OK. I can breathe again. The Patriots are in the Super Bowl. Lots of things have been pushed to the back burner as we threw ourselves into daily apprehension about the Patriots.
Now that we have a couple of weeks before we have to rev ourselves up again, here are some quick hits on some other issues ...
On Joe Paterno ... it's too soon to make a definitive statement about what his legacy is. There's a lot of good ... and there's one, giant bad. It'll take time, and perspective, to sort this all out and come to a conclusion about whether the impeccable reputation he carried for 45 years can, in any way, mitigate his tacit culpability in the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
But I can tell you this: The great ones always know when it's time to go. Joe Pa was 85 years old, set in his ways, of a different culture, and, as the years wore on, tunnel-visioned about that mark he was going to leave on Penn State and college football.
Those are all fatal ingredients when it comes to looking the other way, or, at the very least, providing minimal -- if any -- resistance to what I think we all can agree was a monstrous situation at Penn State. Perhaps if he'd been less interested in his legacy, and more cognizant that the game, and even the world, was a whole lot different than it was in 1966, when he became the coach at Penn State, he might have realized it was time to go when he was still maybe in his 70s ... before his judgment may have been clouded by delusions of grandeur.
Regardless of any of that, it's a bit sad to know that he died a broken man. He obviously did not intend to hurt anyone in anything he did ... it's just an awful tragedy he harmed people in what he didn't do.
On Gabby Giffords ... a tragedy regardless of how you look at it. More than the country needs Barack Obama, or Newt Gingrich, or Mitt Romney, the country needs women like Gabby Giffords ... willing, at a young age, to put herself in the political arena and stand up for the things she believes.
In the end, it's not whether you're liberal or conservative that makes you a good leader. It's your willingness to put your principals on the line and become part of the process ... to fight the good fight. And maybe it's even to understand you'll never get everything you want, but that just by being there, you've made a difference.
From all indications, Gabby Giffords was that kind of person. The country is poorer this morning because some deranged nut shot her in the head last year, and her rehab precludes her from serving anymore.
What a sin. Of course, Giffords needs to rehabilitate herself. The sin is that deranged hate claimed exactly the type of person this country needs if it's ever going to get out of this morass of gridlock politics.
And before anyone starts excoriating me about that last statement, hear me out. Hate is hate. It doesn't matter, really what side it comes from, and who's doing the hating. It's all the same. It's ugly; and it leads people to do horrific things.
Just because the perpetrator in this shooting/murder was disturbed, and perhaps even apolitical, he did not live in a vacuum. He saw the same things we saw, and felt the same vibe. In fact, I'd even suggest that disturbed people often have more finely-tuned antennae than the rest of us do ... because it's those finely-tuned antennae that fuels their paranoia and their hate.
And I think that's an important thing to remember. We need to stop acting as if we're stunned every time some "nut job" goes on a rampage and shoots up a political rally, or a high school, or a college campus. We are all connected, whether we want to admit it or not. And our willingness to let hate flourish in our midst contributes to these mass tragedies.
On Newt Gingrich ... I don't like Newt. I think he's a smart guy, but I also thinks he plays to the cheap seats much too often with his rhetoric. I also think if the conservatives who despise Barack Obama so much nominate Newt, it'll backfire and that Obama will win.
That said, I can't help think of the old proverb "a good judge conceives quickly and judges slowly" with regards to the ABC interview last week with his second wife and his suggestion that they share an open marriage.
Here's the thing about power. We all know it corrupts. And that absolute power corrupts absolutely. Yada, yada, yada.
But why do you suppose that is? It's because the temptations are more powerful. The ego is bigger. You have so many people in your coterie whose only job is to get you what you want, and when you want it, that you become oblivious to the idea that there's anything out there you can't have.
Often, powerful people are passionate people. The same holds true with creative people, too, by the way. And the ego boost that people who who want to bask in your glow can give you can truly be intoxicating if you're not careful, or if your priorities aren't in the right order.
All of which explains why musicians, actors, actresses, business leaders and politicians often lead the human race in human drama.
