By Bill Simmons
Page 2 columnist

Earlier this month, my buddy Sully threw a barbecue on the South Shore. (For the record, I don't have just one friend named Sully, I have two. That's the kind of thing that happens when you live in Massachusetts.) Anyway, we're hanging on Sully's deck when the following exchange ensues:

Patriots Super Bowl ring
The object of every New Englander's desire.

    Sully: "There's a guy coming today who works for the Patriots. (Pause) I think he's bringing his Super Bowl ring."

    Me (body stiffening): "Really?"

    Sully: "Have you seen one yet?"

    Me (nearly hyperventilating): "No. You?"

    Sully: "Nope. Supposedly, it's unbelievable."

I spend the next 20 minutes looking toward the entrance to Sully's back yard. His name is Ed. That's all I know. That, and he's bringing a $15,000 ring roughly the size of Verne Troyer. When they handed these babies out at a private ceremony in June, Patriots players whooped with delight as they opened the boxes, like children expecting a video game on Christmas Day and unwrapping a new PlayStation instead. "I'll take this to my grave with me." said Lawyer Milloy, relaying the feeling of the entire team.

The ring means something to me, too. It means the black-sheep Patriots really won the Super Bowl in February, that it wasn't a mirage and wasn't going to be overturned, that the most astounding four months of my life as a sports fan actually occurred. I want to see the ring. I need to see the ring. The ring will make it official.

  Championship rings are the male equivalent of engagement rings. Think about it. No two championship rings are alike. They cause Pandemonium at parties. Peers are envious if they don't have one too. ... In fact, if anything, championship rings wield a bigger impact than engagement rings because you run across them so rarely. 
  

Finally, Sully nudges me and says excitedly, "There he is," as if Dubya had just ambled into the back yard. I follow Sully like a puppy dog, enduring the introductions, making small talk, trying to remain pleasant ... but all I can think about is the ring. I keep glancing at Ed's hand, feeling like I'm sneaking peeks at the guy at the next urinal.

Sully saves me: "Ed, you gotta show Bill the ring."

Ed lifts up his left hand, smiling. He's heard the request a million times in the last few weeks, like Cuba Gooding Jr. hearing one more person scream, "Show me the money!"

I can't breathe. There it is. The ring.

So big and swollen, you probably can't operate heavy machinery while you wear it. The Patriots logo hogs the middle, made up of garnets and sapphires, resting between WORLD and CHAMPIONS. In the daylight, with 143 diamonds in all, it glistens like the Vegas strip. It doesn't even look real. If anything, it's surreal. Especially since the Patriots are prominently involved.

"I-I can't believe that thing," I stammer.

Lawyer Milloy
Patriots safety Lawyer Milloy will hang on to his Super Bowl ring tighter than any interception.

Others drift over, eyes glazed, hoping for a look. Ed and the ring have assumed control of this party. He's wearing the greatest conversation piece of all time, surrounded by a group of goggling guys acting like chicks at a bachelorette party. The dialogue is quick and clever: "Good god, that thing is huuuuge" and "Man, what would that thing fetch on eBay?" We ask to try it on. It almost feels as if Ed should be wearing an Ann Taylor dress, showing off a 3-carat diamond and describing wedding plans. And that's when it hits me.

Championship rings are the male equivalent of engagement rings. Think about it. No two championship rings are alike. They cause Pandemonium at parties. Peers are envious if they don't have one too. The person showing it off inevitably wears an "Isn't this the most wonderful ring in the world?" expression. In fact, if anything, championship rings wield a bigger impact than engagement rings because you run across them so rarely.

Athletes know this. So when you hear players performing their "I'm all about getting the ring" spiel, maybe it isn't just about winning the title and achieving with teammates. Maybe it harkens back to every party they ever attended, when someone else was showing off a ring. Maybe they watched everyone else gravitate toward the ring. Maybe they stared longingly at it, envious as hell, promising themselves, "Some day, I'll have one of those."

As John Madden would say, This is what it's all about, right here. But if you can't have one, at least you can wear it vicariously. Thank you, Ed.

Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. This column also appears in the Aug. 19 issue of ESPN The Magazine.



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