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More people watched Lady Gaga’s halftime show than Patriots’ historic comeback win 02.06.17 at 1:19 pm ET
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The Patriots completed the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history Sunday, overcoming a 25-point deficit to defeat the Falcons. But Lady Gaga upstaged them.

According to TiVo’s data, viewership for the halftime show was greater than the game itself for the seventh consecutive year. Lady Gaga’s extravagant performance generated a whopping 41,000 tweets per minute, ranking third all-time behind Madonna’s act in 2012 and Katy Perry’s and Lenny Kravitz’s show in 2015.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell took some criticism last week when he declined to comment on President Trump’s immigration order, which temporarily bars travel from seven predominately Muslim countries and indefinitely ends the Syrian refugee program. But booking Gaga for the halftime show is one of the strongest statements the NFL can make. Though she wasn’t overtly political Sunday, her message celebrates diversity and inclusivity. The first song Gaga sang, “Born this Way,” contains these lyrics:

No matter gay, straight, or bi
Lesbian, transgendered life
I’m on the right track baby
I was born to survive
No matter black, white or beige
Chola or orient made
I’m on the right track baby
I was born to be brave

During last year’s halftime show, Beyoncé caused a stir when she performed her hit song, “Formation,” which was released with a music video that makes reference to Hurricane Katrina and Black Lives Matter. After Coldplay singer Chris Martin’s performance was over, the audience flipped over rainbow-colored cards that read “Believe in Love,” a tacit nod to marriage equality.

Largely thanks to the Patriots, the NFL has been blessed with a litany of classic Super Bowls in recent years. But no matter how good the game is, for much of the country, the star-studded and provocative halftime performance almost always steals the show.

Read More: Lady Gaga, New England Patriots, Super Bowl LI,
Tom Brady doesn’t deserve the crap he gets at 11:39 am ET
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Tom Brady (Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports)

Tom Brady (Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports)

It’s become in vogue to dump on Tom Brady. He’s ridiculed for eating healthy, lambasted for not betraying his friend and called a cheater because his footballs lost air pressure in cold weather. The greatest quarterback ever doesn’t deserve the crap he gets.

Brady secured his place in history Sunday, completing 21-of-27 passes in the fourth quarter and overtime to lead the Patriots on a 25-point comeback win over the Falcons in Super Bowl LI. It was the greatest come-from-behind victory in Super Bowl history, besting the Patriots’ work to overcome a 10-point deficit against the Seahawks just two years ago.

In the two weeks leading up to the game, Brady was skewered for his relationship with Donald Trump. Despite never formally endorsing the President, he was called a “dreadful person” and a “coward” for not disavowing him. I fed into the frenzy as well.

Brady’s relationship with Trump is a wildly appealing story. Perhaps the most famous athlete in the country is pals with the most divisive president since the Reconstruction-era. It’s an all-time convergence between two superstars, which is why it’s covered so heavily. But in the grand scheme of life, of course, the Trump-Brady friendship is inconsequential. When Brady won his first championship, Trump invited him to judge one of his beauty pageants. They also periodically play golf together –– much like Bill Clinton and Trump used to. That’s it.

Back in September 2015, after a “Make America Great Again” hat was spotted in Brady’s locker, he did say it “would be great” if Trump were elected president. But whenever that line is mentioned in somebody’s self-indulgent think-piece, the author almost always forgets to include Brady’s next sentence.

“There’d be a putting green on the White House lawn, I’m sure of that,” he said.

Does that sound like a serious answer to you?

Brady’s worst offense throughout the Trump saga came in October, when he ended a press conference after being asked about the President’s lewd Access Hollywood tape. Though it’s apparent Brady thought that was the best way to avoid controversy, it seemed as if he was afraid to condemn sexual assault. His response looked especially weak when compared to LeBron James, who called Trump’s words “trash talk.”

