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FEBRUARY 3, 2004

KEVIN RIDOLFI

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Send Us Feedback: A Super Jinx Almost Bowls Over Pats

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Dropped Clutch
A Super Jinx Almost Bowls Over Pats

by Kevin Ridolfi

jinx (jingks) n. Informal. Something or someone believed to bring bad luck.

For a couple hours from 1,800 miles away I held the Super Bowl captive. 106 professional athletes futilely poured sweat in Reliant Stadium, toiling for the NFL's ultimate prize, unaware that one New England Patriots' season ticket-holder was pulling all the strings.

By now, everyone who cares about sports -- and many who don't -- knows that the New England Patriots beat the Carolina Panthers 32-29 in Super Bowl XXXVIII (a quick tangent: it's a sporting event not a cruise ship. Can we start using standard Arabic numerals now? Please.) on Sunday, February 1. Only a handful of those people realize that the game coverage missed the biggest story of them all.

Bigger than Brady and Branch.

More distinct than Delhomme and DeShaun.

Before the Super Bowl, among my friends, I had pretty well established my ability to control Adam Vinatieri's life. I have been a huge Patriots fan since the days of Hannah and Grogan, yet up until this season I had never watched the best kicker in team history kick a field goal. On TV (away games), I would walk away from the game or bury my head in a pillow. When I was at the stadium for home games, I would close my eyes or look down -- anywhere but at the field goal attempt.

Snow Bowl 2002. He makes two astonishing field goals in the swirling, blinding snow to tie and then win this playoff game against the Raiders; I didn't see either of them.

Super Bowl XXXVI. He crushes a monstrous 47-yard game-winner to topple the St Louis Turf Giants. I didn't see it.

Reliant Stadium
HOUSE OF PAIN
No reliability at Reliant for Vinatieri. Every other dome? 27-for-27.
Earlier this year, on November 23, the Pats played in Houston against the fledgling Texans. A dome. Everyone in New England who follows the Pats knew that Adam had never missed a kick indoors. In his entire career. 27 straight before entering Reliant Stadium. Phil Simms, the color commentator for that game, practically stripped naked in glee while "breaking" the news prior to Adam's second field goal try that he had now kicked 28 straight indoors. We all know what happened after that. Vinatieri missed two field goals. Had never missed before in a dome and he misses TWO in the same game. Practically costing the Pats a win in the process. Of course, he kicked three others in the contest including the game-winner in overtime, but his reputation as the messiah of domed stadiums had been ruined forever.

A lot of superstitious, Buckner and Babe infected folks in New England blamed Simms for these misses. However, the real jinx is -- yes, you guessed it -- one Kevin Ridolfi, dictator of Adam Vinatieri's destiny. For the first time in Vinatieri's career, I -- for some, possibly alcohol-impaired, reason -- decided to test my field goal theory and watch the kicks. Well, I watched the two that he missed anyway.

Vinatieri Misses
WHO LET THE JINX OUT?
Adam grimaces in disgust as his kick misses.
The 38-yarder following Simm's bit of "color" as time wound down in the second quarter that bounced off the right upright? I saw it.

The 37-yarder a couple of minutes into overtime that some fired-up, overachieving Texan named Ramon Walker blocked? I saw it.

Then I stopped watching Adam kick again. He pounded a 28-yard field goal with 45 seconds in overtime to win. I had my eyes closed. I would have duct taped them closed at that point but I figured the tape removal would tear out some eye lashes and my eye brows. I'm sure both my eye lashes and brows are serving some purpose and should remain as intact as possible. I settled for simply closing them. Not coincidentally, this was the last game in which the Pats would trail for the rest of the season.

» CONTINUED: A Texas-Sized Helping of the Vexing Vinatieri Hex

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PICTURES All © AP as displayed on superbowl.com; manipulated by Penalty Box Design. Reliant Stadium © houstontexans.com.