NFL: Super Bowl LIII Opening Night

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, right, and wide receiver Julian Edelman are ready to play in another Super Bowl.

FINALLY.

After weeks of waiting and the host of pre-game shows, they will play for the NFL title tonight. So I thought it might be a good time to get a message out to Patriots fans:

Have fun.

Appreciate.

We know how it works around here. Lose this game and Tom Brady will suddenly really be 41. The dynasty will be history. The refs will be blamed. Someone will point out Roger Goodell didn’t want the Pats to win another Super Bowl. Some will wonder why they let Brandin Cooks and Aqib Talib get away.

But it says here a loss to the Rams should not take away from what you’ve been watching in the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick Era. Late Sunday night, the Patriots will be either 6-3 or 5-4 in NINE Super Bowls in this regime.

NINE Super Bowls.

Think back to the days the franchise was going to move to St. Louis (another minute angle in this matchup). Think back to the old stadium, to a dead franchise. And think back to how special this all has been for you.

Sermon over.

Now to some notes and quotes on Super Sunday.

…Sunday is the Super Bowl. Monday is a day even more meaningful to baseball fans –- the Red Sox equipment heads for Florida. Spring training is right around the corner.

…TV host Bill Maher on Friday night: “I don’t care who wins, as long as the Patriots lose.” Then he added it would actually be good for New England to win because “there would finally win patriots in the White House.

…As a lifelong Knicks fan, I have little or no confidence they will come out of the right end of the Kristaps Porzingis trade – the one that gave them TWO max contracts to offer this summer. SNY in New York tweeted a visual of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Zion Williamson playing for the Knicks. Good luck with that.

…Following the news that Jarrod Saltalamacchia is retiring, fellow former Sox catcher Ryan Lavarnway is among 21 non-roster players invited to Yankees camp.

…MSG fans chanted “We Want Kyrie” Friday night, as the 11 Saga continues. Once committed to returning to Boston, he now says, “ask me on July 1” when asked what he’s doing as the inmates continue to run the NBA asylum.

…Once upon a time, the Street & Smith’s baseball annual was your annual go-to for preparing for the season. Rosters, predictions, etc. My buddy Jonny Miller sent me the 2019 version the other day and while it’s still a quality publication, there is too much up in the air to appreciate what’s inside. “120 Pages of In-Depth Team Previews” says the cover. Really? With Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and Craig Kimbrel among the dozens still out there?

…If all goes according to plan, future Hall of Famer Patrice Bergeron will play in his 1,000th NHL game Tuesday night. If you want a good read, check out Joe McDonald‘s lengthy piece in The Athletic (yes, you have to pay).

…Irving on his situation on Oct 4: “I’ve shared it with some of my teammates as well as the organization as well as everyone else in Boston. If you guys will have me back, I plan on re-signing here next year.”

…Classy move: the NBA added retiring future Hall of Famers Dwyane Wade and Dirk Novitzki to the All-Star Game.

…I watched Duke’s Zion Williamson against St. John’s Saturday. The kid is a beast – guaranteed top pick in the draft.

…From The Sporting News’ Sean Deveney: Worst-case scenario before the season for the Celtics was: 1. Chemistry/role problems after 2018 playoff run. 2. Young guys not developing. 3. Gordon Hayward injury lingering. 4. All of the above causing Kyrie Irving to consider leaving. 5. Second-round exit.

…Hey Celts fans: considering all the drama, are you willing to trade Irving and ride with Terry Rozier?

…CBS’ Tony Romo is on the spot tonight – with the world looking for him to follow his smash hit in the AFC title game. From Bob Raissman of the NY Daily News: “(Jim) Nantz now refers to his buddy as “Romostrodomus” and told “CBS This Morning,” “America can’t wait to see the game and hear what he (Romo) has to say.”

…I have always respected NBC’s Al Michaels for his knowledge and memory of all sports but the other day he had a rare slip. Talking about Game 5 of the Red Sox ALCS drama against the Angels, he lauded the work of Bob Stanley getting out of the bottom of the ninth inning and even quoted Stanley. But it was Steve Crawford who escaped, eventually getting the win.

…More Irving: “I don’t owe anybody (bleep).”

Anthony Davis Sr. doesn’t want Anthony Davis Jr. to play for the Celtics because of the way Boston treated Isaiah Thomas? Treated him? Interesting.

…Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes on not getting to the Super Bowl: “I wanted to win the AFC West, I wanted to win the AFC and I wanted to win the Super Bowl. We got close. Next year, I’ll be in the Super Bowl and you’ll be interviewing me on media night.”

…From the Red Sox, the equipment truck containing: “20,400 baseballs, 1,100 bats, 200 batting gloves, 200 batting helmets, 320 batting practice tops, 160 white game jerseys, 300 pairs of pants, 400 t-shirts, 400 pairs of socks, 20 cases of bubble gum, 60 cases of sunflower seeds.”

…From Chris Smith of MassLive: “Biggest Red Sox news since the (Nathan) Eovaldi signing in early December: David Price changes to No. 10. Wow, Tom Brady needs to win a Super Bowl and spring training needs to begin ASAP.”

Micah Zibanejad had a hat trick for the Rangers in New Jersey Thursday night – the first for the team in Jersey since Mark Messier‘s Game 6 guarantee in the 1994 conference finals.