But two weeks later on Kirk & Callahan, when asked about former Giants kicker Josh Brown’s lenient one-game suspension for domestic abuse, Brady opened up on the topic of violence against women. He denounced it in sharp terms.

“I grew up with three sisters, I was very fortunate to learn from a loving father and a loving mother how to treat and respect women,” he said. “I have a daughter of my own and domestic violence is a horrible issue. It’s a tragedy when it happens. Any type of abuse or bullying of people who can’t defend or fight for themselves, I have no respect for that. Like I said, the NFL, they claim to take tough stances and this is their situation. This is their situation to deal with. I’ll let them deal with it. Like I said, I was very fortunate to grow up with sisters, a mother — I condone no part of that. That is absolutely something I would never be apart of or do. It’s a terrible tragedy.”

For those of us who are political, it’s difficult to imagine someone with Brady’s bully pulpit opting to stay silent on the issues of the day. But athletes don’t have a responsibility to speak out. In fact, they’re often revered for not making waves. Derek Jeter, who’s never said anything even remotely interesting to a reporter in his life, is often praised as the gold standard when it comes to how athletes should conduct themselves. How hypocritical.

To state the obvious, it’s impossible to tell from afar whether Brady is truly a good person. But by all accounts, from stories about his outreach to a grieving family to his work with Best Buddies International, he seems to be a good guy. It’s apparent he loves his family, given his outcry of emotion when talking about his father and ailing mother in the lead-up and aftermath of Super Bowl LI.

When Brady talks about his parents, his guard drops down. But in the face of controversy, whether it’s his friendship with Trump or a nonsensical scandal about deflated footballs, he tries to stay above the fray. Throughout the entirety of Deflategate, Brady never spoke ill of the league. While Roger Goodell was destroying his reputation for nearly 18 months, he talked about the importance of staying positive.

“If I hold a grudge it bothers me more than it bothers the person,” he said earlier this year.

In today’s age, where fourth walls are routinely broken down, there’s a certain phoniness to Brady’s air of serenity. When he says he’s unaware of what’s going on in the world, it’s difficult to not roll your eyes.

But a man shouldn’t be vilified for his restraint. In fact, it might be one of the reasons for Brady’s greatness. He appeared to be in state of tranquility when he was leading the Patriots on their historic comeback Sunday. There were no delay of games or unorthodox exchanges. Brady may not be able to operate so smoothly if he were worried about responding to every slight.

Maybe he could teach his buddy in the Oval Office a thing or two about that.

Read More: New England Patriots, Tom Brady,
Monday’s Morning Mashup: David Ortiz celebrates Patriots win, Mark Wahlberg leaves Super Bowl early at 7:36 am ET
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Good morning, here is your Monday Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our home page or click here for the top stories and scores from our news wire.

NBA: LA Lakers at New York, 7 p.m. (TNT)
NBA: San Antonio at Memphis, 9:30 p.m. (TNT)
NHL: St. Louis at Philadelphia, 7 p.m. (NBCSN)
Women’s college basketball: Louisville at Notre Dame, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
Women’s college basketball: Texas at Baylor, 8 p.m. (FS1)
College basketball: Holy Cross at Bucknell, 7 p.m. (CBSSN)
College basketball: Louisville at Virginia, 7 p.m. (ESPN)
College basketball: Jackson State at Southern University, 9 p.m. (ESPNU)
College basketball: Kansas at Kansas State, 9 p.m. (ESPN)


— David Ortiz tweeted this video Sunday night of his celebration of the Patriots’ Super Bowl win:



Meanwhile, self-described Boston sports fan Mark Wahlberg was in attendance at the Super Bowl, but ditched the Patriots early when they were losing: 

The NFL also tweeted this video of Gisele celebrating her husband’s Super Bowl win:

Here is how athletes across different sports reacted to the huge win:


QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Two years ago, we won our fourth Super Bowl down in Arizona and I told our fans that was the sweetest one of all. But a lot has transpired during the last two years, and I don’t think that needs any explanation. But I want to say to our fans, our brilliant coaching staff, our amazing players, who are so spectacular, this is unequivocally the sweetest. And I’m proud to say, for the fifth time, we are all Patriots. And tonight, for the fifth time, the Patriots are world champions.” — Robert Kraft, accepting the Lombardi Trophy after the Patriots’ Super Bowl LI win


Read More: New England Patriots,
Donald Trump, after bailing on the Patriots, congratulates them on Super Bowl win at 12:17 am ET
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Donald Trump congratulated his good friends Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft on their fifth Super Bowl championship. But the truth is, he bailed on them.

At 8:57 p.m., with the Patriots trailing the Falcons 28-3, the President left his own Super Bowl party. Trump was watching the game at his Florida golf club, flanked by his chief of staff Reince Preibus and wife Melania –– both of whom looked despondent.

In his pregame interview with Bill O’Reilly, Trump predicted the Patriots would win by eight points. He also intimated he was rooting for the Pats, saying it’s important to “stick up for your friends.”

That’s what Brady, Belichick and Kraft have done for Trump over the last 18 months. All three of them, and Brady in particular, have stuck up for him in the face of incessant criticism. But that apparently didn’t matter to Trump Sunday. When the Patriots fell behind, he hopped into his motorcade. Brady went on to complete 21-of-27 passes for 246 yards and a touchdown in the fourth quarter and overtime.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Donald Trump, New England Patriots, Robert Kraft
Donald Trump: Tom Brady is ‘getting a lot of popularity’ out of their friendship 02.05.17 at 4:22 pm ET
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Donald Trump said Tom Brady is gaining popularity because of him. (Jack Gruber/USA Today Network)

Donald Trump said Tom Brady is gaining popularity because of him. (Jack Gruber/USA Today Network)

President Donald Trump talks incessantly about his friendships with Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft. The pattern continued in his pre-game interview Sunday with Fox News host Bill O’Reilly.

When asked about the criticism Brady and Co. have faced for their ties to him, Trump said he believes it also has been beneficial for them.

“They’re taking a lot of heat. But you know what? They’re also getting a lot of popularity out of it. I think they’re going to do very well. Tom’s a winner,” he said.

Trump didn’t explicitly say he was rooting of the Patriots Sunday, but implied he was pulling for his pals, who he thinks will win by eight points.

“I think the other team is fantastic, though. No, I think it’s a fantastic team –– turned out to be a good quarterback,” he said. “But you know, there’s less pressure on the Patriots, because they’ve been there. Once you’ve won, once you’ve done it –– and they’ve done it –– once you’ve done it, there’s a lot less pressure. So, we’ll see what happens. But you know? You have to stick up for your friends, right?”

Given Trump’s closeness to the Krafts, there’s been some speculation he’ll be the first sitting president to ever attend the Super Bowl. His vice president, noted Brady hater Mike Pence, will be at NRG Stadium in Houston.

When asked on Kirk & Callahan Friday about the possibility of Trump showing up, Patriots president Jonathan Kraft demurred.

“You don’t –– I don’t know. Talk to the White House. They would know what’s going on,” he said.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Donald Trump, New England Patriots, Robert Kraft
Bill Maher: F— Tom Brady and f— Bill Belichick 02.04.17 at 2:05 pm ET
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Bill Maher has weighed in on the Patriots’ love affair with Donald Trump.

The provocative Real Time host brought up the subject during his closing monologue Friday night, and fired off a salvo of insults towards Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.

“The Falcons are playing a team where the owner, the coach and the star quarterback all love and support Donald Trump,” he said. “So I’d really like them to lose by the score of a million-f—— thousand to one.”

Despite attending Trump’s inauguration and saying his policies are “going to be great” for America, Robert Kraft was largely spared from Maher’s onslaught. Instead, the comedian singled out Brady.

