New England – and Boston in particular – has always had a great love for their sports teams but have rarely in the last few decades enjoyed a world championship. Some people had begun to believe that man would discover life on Mars or that scientists would find a cure for the common cold before a Boston sports team won another championship. The Celtics hadn't won since Bird left a decade ago, the Red Sox can't get any pitching and the Bruin are always one great player short of winning it all. The New England Patriots never even seemed to be in the equation. And after their starting QB Drew Bledsoe was injured early last season and the team lost three of its first four games it seemed all but hopeless.
Then in stepped an unknown quarterback named Tom Brady and, somehow, the team – led by defensive minded guru Bill Belichick put it all together and made an impressive second half run winning 12 of their last 13 (with a nine game winning steak). And before fans could say, "I hate the Yankees." the Patriots were in the Super Bowl and primed to take the championship from the heavily favored St Louis Rams.
It all seemed so improbable yet it is fitting that a team named "The Patriots" won and that they won at such great odds. And now NFL films has put out a DVD titled Super Bowl XXXVI Champions that charts their season from game one through the playoffs and into the Super Bowl. The disc feature interviews, behind-the-scenes shots, sideline action all accompanied by a voice-over narration.
In case you don't already know; the NFL has a film crew at each game of the season. And each week a show on HBO titled Inside the NFL shows highlights of the games. What's remarkable is that every single one of the games is shot by the NFL on film not video. That's a lot of work and a lot of money. But by preserving the games on film it helps lend a certain greatness to the legacy of the game.
Primarily this DVD is a collector's item for Patriot fans. And the fans have responded in kind making this the best selling NFL DVD (or video) ever sold. I'm not necessarily a fan yet the immediacy of the way each game is presented, the quick editing and the dramatic presentation of each game make it into a worthwhile spectacle.
The best parts are the things you see and hear on the sidelines, which you don't get on regular TV. One criticism is that the presentation is often not as involving as ESPN highlights. One of the reasons is because there is little context as to what down it is, what the score is, where the ball is on the field or other such facts we use as a barometer to understand the importance of big plays. The focus of each game instead is on the aesthetics of key big plays. They are often presented in slo-motion, in close-up or from multiple angles. You end up getting a feeling for men heroically playing football but you don't get a feeling for the way fans see and experience it. Consequently, you can admire the shot selection and the editing without knowing exactly what's happening.
The sound is in Dolby Digital stereo and sounds good. It's really only noticeable though on the halftime show extra with U2.
Each game is presented in the television aspect ratio of 1.33:1. The transfer looks very good with a slightly grainy look and good quality sharp contrasts of color are present. There is no noticeable artifact or edge-enhancement.
There are five minute segments on past New England heroes Steve Grogan:Patriot Warrior, Gino Cappelletti:Upstairs, Downstairs along with another short titled The Way We Were: The 1976 Patriots who almost made it to the Super Bowl in that patriotic year. (In each of these segments it's interesting to note the different way NFL films shot games as to the way they do today. There is a 12 minutes Super Bowl Halftime show section with U-2 singing a series of songs all strung together and fans screaming. It's a good extra that you can turn up and listen to loudly. Also included is a five minute NFL Salutes America, which shows how the NFL honored the hero's and victims the first week back after the 9/11 attacks.
If you are a New England Patriot fan then there is no reason not to have this DVD. It's the best tribute to their season that you can presently get and it looks and sounds pretty darn good. It would have been nice to have more interviews with team members or more reflection on the whole season from the press and the pundits who doubted them but perhaps that will come some day in the future.