…Memories of my days covering his dad, from the Toronto Star: “Blue Jays prospect Kacy Clemens is suing a Houston bar after he says he was beaten by a bouncer so severely it may jeopardize his baseball career, according to a report in the TMZ and the New York Post. He is the son of Roger Clemens.”

…Kimbrel still doesn’t have a job? Mind boggling. MLB Network’s Jon Heyman says, “Folks around the game suspect the Braves are lying in the weeds for superstar closer Craig Kimbrel. Other possibilities include Phillies, Nats, Red Sox, Twins, and of course, a mystery team.”

…Loved watching Williamson Saturday, but listening to ESPN’s Dick Vitale (I know his heart is in the right place) is torture. But the man knows what he’s talking about.

…TNT’s Charles Barkley clearly doesn’t love what’s going on in the NBA, mixing his commissioners while saying, “I think commissioner Stern, who I like a lot, needs to come out and say, hey we can trade Anthony Davis, but he cannot go to the Lakers. We cannot have agents and players colluding to stack super teams.”

…The Bruins and Chris Kreider? Not likely the Rangers, in a rebuild mode that should see Kevin Hayes and Mats Zuccarello dealt (both could also help the Bruins), will trade Kreider. Time for the B’s to over-bid? Kreider, who came into the league with loud doubts about his room character, has shed all that and is a true power forward.

…MLB Pipeline has only one Red Sox prospect among its top 100: Michael Chavis at No. 79.

…If it wasn’t already so popular for most of the country to hate the Patriots, owner Robert Kraft said on Fox News the current president has “been very supportive and I know he’s working very hard to serve the best interests of the country.”

…Would you take your chances with the following roster? (C) Martin Maldonado; (1B) Logan Morrison; (2B) Josh Harrison; (SS) Manny Machado; (3B) Mike Moustakas; (LF) Marwin Gonzalez; (CF) Adam Jones, (RF) Bryce Harper; (DH) Evan Gattis: Rotation: Dallas Keuchel, Ervin Santana, Edwin Jackson, Clay Buchholz; Bullpen: Kimbrel, Bud Norris, Brad Boxberger, etc. None of the above had a job as this was being written.

…Back to Jonny Miller of WBZ radiop. Back at work in Florida months after suffering a stroke, he will be interviewed by NBC’s Harry Smith in the coming days. Can’t wait to see that!

…The Bruins, who have a Super Sunday matinee at Washington, have scored the first goal of their last six games – and gone 1-3-2.

…Former Expos GM Kevin Malone on drafting Brady as a catcher: “We felt he could have been a Hall of Fame catcher. Our loss was the NFL’s gain.”

…Sports Illustrated’s panel of experts went 10-4 in favor of the Patriots Sunday night – nine of them tabbing Brady as the MVP (Sony Michel got the other nod). Jared Goff and Aaron Donald got two MVP “votes” for the Rams’ wins.

…Celtics radio voice Sean Grande tells us the Celtics are 34-17 home and 34-19 road with Irving in the lineup – 24-4 home and 7-14 road with Irving out.

…Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy was clearly upset with his defense after the loss to the Flyers. Pointing directly at Zdeno Chara, he said, “Listen, he’s the captain of the hockey club. He won a Stanley Cup here by being a defensive stalwart, one of the best penalty killers in the league, so yes, he’s part of that group, and the biggest part of it,” Cassidy said. “He’s a terrific leader. The next game, he (needs to) understand what makes us successful. We’ll have a conversation about it.”

…Still wondering why the NCAA basketball telecasts have slots of only two hours. Any game that’s close takes forever to finish. That was the case on NESN Saturday, when the BC-Notre Dame game, a game locals care about, was kept off the air for 9:06 of the first half (23 minutes after the 2:00 telecast time) because the Florida State-Georgia Tech game refused to end.

…One final quote from Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman, who talked about the “arrogance” of the Patriots, saying, “Put the dagger in them, pull it out, and let them leak slow.” Let’s see how that works out.

…The baseball players are really upset over the fight to get jobs – and offers. Apparently, the owners have finally come to their senses on those silly 10-year deals – and the current scene leads one to believe we’re headed for storm clouds hovering over the next CBA talks (after 2021).

…Sour grapes? The Chiefs’ Travis Kelce: “Everyone is kind of sick of the Patriots at this point.”

…Love this from Fangraphs’ Dave Laurilla: “Bryce Harper and Manny Machado head into free agency having earned a combined $82M. Hank Aaron and Willie Mays combined to play 45 years and earn approximately $4M”

…It’s great that baseball executive Sandy Alderson is cancer free and just as great that he’s back working with the Oakland A’s, having gone home.

…ESPN’s Buster Olney on the shaky Red Sox bullpen situation: “The Red Sox have some questions to sort through in spring training, including the status of Dustin Pedroia, who wants to be ready for Opening Day. But a lot of what the exhibition season will be about will be sorting through relief options.”

... No. 23 North Carolina State went 9-for-54 from the floor, 2-for-28 from 3-point range and scored 24 points in a HOME loss to No. 12 Virginia Tech Saturday.

…Finally, remember all that junk food the current president fed the Clemson football players at the White House? Remember how thrilled he said they were to be eating junk food? Remember one player caught on tape saying, “Is this is a joke?” Turns out several players chose not to go. Some had school commitments, others said they didn’t go because of the president.

Mike Shalin covers Boston pro sports for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email address is shalinmike@yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @mscotshay.