By Bob Socci, 98.5 The Sports Hub
ATLANTA — Almost immediately after the last words of our AFC Championship Game broadcast left my mouth, I finally exhaled and peeked at my phone to see that several text messages had just signaled an alert.
One, from a friend and one of my favorite NFL colleagues, showed up dripping sarcasm across the screen.
“Congrats on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he wrote. “Oh, wait…”
Already smiling, I had to laugh. Albeit somewhat embarrassingly.
The sender, a terrifically talented game caller with longer league tenure than me, has never described a playoff win — much less one that reserves a spot in the Super Bowl. His good-natured jab delivered with the touch of the keys on a smart phone was a reminder of how good partner Scott Zolak and I have it here in New England, where the head coach and quarterback are preparing for their ninth Super Bowl together.
Zo and I have shared the radio booth for six seasons. And six conference finals.
Four of them, including the past three, have led to week-long excursions to the sites of American sports' premier spectacle, including the one we’ve just embarked in Atlanta.
In February 2015, we were blessed with a press box view of the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history, as the Patriots rallied from 10 down to beat the Seahawks. Two years later, we were in a different house for an even greater comeback, as the Pats overcame a 28-3 deficit to defeat the Falcons.
Twelve months ago, their comeback fell short of catching the Eagles. Outcome aside, it was no less an honor to be on hand for the NFL’s season-ending extravaganza.
And now, 12 months after the last one, we’re here for the next one. Thanks to a 37-31, overtime triumph in Kansas City, our radio crew gets to work — that’s "work" in quotation marks — Super Bowl LIII between the five-time champs and Los Angeles Rams.
Seventeen years ago, I watched the Pats stun the St. Louis Rams from the apartment I rented above a garage that belonged to a contractor and his wife on the outskirts of Annapolis, Md. Back then neither the voice of Navy football nor any voice of reason could have possibly believed that in another decade he’d be the one calling another Patriots-Rams Super Bowl.
Or, frankly, that he’d be writing — whether in first or third person — about the experience of standing on a stage before tens of thousands talking backup to a bunch of rock stars. But there I was, mic in hand alongside Zo and eventually the most iconic owner, head coach and sports star in our region; and of our time.
And here I am, preparing to see them once again bid for a sixth Lombardi Trophy, hoping to do their play and, more importantly, their fans right by our call.
The opportunity to try has proven to be more than a once-in-this-lifetime opportunity. So, it’s more than okay if a pal and peer provides a nudge to remember my good fortune. In truth, it’s a good thing.
No, it’s a great and necessary thing. Because, even in acknowledging that “we’re the luckiest broadcasters in the big leagues,” as I did before signing off from Kansas City, I should to be constantly reminded of our surreality.
Just as I was by a single sender last Sunday. And by tens of thousands more who delivered us all an unmistakable and unforgettable message Sunday from the field and stands of Gillette Stadium and along the roads and highways leading from Foxborough to another Super Bowl.
You can hear Bob Socci on the call of the game on every game day for the New England Patriots, right here on 98.5 The Sports Hub. You can also hear him on his own The Gridiron And Beyond podcast at 985TheSportsHub.com.