Belfast Telegraph

Billy on the Box: Never-say-die Tom triumphs by acting like the goat

By Billy Weir

There have been many great Tonys - Hart, Woodcock, the Tiger, the triangle triumvirate that is Knowles, Meo and Drago, and, of course, remembering to forget Cascarino.

There have also been many great Toms - Thumb, Jones, the Cat, O'Connor and arguably the greatest of all time, Brady, but late in the wee small hours of Sunday night/Monday morning it seemed that two men called Tony and Tom would see their names turn to mud.

Over in Houston, the BBC had a problem. Nothing to do with an eagle but some Falcons who were 28-3 to the good in Super Bowl LI (that's 51 to you non-Latin types) against the New England Patriots and their superstar quarterback Brady, looking as happy as a Democratic presidential candidate.

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Then presenter Mark Chapman offered a light at the end of the tunnel. He said: "Thank you very much to Tony, who has tweeted me a script for this part. It simply says, 'don't be tempted to go to bed, if you're watching thinking the Falcons have this, you did that for Brexit and the US Election'."

And there was much chortling, snorting and indeed guffawing to be heard. Things were so one-sided at this stage the director had taken to that telltale sign of desperation, showing us the famous people in the stands, so we caught a quick glimpse of Mark Wahlberg, John Travolta and a slightly confused looking Elton John, probably wondering when Luther Blissett would make an appearance.

In snooker terms they were 25 behind with only the colours left, so naturally the man to turn to was a Mr James White, who offered a little hope by scoring a touchdown. But as the game entered the fourth quarter it seemed too little, too late and thus I retired gracefully, safe in the knowledge that I would wake up in a world where Falcons were on the crest of a wave, we were still in the EU and Hillary was having a great time as President.

Not so fast. The GOAT (Greatest of all time) had other ideas even though this gruff Billy thought the world was making a nanny of him when he read the final score - Falcons 28 Patriots 34.

It meant a hasty return to the Sky planner where the decision to record the last quarter 'just in case' was a forecast that Peter Snow couldn't have predicted, as I took up where I had left some hours before with studio pundit Mike Carlson advising that "you can't ride two donkeys with one ass".

Mind you, it had been a strange enough old night even up to the final quarter at the NRG Stadium, to be forever known as the OMG Stadium, where Carlson had warned us to expect a "gladiatorial game, it's gladiators on a chess board" as I pictured Wolf and Nigel Short sitting down for a game only to be disturbed by John Fashanu shouting 'awooga' at an annoyingly loud level.

Fashanu was nowhere to be seen but we were joined by one former footy player, or soccer star if you're that way inclined, in Rio Ferdinand, who revealed he was amazed by the size of the playbooks that players had to memorise.

"That writes off 90 per cent of all football players," he laughed. Indeed, most of them can't remember the simplest of things, like, for example, popping along for a drugs test now and again, but hey-ho.

The Falcons clearly had read their book much better, leading 21-3 and Chapman, Carlson and former players Jason Bell and Osy Umenyiora could only manage one word each - wow!

Much the same could be said for Lady Gaga's half-time show but that was nothing to the one in the fourth quarter as Tony's words of wisdom started to come true.

A field goal was followed by another touchdown and a two-point conversion to make it 28-20 and Chapman referred to another tweetist who had compared Patriots head coach Bill Belichick to Sir Alex Ferguson.

"This is squeaky bum time," he exclaimed - bad news for donkeys and Falcons everywhere - and he then made a plea, which had fallen on my little deaf, sleeping ears hours earlier.

"If you're in a house with people who maybe went to bed early, I'd go and wake them up, they'll appreciate it in the long run," he said.

And then it happened. White scored again, a two-point conversion followed, it was 28-all and we were heading to overtime.

"We are making history right now and I'm delighted to be part of it," chimed Bell, with Osy adding that "the probability of what the Patriots have just done is probably next to nothing, it's hard for me to even understand what I'm seeing with my own two eyes".

Overtime and Brady handed the ball to White, who barrelled into the endzone to win it.

"I'm not sure what we're going to say here. There's a sense of shock in the booth," admitted Chapman, while for Osy it was hands-up time. "For the last year and a half I've talked how Tom Brady wasn't the greatest of all time. I take that back, I can't believe what I witnessed," he concluded and nor could any of us.

Well, apart from a man called Tony, he made a goat out of all of us.

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