I'm sick. So we might as well start there. The Pats-Colts game on Monday literally gave me bronchitis. I didn't know this was possible. Anyway, I wanted to follow up on Tuesday's Pats-Colts column, which people either loved or despised. There were three ways I could play that column (and only three): 1. Avoid writing anything and wait until Friday's picks column. After all, the 2005 Colts are clearly better than the 2005 Patriots -- there's not much else to say. So why say anything? Then again, had I not written anything, I would have been treated to a slew of "What's the matter, afraid to write after the big loss? What a copout, you're spineless!" e-mails. So that option was out. 2. Straightforward column about the end of the Pats dynasty and how the Colts have clearly passed them. Yawn. Not only was everyone else writing this column, but I would have been treated to a slew of "Typical Simmons flip-flop, way to point this out after the fact, you're terrible!" e-mails. 3. Play the role of the bitter Pats fan who takes shots at everyone because he's pissed that the Colts finally grabbed the torch from the Pats, then ends the column in the most smug, annoying way possible. This angle appealed to me for a few reasons. First, I was bitter about the game, so it was easy to write. Second, it's always fun to make Peyton Manning jokes, especially on the morning after he said the words, "'Footloose,' by Kenny Loggins, best describes me." And third, I have been getting hostile e-mails from Colts fans all season -- with the highlight (or lowlight) probably coming from a woman who ended her rant by writing, "I hope you get a** cancer!" -- so they were ripping me no matter what I wrote. Hey, why not give them what they wanted? You expect me to act like a bitter Pats fan and make excuses well, here you go! Here's the point: I was screwed any of those three ways. So don't blame me, blame the Pats for rolling over on Monday night -- they put me in a no-win spot. I had to play that column that way, if only because there was no other way. And you know what? I enjoyed writing it. A little too much, actually. And while we're on the subject, regardless of our Pats-Colts differences, people from Indiana should like me. After all, I believe that "Hoosiers" is the greatest sports movie. I believe that Larry Bird is the Basketball Jesus. I believe that Bob Knight was the most entertaining coach of all time. I believe that Ben Wallace should have been suspended for just as long as Stephen Jackson and Jermaine O'Neal. I believe that the 1998 Pacers came the closest to bringing the Bulls down during the MJ Dynasty. I don't believe that Reggie Miller was a superstar, but if I were down by one and needed a basket with 18 seconds left, and I could choose a starting lineup of any five players from the past 30 years, I would pick Isiah, Reggie, MJ, Bird and Hakeem. And on my "Top 20 Things To Do Before I Die" list, "Make the pilgrimage to French Lick" is somewhere in my top five. So don't think I'm anti-Indiana, because I'm not. Truthfully, I ended up caring a little less about that defeat than I thought I would -- mainly because it's hard to complain after three Super Bowls in four years, but also because the Pats' going for it on fourth-and-2 in the first quarter was such a jarring concession that they were outmanned, almost like somebody telling you, "Hey, I'm going to crash my car in that telephone pole in about 10 seconds, put your seat belt on and pray that the air bag pops out." I think most dynasties and mini-dynasties end this way -- not with a nail-biting defeat, but with a definitive butt-whupping that leaves no doubt whatsoever. Isiah's Pistons teams went out this way (to the '91 Bulls), as did Aikman's Cowboys (to Kerry Collins and the '96 Panthers), Magic's Lakers (to the '89 Pistons), Shaq's Lakers (to the '04 Pistons) and so on. One of the few exceptions were the 2000 Yankees, who struggled through their season, won their division with a paltry 87 games, then somehow put everything together for four weeks and won another World Series. Every Yankee fan would universally agree that this was the worst Yankee team of that entire run, but they got it done in the end. Can the Pats rally back from this? I would say no. Just seems like there have been too many injuries to too many key guys (come on, Bruschi, Seymour, Light and Harrison?), as well as too many games over the past two years (remember, they played a combined 38 during the past two Super Bowl seasons, with everyone gunning at them every week). Structurally, the vaunted Pioli-Belichick duo botched the free-agent process for the first time in years (Duane Starks, Chad Scott, David Terrell, Monty Beisel, Chad Brown, etc.) and spent two first-rounders on tight ends (Ben Watson and Daniel Graham) who can't stop dropping passes. (Note: I'm not blaming either of them for what happened -- it's football, it's a crapshoot, and you can't expect a front office to just continue rolling sixes, eights and nines at a crap table without throwing an occasional seven. The fact remains, last year's offseason was bad.) Suddenly they're making mistakes and failing to force turnovers, which were the two things that you could always count on these Belichick-Brady teams not to do. And for the first time, I'm wondering if the whole "been there, done that" syndrome has sunk in. More than any other sport, football teams rely on emotion over anything else. All season, with the notable exception of the Pittsburgh game, this Patriots team has seemed flat. Even Brady said so this week. Could they take the AFC East with nine wins? Absolutely. Hell, they might need only eight. And yes, there's a good chance they could get healthy before January, just like there's a good chance the Colts could suffer some crippling injuries along the way. Then again, there doesn't seem to be any reasonable way for the Pats to solve their secondary problems (which have been there all season) when teams aren't allowed to trade after Week 6. My gut tells me this particular Pats team is done, and that Indy, Carolina and Denver are clearly the three best teams in football right now. And you know what? I'm fine with it. As I told a friend this week, "It was a great run, I wouldn't change a thing." One more note on this: I liked an e-mail from Indy reader Andy Gilmore, who wrote, "All I want is for you to give Peyton his due. Like Teddy KGB said, 'He beat me. Straight up, pay that man his money.' Give it to him Sports Guy. He earned it!" Andy, you're right. No more snide jokes -- Manning beat us, he earned it, and that's that. Pay that man his money. To be continued in January. Hopefully. * * * * *
