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Money Matters: For love of the game

On Monday, my office was closed for MLK day, so I was vegging out, watching the commentators and critics on ESPN explaining why the wrong two teams are going to Super Bowl LIII. In the case of the Rams, the controversy is all about the missed pass interference call in the last couple of minutes of the game. In the case of the Pats, it’s all the stuff you normally hear; they cheat, the refs are in the tank for them, they just got lucky, etc. Here’s my take: poppycock.

Did the refs commit one of the worst missed calls in football history? Yes, of course. It was blatant. You’d have to be blind, deaf (those helmets could be heard crashing together from the moon), and dumb (the mental kind). Did it have an impact on the game? Again, yes. Had that been called, the Saints could have maintained possession, run down the clock and then gone for the field goal without the Rams having enough time to force the overtime. Did it cost them the game? No. Absolutely not.

What about the Pats? Were there missed calls? Did Edelman really have possession of that catch? What about the offsides against Dee Ford that eradicated the interception caused by Brady’s missed pass to Gronk? Surely if that missed call hadn’t been made, the Chiefs would have won. What about the overtime? There’s a huge controversy about how if Mahomes had just had a chance to touch the ball the outcome would have been completely different. That may very well be the case. Did it cost the Chiefs the game? Again, no.

The fact is, football doesn’t come down to just one play. It requires hours and days and weeks and months and years of dedication to play at the pro level. It takes discipline beyond anything you and I are probably familiar with. It takes thousands of reps to craft the muscle memory that allows a quarterback to accurately throw the ball while being smothered by a 300-pound defensive lineman, or that allows a receiver to snag the ball out of the air and come down in the end zone with an opposing safety doing everything in his power to prevent it.

We moved to New England in 2000, so I never knew the Pats before the Brady, Belichick, Kraft era. But I can tell you this, I have never seen anything like it in my life. You know the story. A kind of awkward kid who never really had the full confidence of his coaches in college gets drafted in the umpteenth round with a throw-away pick by a coach who is a bit curious. Belichick didn’t need a quarterback. The Pats had a solid franchise quarterback in Drew Bledsoe. But Brady was still there in round 600, Belichick still had a pick, and the rest is history. Truly wonderful, dreamlike history if you live in New England. An Elm-Street-like nightmare if you live anywhere else.

What’s my point in all of this? If you are a football fan, you know there will always be bad calls by refs. You know there will be bad passes by quarterbacks. There will be missed catches by receivers. This is not remarkable. What’s remarkable is how many good calls there are. How many spot-on passes and miraculous snags out of thin air with the receiver’s toes landing just in bounds before a back-breaking hit that is just shrugged off as the receiver willingly and eagerly returns to the line for another go.

The story of Sunday’s games was not the bad calls or missed catches. Yes, those things impacted the games. But they would not have had the scores been more lopsided. If the Saints had managed to put just one more touchdown on the board, that missed call would not have had any impact on the outcome. Had Brees not been picked off by a player laying on the ground in overtime, the Saints may have advanced.

Yes, the bad call was made. That must be addressed. But that was out of the Saints’ control. What was in their control was the approximate 58 minutes of play before, and the seven minutes after. Same with the Chiefs and the encroachment call and overtime rules. Really. Those things were not in their control. What was in their control was the fact they didn’t score a single point in the entire first half! Imagine if Mahomes had been a bit better prepared and didn’t look like a dear in the headlights for the entire first half. The off-sides would not have mattered and the overtime would never even have come into play.

Despite what the rest of the world so enviously and erroneously chooses to believe, every Pats fan understands the power behind the Pats’ historic and storied run has nothing to do with Deflategate or Spygate. It has to do with team prep and team leadership. It has to do with the situational brilliance of Bill Belichick, the unwavering focus, work ethic, and dedication to the good of the team of Tom Brady, and the confidence and support Robert Kraft provides every single day. It’s hours, days and weeks of prep and practice. It’s the fact that the Pats never ever take the field unprepared.

When the Pat’s are getting ready for a game in cold weather, they practice with frozen balls. When going to a noisy stadium, they design their plays so the noise will be less of a factor. They show up ready to play in the conditions as they are, and they don’t make excuses.

You are going to lose money in the market. You will also have gains. You will have to contend with inflation, taxes, and fees. You may need to provide for long-term care for yourself or a spouse. You have no idea how long you will live, so you have no idea how much you can spend, but you will have to provide income for as long as you and/or your spouse are alive.

You know these things are coming. Are you prepared? Or is the first bad call going to completely ruin your game? The cool part is that you get to decide. What’s it going to be?

Stephen Kelley is a recognized leader in retirement income planning. Located in Nashua, he services Greater Boston and the New England areas. He is author of five books, including “Tell Me When You’re Going to Die,” which deals with the problem unknown lifespans create for retirement planning. It and his other books are available on Amazon.com. He can be heard every weekend on the “Free to Retire” radio show on WCAP and WFEA, and he conducts planning workshops at his New England Adult Learning Center, located in Nashua. Initial consultations are always free. You can reach Steve at 603-881-8811 or at www.FreeToRetire

Radio.com.