I still thought it was real, even as I wiped the sand from my eyes.

It started with me sitting in the north end zone at Ford Field. The scoreboard showed four seconds left. To the left of the clock it read Seattle 20. To the right, it read New England 20.

A hush hung over the crowd. An indoor stadium packed with 65,000 people had become so quiet I could clearly hear someone two rows behind me say “There’s no way they’re going to kick it. They can’t.”

A group of Seahawks stood in the end zone, with their backs to me. The ball rested in back of them at the two yard line. Using my uncanny sports sleuthing powers, I deduced that the Seahawks had called a time out and were trying to ice the kicker.

“Ha,” I snickered to the man seated next to me. “Didn’t Holmgren get the memo yet? Vinatieri’s money.”

The man turned his head, his red, white and blue face paint streaked with beads of sweat, and looked at me as if I’d called Tedy Bruschi “Yella.”

“What the hell are you talking about?” he fumed.

Before I could respond, the Patriots were trotting onto the field. As they converged at the 10-yard line, I scanned the huddle for Vinatieri. All I could see was 10 hulking men with jerseys numbered in the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. There was no sign of the clutchest kicker whoever kicked a clutch kick until the giants bent over to listen for their instructions. Between a couple of hunched-over shoulders, I could make out a small man’s head bobbing up and down.

I nudged the masked man next to me.

“I don’t care what anybody else did tonight,” I said. “Adam’s gotta get the MVP this time. Even if it’s no more than a lifetime achievement award.”

Then the huddle broke, and my heart leapt into my throat.

The little man wasn’t wearing No. 4. He was wearing No. 2.

It was Doug Flutie, and he was lining up in shotgun formation, at least I thought he was in shotgun formation. Then he backpedaled to the 12.

“What is this, a two-point conversion?” I asked Patriotface. “Why aren’t they kicking it? Where’s Adam?

“Probably getting x-rayed right now,” Patriotface sneered. “Where were you for the last kickoff? Wait. Let me guess – at the hot dog stand?”

Before I could debate the merits of going for two with my new pal, the ball was snapped. Flutie took a step, dropped the ball on the FieldTurf, and kicked it into the air.

The pigskin traveled end over end and seemed suspended in mid-air for an eternity. Once it split the uprights, however, it accelerated to warp speed, and it headed right for me. Before I had a chance to wave for a fair catch, I had it cradled in my arms, against my chest.

In an instant six dozen NFL security guards had descended upon me and whisked me to the Patriots’ locker room. Moments later, his eminence, Commissioner Paul Tagliabue extended his right hand to me, gripped my right hand tightly and growled, “What do you want for the ball?”

What did I want for the ball? What didn’t I want? Demands deluged my tiny brain – Eight season tickets to the Patriots for the next 25 years, $100,000 in cash, a Tom Brady jersey signed by every member of the team, a lifetime supply of Gillette razors and toiletry products, a game-worn hooded sweatshirt from Bill Belichick, karate lessons from Andre Tippett, the towel Tony Eason used to cry into before every game, a party with the living members of the 1985 Patriots, dinner and a movie with Tom Brady (for the wife), and, oh yeah, an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle.

I tried to voice my demands, but my mouth was stuck in neutral.

“Ummmmmm….Uhhhhhhhhh…..”

“How about a nice football?” Tagliabue asked.

Football? Football? What’s a football? With unconscious will my voice squeaked out “Football.”

“I’ll even have Flutie autograph it for you,” said the commish.

A few minutes later, a security guard returned with a football, autographed by Flutie, who had also inscribed on it “There is no greater glory for a man as long as he lives than that which he wins by his own hands and feet.” — Homer, The Oddysey.

Then the floor opened up beneath me and I began to fall down a bottomless hole. That’s where it ended, because that’s where my wife woke me up.

“What day is it?” I asked, digging the sand out of the corners of my eyes.

“Super Bowl Sunday, dear,” she said.

“Who’s playing?”

“I don’t know,” she replied as she walked out of the bedroom. “The Seagulls and…the Steamers? Steelers? Something like that.”

“I almost got you a date with Tom Brady!” I yelled behind her.

“Good for you, dear.”

Randy Whitehouse is a Sun Journal staff writer. He may be reached by e-mail at [email protected]


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