In case you missed it while finalizing a $99 Feb. 1 flight to Miami on Barf Bag Airlines, LaDainian Tomlinson has twice gone public with his conviction that the New England Patriots have cornered the market on the three concluding letters in ‘class.’

OK, he’s got me. My first and most heartfelt reaction was, “Waaaaaaaaaaaah!”

Lest any of us be accused of demonstrating his point, however, I’ll cop to a smidge of sympathy for this year’s Greatest Who Ever Was And Ever Shall Be.

Empathy, even. Most of us guys once lost a girlfriend for the shallow reason that some dude down the street owned a cooler car. And hasn’t everybody missed out on at least one job opportunity because a less qualified candidate had a connection through his brother-in-law’s shrink’s pastor’s mailman?

Life happens. L.T. and his underachieving pals are dog-paddling for dear life in a sea of should. It’s reasonable to expect a painfully public airing of their discontent.

Woefully misdirected as it may be.

Let’s first address the degree of accuracy in Tomlinson’s take-my-ball-and-go-home tantrum. The Patriots had no business tap-dancing on that cute, little lightning bolt.

Before he arrived in Foxboro, co-perpetrator Reche Caldwell was dumped by the Chargers. Prior to that, he was part of the ridiculous college scene at Florida/Miami/FSU/Florida International where that type of garbage is allowed at every game and eventually causes a European soccer match to break out.

I’m not excusing any of Sunday night’s postgame behavior. I’m just saying that it was primarily promoted by guys who haven’t yet imbibed the last sip of Bill Belichick’s Kool-Aid.

As for the Second Coming of Jim Brown’s contention that such shenanigans emanate from the head coach’s office – sheesh, what league has Tomlinson been watching since 2001? It isn’t the Patriots’ Stay Puft Marshmallow Man of an outside linebacker who explodes from the tunnel every week as if he’s the victim of the old itch cream in the jockstrap trick.

Wasn’t it The Almighty No. 21 himself who bristled at the winning team mocking Shawne Merriman’s precious dance, U.S. Patent Pending? ‘Nuff said. At last check, the pre-game rituals of Merriman and Baltimore Ravens counterpart Ray Lewis had raised $1.4 million in the fight to find a cure for epilepsy.

Couldn’t slip that one past you, huh? Well, here’s a Real Statistic Alert: Lewis and Merriman’s teams were 0-2 this weekend. Belichick and his talent-starved band of nomads are 2-0 in the playoffs and seeking their fourth Vince Lombardi Trophy in six seasons.

That’s what really has LaDainian Tomlinson tweaked.

On the other end of the fruited plain, the Patriots proved Sunday that they are 3,000 miles from perfect. In terms of individual talent, they rank about 25th in the National Football League on Jabar Gaffney’s best day. And yes, there are some issues of decorum that should (and I believe will) be addressed.

But they also have Tom and Troy and Tedy. Consequently, they have a knack for making allegedly “better” teams need an industrial-strength diaper in the second half of meaningful games.

Those guys don’t merely have class, L.T. They teach the class.

Kalle Oakes is a staff writer. His e-mail is [email protected]

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