January is the worst month of the year, I've long said, but February can be pretty dreary, too. At least in January, the college football bowl games, including the national championship, offer great entertainment, and the NFL playoffs are in full swing. And just a few weeks after Christmas, those of us who live in northern climes are not totally sick of winter (that will happen by mid- to late February, rest assured).
But in February, the Super Bowl means the end of football until next August, and in Michigan, several more weeks of cloudy, cold weather until spring finally breaks through. In years past, it was easier to take when my beloved Michigan State Spartans boasted a perennial Final Four contending team that usually was ranked in the top ten of the weekly polls. But this year's Spartans hoops team is led by three freshman starters and has suffered injuries to key players. The Spartans look good one game, and horrible the next. They do not play the lock-down defense of Tom Izzo's teams of 10-15 years ago, and they turn the ball over far too often.
After hanging on to beat the archrival Meeeechigan Skunkbears 70-62 on Jan. 29 in East Lansing, the Spartans traveled to Ann Arbor on Feb. 7 and got thoroughly embarrassed, 86-57. Michigan was red-hot with its shooting (including going 10-for-21 on 3-point shots). The Spartan "defense" was nonexistent, and MSU turned the ball over an appalling 21 times. I knew going into this tilt that Michigan had a great chance of winning, since MSU on the road has been lousy all season. But I never dreamed it would be such a dispiriting blowout.
The A2 fiasco was bad enough by itself, but it came on the heels of the New England Patriots' incredible come-from-behind victory over the Atlanta Falcons in SuperBowl 51 in Houston. Atlanta had a 28-3 lead late in the third quarter, and choked. Kudos to Pats QB Tom Brady for leading the comeback, but Atlanta mismanaged the game badly whenever it had the ball.
On one series, the Falcons were on the New England 22-yard-line, well within field goal range, and could have taken a 31-3 lead. Instead, QB Matt Ryan foolishly took a sack (why not throw it away when there's any doubt), and this was followed by a holding penalty which led to Atlanta punting. Ryan also fumbled on another series, turning the ball over. Perhaps most egregious was the gross negligence of the Falcons' coaching staff in allowing Ryan to repeatedly go up to the line of scrimmage and have the ball snapped before the play clock expired. If you're trying to keep Tom Brady and a potent New England offense off the field and give your defense a breather, doesn't it make sense to milk the clock as much as possible?
I dislike New England because 1) I am sick of them winning so many Super Bowls (this was their seventh Super Bowl appearance since 2000; they have won 5 of them); and 2) The Patriots are cheaters and have associated themselves with plenty of unsavory characters to fill out their roster. They've been caught videotaping an opponent's practice and stealing opponents' hand signals. Brady was suspended for four games at the beginning of the 2016 season for being involved in a plot to under-inflate balls to make them easier for him to grip in the 2015 American Conference Championship game.
Repeatedly, the Pats have picked up players who were troublemakers or ended up having run-ins with the law. The most notorious is gang-banger tight end Aaron Hernandez, now serving life in prison for double homicide (and let the record show, these shootings were not the first that Hernandez perpetrated).
Yes, Brady, Patriots owner Robert Kraft and head coach Bill Belichick are all Donald Trump supporters, and that's a good thing. It's nice to ruffle the feathers of Massachusetts' plethora of flaming liberals! But just as baseball fans have long hated the Yankees for winning the World Series so often, and college football fans are tired of Alabama and Nick Saban, I have had more than my fill of New England.
So, it was a rough week, and I haven't even gotten into what's going on in Washington, DC. That will come in a day or two. But on the positive side, today is Feb. 14. Just two weeks from tomorrow, March arrives, so spring is not far away. The forecast calls for temperatures in the mid-50s in central Michigan Saturday through Tuesday. And yesterday, I noticed that some daffodil sprouts are just starting to come up in our back yard. So, better days are ahead, even if the Spartans play in the NIT or get bounced out of the NCAA Tournament in their first game.