It's no secret that Newt had affairs, and that Newt was (and may even still be) a player. So trotting that woman out for the interview, as much fun as it might have been to do, did nothing except rally an angry conservative base that is convinced that there's a double standard when it comes to these things.
So if any of his rivals were behind this, I'd say it was a major fail.
My only comment is this: If you're going to be that way, then be that way. In the end, it's between you, your wife/mistress/whatever, your family ... and no one else. I'm willing to judge slowly on that account.
But for heaven's sake, don't paint yourself out to be something entirely different, and please don't use your hypocrisy as a cudgel to batter someone else who's doing essentially the same thing you are.
And this is what bothers me about Newt. In the early days of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Gingrich -- by virtue of his position as Speaker of the House if nothing else -- was a major force behind the decision to impeach Bill Clinton.
Regardless of what you think about his morals (or, if you will, lack of them), the hypocrisy is astounding. I'm not willing to judge slowly on that account.
On Mitt Romney ... If Mitt were a tree, and I was looking to grab onto a good, sturdy one if the raging flood waters were coming toward me, I'd be in a lot of trouble. There do not seem to be many good roots there.
He's opportunistic, but in politics, sadly, that's the norm. Mitt's bigger problem is that he's tone freaking deaf about how he allows himself to be perceived. This is the exact same thing that got George H.W. Bush defeated in 1992.
Here's Mitt up on the stump saying "I've lived in fear of getting a pink slip." Oh yeah? When? I'll bet the only pink slip Mitt ever got was the title to one of his cars.
And here's Mitt up on the stump saying he likes the fact that he can fire people. Now, he meant this in such a way as to say that he thought it was a good thing to have the freedom to be able to let go of people doing work for you if they're not doing it correctly.
But did he have to use the word "fire?" In this economy? Especially since he's already being tarred and feathered as a corporate cold-heart who made his money streamlining failing companies (read: firing people) and turning them into profitability?
I can't deal with politicians who are that oblivious to how things look and sound. And I'm sure I'm not alone.
Perception is reality. And it doesn't matter how fair or unfair you think that is, either.
So you can imagine my utter shock (sarcasm icon, please) when Mitt admitted he had money in Cayman Island accounts. I don't think there are many rigid qualifications for being president of the United States, but not being absolutely stupid has to be one of them.
Even if there's nothing untoward going on with regards to Mitt's offshore accounts (and you know, he seems so airily blind to how all this looks to people struggling to survive that I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt), wouldn't you think he'd have straightened all these things out before he ran?
If he wants the job that badly, wouldn't you think there would be people telling him, "Mitt ... no. Offshore accounts in this economy are going to make it look like you're hiding money and taking advantage of tax loopholes, even if you're not. It's going to make you the butt of all the jokes on late-night TV if anyone finds out about it. You're going to look like George I when he appeared to express surprise that there were scanners in supermarkets."
So I have to ask ... what is the matter with him?
On Robert Kraft and Patriots fans ... All right, the next time Tim Tebow genuflects on the sidelines as if he's the pope, nobody should complain. If I hear one more time that the spirit of his late wife Myra Kraft (who died of cancer in July) blew Billy Cundiff's chip shot field goal wide I'm going to scream.
It's a nice sentiment. And I'm sure that Bob Kraft -- who appears to be somewhat of a decent, sincere guy in my book -- believes it on some level. And it would certainly seem that some kind of supernatural force took over at that point and willed that kick wide. Sometimes, there are no other explanations. Cundiff lines up to make that kick 100 times, he knocks it through 99.
So believe what you want. But if that's what you choose to believe, don't be cutting Tebow up for "thanking his lord and savior Jesus Christ" at the beginning of every interview. You either believe or you don't. And if you're willing to go public with such a notion that the spirit of Myra Kraft had any outcome on Sunday's game, then you have no business criticizing other religious athletes for how they observe their faith.
On Billy Cundiff himself ... The name sounds too much like Billy Crudup to me.
Billy Crudup is known most -- to me, at least -- for his role in "Almost Famous." And I'm sure Billy Cundiff wouldn't mind being "almost famous" today. Because sure as shooting, Cundiff has fame's bull's eye in the Baltimore area today ... and for reasons nobody would want.
Somehow, I think the Patriots get the job done this time.