“I love the Falcons! I love their running back, what’s-his-face, and the guy who catches the ball, but mostly I love them because Tom Brady was one of the first to display a ‘Make America Great Again’ hat, because America’s been so tough on Tom so far,” Maher said. “And back when Tom was asked if he thought Trump would be president, he said, ‘I hope so, that would be great.’ Hey Tom, f— you.”

After reading portions of the fawning letter Belichick sent Trump, which the President read aloud at a campaign rally the night before the election, Maher had similar words for the Patriots coach.

“Wow, that’s some serious butt-licking, coach,” he said. “Let me give you some advice for the big game: F— you, Belichick. F— you and your deflated balls you joyless, cheating f—.”

At the end of his rant, Maher, who’s a minority owner of the Mets, bemoaned the politicization of sports. Kind of.

“[Trump] took something beautiful, a game where millionaires give each other brain damage, and made it tawdry and cheap,” he said. “I don’t want to make everything political, but that’s where we’re headed. Athletes are refusing to stay at Trump hotels. People are unfriending each other on Facebook. Siblings have stopped talking to one another, which makes it hard to get laid in the South.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Donald Trump, New England Patriots, Tom Brady
Jonathan Kraft on Kirk & Callahan: I have no respect for the way Deflategate was handled 02.03.17 at 9:06 am ET
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Patriots president Jonathan Kraft says he supports Roger Goodell as commissioner of the NFL, but it’s apparent he’s still bitter over the way Deflategate unfolded.

In an interview with Kirk & Callahan Friday, Kraft lambasted the way the league conducted the investigation.

“I and our organization have been pretty clear that the whole air pressure situation –– from the night of the AFC championship game through when it finally ended with the appeals court –– it wasn’t well-handled and was poorly executed and was a waste of time, energy and resources,” he said. “I don’t have respect for the way that process was handled.”

Though the Krafts have been vocal about their unhappiness with Deflategate –– Robert Kraft said recently he thinks Goodell received “bad advice” –– some fans have been critical about their seeming cordial relationship with the commissioner. When the Patriots played the Giants at MetLife Stadium last season, for example, Kraft was spotted hugging Goodell on the sidelines. He told K&C the embrace was about a personal matter.

“That weekend was right after the Paris Bombings and we had been talking about –– it becomes a personal story. That wasn’t a salutation. That had to do with something different. I’ll leave it at that,” he said.

Two of the unanswered questions about the Deflategate saga are the statuses of Jim McNally and John Jastremski, the two low-level Patriots employees who were implicated in the scandal. Kraft wouldn’t confirm or deny their employment with the team. Instead, he said he regrets they got dragged into it.

“As I described, people who didn’t want to be in the spotlight were put in the spotlight,” he said. “People that weren’t looking to be in the spotlight, looking to have themselves made public in lots of ways. That was one of the many bad parts of what I believe was a waste of energy, time and resources.”

Though the Patriots made McNally and Jastremski available at the onset of the Deflategate investigation, they didn’t allow the NFL to conduct multiple followup interviews with them. Kraft defended that decision, saying the team viewed it as unnecessary.

“We cooperated with them that first week,” he said. “We made witnesses available to them, we made electronic devices available to them. I think we cooperated. Did we not make people available a fifth time after we got a letter asking to talk to those people? Yeah, because we were sick of the time-drain on our organization.”

Outside of Deflategate, the other big topic surrounding the Patriots this week has been their relationship with Donald Trump. Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the Krafts are all friends with the President, with the Krafts even attending his inauguration two weeks ago. Kraft told K&C he feels indebted to Trump for his friendship over the years.

“He was personally critically [helpful] to my father’s recovery after my mother [passed away]. I’ll be forever grateful for that,” he said. “He’s been a close personal friend for a long time prior. Being loyal in life, I think, is a very important character trait. That’s something that’s important to our family and me personally.”


