueprint: How the New England Patriots Beat the System to Create the Last Great NFL Superpower. His other book was 1998’s Baseball by the Beach: A History of America's National Pastime on Cape Cod.
Drive For Five begins with the Patriots’ loss to the Denver Broncos in the 2016 AFC Championship Game, and then hits the high and low notes of the 2016 regular season. Brady was suspended for the first four games of the 2016 season because of Deflategate, but New England went 3-1 to start the season and reached the playoffs. Even when they trailed by 25 points in Super Bowl LI, the Patriots never gave up.
This book puts the reader in the locker room and on the practice field. Interviews with players and coaches reveal the real Patriots. We’ve seen Brady’s vanilla postgame news conferences and Belichick’s monotone-like group interviews. In Drive For Five, there is more depth and nuance. The reader learns how passionate and determined both men are. The masks Brady and Belichick wear in public are removed in this narrative, and that makes for a much better story.
Oh, there are plenty of other stories besides the quarterback and the coach. Tight end Martellus Bennett was probably the liveliest player on the New England roster in 2016, and Price even includes a timeline of Bennett’s more memorable utterings.
For example, he notes that “When you’re authentic, people appreciate that.” Or, commenting on the quarterback situation during the preseason — Brady was allowed to play, but Jimmy Garappolo would start the first four games — “I’ve dated two girls at the same time before.”
Or, confessing that playing with a chip on one’s shoulder was normal: “… Everybody’s chip is a little different. Like Lay’s, I guess. You might be a barbecue guy, you might be a sour cream and onion guy, but as long as you have your chip, that’s what gets you through the game.” He also noted that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell “looks like a Pringle’s guy.”
“I don’t consider those chips.”
Price’s only glitch is one of clarification. He writes that the Patriots had never scored in the first quarter of a Super Bowl. That is true during the Belichick era, but the Patriots kicked a field goal in the first quarter of Super Bowl XX against the Bears and scored a pair of touchdowns in the opening quarter of Super Bowl XXXI against the Packers.
Drive For Five is a nice behind-the-scenes look at a franchise that has always played it close to the vest when it comes to formulas for success. Patriots fans will love it, and Patriots-haters will hate it — but for football fans that are neutral, Price’s story will be enlightening.
Here's a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Dauly about Shirley DeQuasie, "the sweet old lady who ran a baseball card shop" in Ravenswood, West Virginia. Shirley passed away in August, and her family is working to keep her legacy alive.
I love to blog about sports books and give my opinion. Baseball books are my favorites, but I read and review all kinds of books.