Sunday, January 13, 2019

A Blocking Cold Front Does Not Apply to the Jet Sweep

Channel 4, the CBS affiliate here in Boston that doubles as state media of Bob Kraft's Patriot empire, spent the first five minutes of its 7:30 a.m. broadcast talking about how cold it was at Gillette Stadium and how this meant the Chargers had no chance this afternoon.

In a sin against meteorology, one reporter noted it was four degrees at the stadium and cited Tom Brady's extraordinary success in games played at that temperature or below. That even on the coldest days it tends to warm up after sunrise was not mentioned. In the event, it's supposed to be in the low 20s with a noticeable but not strong breeze by kickoff.

That's cold. That'll make it uncomfortable for the 60,000 fans who'll sit through three hours plus of the game. But it won't affect its outcome the slightest little bit. It wouldn't affect the outcome if the Pats' opponent was the Lagos and not Los Angeles Chargers.

Did you know that pro football teams wear clothing? All kinds of different clothing depending on what best suits the weather? That coping with weather is one of the zillion different things coaching staffs obsess about all year-round? You probably do know all that. Bill Belichick does. The thermometer he puts outside the visiting locker room before games in the cold isn't some masterful mind game, it's just Bill playing to his image as the all-seeing, all-knowing evil genius, an image that does far more to inspire his own players than it does to dispirit the enemy.

There are weather factors that affect football games. In descending order of importance, they are wind, excessive heat, ice, snow, and heavy rain. Extreme cold falls into the category of "others receiving votes." Non-extreme cold has no impact whatsoever.

Do the Patriots have an astonishing home record in the cold, especially in the playoffs? Yes. Do the Patriots have an astonishing home record when it's nice out, including in the playoffs? Also yes. All teams do better at home, especially in the playoffs. The Pats win a lot of games in January because they win a lot of games in all the other months of the season, the reason you get home field advantage after the New Year.

Now, the reason Boston sports media (Channel Four has hardly been the lone offender this week) emphasize New England's lousy January weather is obvious -- their audience, Pats fans all, like reassurance that factors beyond the mere playing of the game make their heroes' triumph a certainty. This always seems weird to me. Gang, you're rooting for the greatest dynasty in NFL history, one whose success now spans two decades. Isn't that enough reassurance for you?

As it happens, I believe the Patriots WILL win this afternoon. But I didn't need to check the Weather Channel before I came to that conclusion. I picked the Pats for two reasons unrelated to temperature, humidity or wind direction.

Good teams usually win at home. The Pats haven't been an all-conquering juggernaut this season, but they're still a plenty good team, more than good enough for a significant home field advantage.

The second reason I fancy New England's chances is simpler still. I pick the Pats to win because they usually do. In the course of the 21st century, this has proven a sound theory, whether it's cold, rainy, windy or a pleasant fall afternoon. For that matter, it's the same reason I picked them to win on Opening Day. Which they did.


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