Read More: Deflategate, Donald Trump, jonathan kraft, New England Patriots
Thursday’s Morning Mashup: Pat McAfee retires from NFL to join Barstool Sports; Patriots get ’19-0,’ ‘Perfect Season’ trademarks 02.02.17 at 8:42 am ET
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Good morning, here is your Thursday Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our home page or click here for the top stories and scores from our news wire.

NBA: Atlanta at Houston, 8 p.m. (TNT)
NBA: Golden State at LA Clippers, 10:30 p.m. (TNT)
NHL: NY Rangers at Buffalo, 7:30 p.m. (NBCSN)
Women’s college basketball: Indiana at Michigan State, 6 p.m. (Big Ten Network)
Women’s college basketball: Maryland at Purdue, 8 p.m. (Big Ten Network)
College basketball: Bryant at Mount St. Mary’s, 7 p.m. (ESPNU)
College basketball: Memphis at South Florida, 7 p.m. (ESPNews)
College basketball: Michigan State at Nebraska, 7 p.m. (ESPN)
College basketball: Missouri at Florida, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
College basketball: Eastern Illinois at Tennessee State, 8 p.m. (CBSSN)
College basketball: Arizona at Oregon State, 9 p.m. (ESPN2)
College basketball: Belmont at Murray State, 9 p.m. (ESPNU)
College basketball: UAB at UTEP, 10 p.m. (CBSSN)
College basketball: Arizona State at Oregon, 11 p.m. (FS1)
College basketball: Gonzaga at BYU, 11 p.m. (ESPN2)
College basketball: Saint Mary’s at Pacific, 11 p.m. (ESPNU)


— Colts punter Pat McAfee has decided to retire from the NFL after eight seasons to join Barstool Sports.

On Wednesday night, the 29 year-old announced his retirement on Barstool Rundown on Comedy Central before posting his statement on Twitter.

By retiring, McAfee is walking away from the $2.75 million he was set to receive from the Colts this year.

  Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: New England Patriots, Pat McAfee,
Bill Belichick forces assistant coaches to smell his sweaty feet 02.01.17 at 12:28 pm ET
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Bill Belichick doesn't always dress to impress.  (Troy Taormina/USA Today Sports)

Bill Belichick doesn’t always dress to impress. (Troy Taormina/USA Today Sports)

Working under Bill Belichick doesn’t sound like a lot of fun. Low-level assistants are banished to darkened film rooms, where they chart plays for hours on end. In order to make it, coaches must possess an insatiable love for football. And, apparently, the ability to withstand foul odors.

In an ESPN profile, Seth Wickersham examines why Belichick has recently traded in his iconic gray hoodies for business casual attire. After years of dressing like a hobo, Belichick now looks like a CEO. But there’s no word on if his locker room behavior has undergone a similar transformation. According to the piece, Belichick likes to beleaguer his assistants when players don’t appear to be prepared. In an apparent attempt to accentuate his point, he also sometimes removes his shoes:

“After they reconvened for film, Belichick would notice that, say, a receiver messed up a read.

“Why the f— doesn’t he know what to do? Didn’t anyone tell him?” he’d say.

“The coaches would be moderately horrified at what sometimes happened next: Belichick would remove his sneakers and put his feet on the table. The room was hot. His feet smelled. There was neither an end nor an escape in sight. There was essentially no daylight between the guy in those meetings and the guy we saw on the sideline — until lately.”

Unless Rex Ryan is on staff, that sounds like cruel and unusual punishment. Being associated with greatness carries a great price.

Read More: Bill Belichick, New England Patriots,
Martellus Bennett is only Patriot with guts to address Donald Trump 01.31.17 at 7:01 pm ET
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Martellus Bennett (James Lang/USA Today Sports)

Martellus Bennett (James Lang/USA Today Sports)

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to separate sports from politics. The biggest story of the NFL season was Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the national anthem, and NBA stars continue to immerse themselves in social activism. Given the chaos of Donald Trump’s presidency so far, it’s difficult to see this pattern changing any time soon.

Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft, much to their apparent chagrin, are also at the center of this convergence. All three men have fawned over Trump at various points this year: Brady called him a “good friend,” Belichick wrote him an endorsement letter that he read aloud the night before the election, Kraft said his policies are going to be “great for America.” But when they’ve been asked about Trump in most public settings, they’ve sidestepped the questions. This behavior continued at Super Bowl opening night, with Brady at one point claiming to have no idea what’s going on in the world.

Sports owners and figures aren’t obligated to take social stands. If Brady, Belichick and Kraft want to support their friend without commenting on his policies, that’s their prerogative. If they agree with his hard right-wing politics, that’s OK, too.

But it’s cowardly for them to only insert themselves into the conversation at their convenience. It’s a stark difference from the way Martellus Bennett is carrying himself. Around the Patriots, his candor is a breath of fresh air.

In the aftermath of Trump’s election, Bennett penned a letter of advice to his two-year-old daughter. In it, he encouraged her to stand up to adversity and bring positive change to the world. Though it was filled with platitudes, the action was overtly political. It was a pep talk to minorities everywhere who feel their freedom may be threatened in Trump’s America, either in the form of airport detainments or a seemingly inevitable crackdown on voting rights.

In the world of popular culture, coming out against Trump is hardly courageous. The SAG Film Awards, much like the Golden Globes, resembled an anti-Trump rally. Bennett isn’t likely to face a lot of media blowback for disavowing the most disliked president ever.

But that doesn’t mean it isn’t risky for him to express his thoughts. Unlike the NBA, where countless players and coaches have shared their viewpoints on Trump, the NFL seems to discourage political discourse. Patriots transcripts from media night, for example, don’t include any mentions of Trump, even though Brady was asked about him multiple times. In even addressing politics, Bennett is bucking league protocol. It’s unlikely to hurt his free agent market this spring, but it certainly doesn’t help.

On Monday morning, just hours before the Patriots’ send-off rally, Bennett tweeted the word “inclusiveness.” One minute later, in an apparent response to President Trump’s travel ban, he expanded his message.

“America was built on inclusiveness not exclusiveness,” he wrote.

At Opening Night, while Brady was blabbering on about staying positive, Bennett made his feelings on Trump clear when he was asked whether he would visit the White House if the Patriots were to win the Super Bowl.

“I don’t know. I’ve got to win a Super Bowl, but most likely no,” he said.

When asked why he wouldn’t go, Bennett said it’s because he doesn’t “support the guy that’s in the house.”

Making a quip to reporters doesn’t put Bennett in the same category as NBA coaches Gregg Popovich, Steve Kerr and Stan Van Gundy, who have arguably been more poignant in their rebukes of Trump than most Democratic lawmakers. But he’s willing to put himself in the conversation. Given the culture of secrecy around the Patriots, that’s no small feat.

When the Patriots traded for Bennett last spring, there were questions about whether he would temper his tongue. Then, at the start of training camp, he referred to the NFL as “N****** for lease” in an interview with ESPN Magazine. All doubt was put to rest opening night, when he raised his fist during the national anthem alongside Devin McCourty in an attempt to spark discussion about social change.

Bennett’s statements –– from coming out in favor of racial justice to condemning a ban on Syrian refugees and citizens from seven predominately Muslim countries –– aren’t inherently political. But in today’s climate, where even the accuracy of facts is a partisan issue, speaking up for decency is important.

Come Sunday, there’s little doubt Bennett will be ready to play. He’s been playing with a cracked bone in his ankle and caught a career-high seven touchdowns this season. Bennett shows it’s possible to perform on the field, and engage in important discussions off it.

At least one athlete in Boston isn’t pleading ignorance.

Read More: Martellus Bennett, New England Patriots,