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Patriots' early days were anything but super

It's one of those opinionated Sundays . . .

*Whether or not the Patriots finish the season undefeated, it's already clear that the Pats of the new millennium are one of the greatest teams of all time. If they qualify for Super Bowl XLII and win it -- and it says here the odds are in their favor -- it would mean four championships in seven years.

Since the Bills and Patriots have been at each other's throats since their first exhibition game in the American Football League's pioneer exhibition season during the summer of 1960, that's not a heartwarming tale in our town.

Yet, it's only fair when you consider the franchise's early history of slapstick comedy. The Pats were the Wandering Tribe of Massachusetts, bouncing from one venue to another, old Braves Field to Harvard Stadium to Fenway Park to an eventual roost in Foxborough, gateway to Cape Cod. When they qualified for the 1963 AFL championship they were embarrassed, 51-10, by the Chargers. Along the way they finally made it to a Super Bowl, getting street-mugged, 46-10, by the voracious 1985 Chicago Bears in a classic mismatch.

The current Patriots zoomed up the road toward their next Super Bowl months before the season started when they traded for wide receivers Randy Moss and Wes Welker and signed linebacker Adalius Thomas in an offseason of Homeric heists.

*The dinosaurs of the NHL are having their way, dispensing with any entertainment value in their sport and producing an old cry of agony from fans in arenas coast to coast: "B-o-r-i-n-g!"

Between the NHL's zone traps and the field-goal fests the NFL foists on us far too often, baseball, having recently finished a dynamite season, looks better than it has in years. Of course there is the little matter of Barry Bonds about to join Pete Rose on the persona-non-grata list in Cooperstown as well as Alex Rodriguez on the verge of signing a Yankee contract that will furnish him with close to $30 million a season for the next decade. That money would feed refugees in Darfur for the next two decades.

*I'm not buying the notion that UB's Turner Gill may be about to become the next coach of the Nebraska Cornhuskers. I know Tom Osborne, the acting athletics director, is likely to make the call and Gill is a favorite son of the Huskers, but those red-clad fans who fill the stadium in Lincoln want a proven big name who will instantly wash away the taste of defeat, especially that avalanche of touchdowns Kansas rang up two weeks ago. Gill has done a fine job of bringing respectability to UB but he doesn't have the experience yet to put Husker Nation back in its comfort zone.

*I'm going to hold my Heisman Trophy ballot until the deadline, but right now it looks like quarterback Tim Tebow, Florida's multitasker. Tebow is only a sophomore but I still regret not voting for Michael Vick when he was a sophomore at Virginia Tech, figuring he had plenty of time to win one. He turned pro before his junior season, long before his dogfighting days.

*Marshawn Lynch's ankle injury, forcing him out of tonight's game, is further proof that a team can't have enough quality backs. If the Bills want to acquire a back who is money in the bank in short-yardage situations, they should spend a high choice on Michigan State's Jehuu Caulcrick, the former Clymer High School star.

*Boston may be the best sports city in America, but another World Series victory for the Red Sox, the Patriots apparently headed for another Super Bowl and now the Celtics rising from the NBA ashes seems too much for one community. Then again, the Celtics have been down so long, who can knock their resurgence?

Larry Felser, former News columnist, appears in Sunday's editions.

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