A few other quick notes before I call it a day so I can hawk five pounds of phlegm into a Kleenex • The Mark Cuban back-and-forth didn't play out exactly how I wanted, if only because he didn't have a ton of time to respond, but I still thought it turned out OK. After the fact, he told me he had typed most of his responses on his Sidekick (the Mavs are on a road trip right now), which astounded me because I have a Sidekick and it takes me like 10 minutes to type two sentences. But I thought it was cool that he took the time. I'm even taking Cuban up on his offer to sit in the last row of a Mavs game this season, if only because I think I can talk him into trading for Brian Scalabrine after enough beers. • As you probably noticed elsewhere on this site, the first season of "The White Shadow" was released on DVD. And not only that, but NBA TV has been running some select episodes, including three episodes from 1 to 3 p.m. on Sunday, the pilot episode next Monday at noon, and the classic "Wanna Bet" episode (with guest star Michael Warren) next Tuesday at noon. I have been debating whether to do an episode guide for Season One, but that show came out so long ago, I almost wonder if I'm antagonizing anyone under 25 by wasting a column on that topic. So I'm putting it up to a vote. If you want me to write an episode guide for Season One, go to my main page and vote for that one. I put up some other choices as well. So I'm leaving it in your hands. • Remember my riff about the worst possible touchdown celebration (Randy Moss pretending to give birth)? Well, a version of this idea was done a few weeks ago in an Italian soccer game -- Roma's Francesco Totti scored a goal, ran to the sidelines, stuck the ball under his jersey, then one of his teammates reached in and pulled the ball out like an obstetrician, then handed it to another teammate, who held the ball aloft (I'm paraphrasing the Euro soccer story that a few readers sent me). Apparently he did this to pay tribute to the birth of his first son, and everyone in the crowd loved it. Obviously I don't follow Italian soccer, and I swear on Al Jefferson's life that I didn't read one thing about that story after it happened. But that game happened about a week before my Randy Moss riff. I just thought that was bizarre. Even stranger, everyone in Italy apparently loved it, whereas my whole premise was that people here would be horrified. So maybe it just depends on the context and the crowd. • Three mistakes from my NBA preview: 1. Reggie Miller can't come back this season to the Pacers because they released him under the Allan Houston Rule. My bad. 2. My joke about a reality show where Rob Babcock takes over various businesses and runs them into the ground I already made that joke last year with Isiah Thomas, even giving a name to the show ("The Midas Touch"). I swear, when I repeat old jokes, it's not intentional -- my big mistake is that I write columns, hand them in and never think about them again. For instance, Page 2 was running "The Best of Page 2" to celebrate its five-year anniversary this week, and they reran some old Vegas column that I haven't read since I wrote it. Not only that, but I laughed at a couple of jokes that I had written because I didn't remember writing them, so I felt like I was reading someone else. Clearly, I am going insane. Might just be too much TheraFlu. 3. For about two hours there, I had a section about the Mason-Magloire trade where Desmond Mason was called "Derrick." These are the things that happen when you write 10,000 words in 60 hours. I swear, I'm not going McCarver on you. I'm too young. • One mistake from the Theo column: As many readers from Chicago have pointed out, the whole media cartel thing has already been done by the Cubs, who have had a similar deal going with the Chicago Tribune, WGN and WGN Radio for many years. • In case you were wondering, I am firmly entrenched in the "There's no way we should trade Manny Ramirez" camp. Just look at what's happening with Paul Pierce right now -- it's always better to be prudent about these things unless someone bowls you over with an offer, and only because you're always better off keeping a guy with talent and hoping he becomes happy again over giving him away for 40 cents on the dollar. Forget about Peter May's ridiculous article in the Boston Globe, in which he used the Pierce subject to take his umpteenth shot at whoever is running the Celtics. When he's healthy and happy, Pierce is one of the best 10 players in the NBA -- just look at his stats through four games. Other than LeBron, is anyone else the best scorer, defender, rebounder and passer on his team? (And to think, I wanted them to trade Pierce the past two summers.) In Manny's case, he plays 150 games every season, nobody's more consistent at the plate, he's not a cancer or anything, and he's just as quirky as he was when they signed him five years ago. So why trade him? And yes, I wish I trusted this current Red Sox braintrust even REMOTELY to make the right move. But I don't. More tomorrow.