ATLANTA — Mike Eruzione has received calls like this for close to 40 years.
Ever since he scored the game-winning goal in the 1980 Olympics in the U.S. hockey team’s shocking 4-3 victory over the Soviet Union in Lake Placid, N.Y., he has been the guy you call to talk about underdogs.
He is the patron saint of sports teams and figures that no one gives a chance. Eruzione is the one that made us believe in miracles.
So, who better to call about these scrappy Patriots, who have ridden your doubts and disbelief all the way to Super Bowl LIII on Sunday against the Rams?
I called Eruzione and asked him: Do these upstart Patriots remind him of the 1980 hockey team that pulled off the “Miracle on Ice?”
“Uhhhhhhh … I love the Patriots. I love Tom Brady. I love Bill Belichick. But there’s no comparison,” Eruzione said. “They’re a three-point favorite. We were a five-goal underdog. In football, that would have been like a 30-point underdog.”
OK. Eruzione does not see it.
I dialed up another man who shocked the sports world. Surely, Buster Douglas can relate to what Brady, Belichick and Rob Gronkowski are feeling entering Sunday’s showdown with the Rams. No one gave Douglas a shot to beat Mike Tyson in 1990. He was a 42-to-1 underdog.
Douglas was viewed as a tomato can. The only question was whether Tyson would knock him out in one round or two.
I called Douglas at his Columbus, Ohio, gym on Friday and asked him whether he sees a bit of himself in these plucky Patriots.
“Not at all,” Douglas said.
All right. I’m 0-for-2.
How about the latest team to shock the world? The UMBC Retrievers busted everyone’s brackets last March by becoming the first 16 seed to upset a 1 seed in the NCAA Basketball Tournament when they beat Virginia 74-54.
“Ummm … I’d be hard-pressed to compare us to the Patriots,” UMBC coach Ryan Odom said Friday morning.
Maybe these guys just don’t see what Brady sees or what Julian Edelman sees.
After the Patriots beat the Chargers in the AFC divisional round, Brady gave an interview to CBS on the field and said, “I know everyone thinks we suck and, you know, can’t win any games.” Then, after the Patriots beat the Chiefs to make it to their third straight Super Bowl he said, “The odds were stacked against us.”
Edelman had T-shirts made that read, “Bet Against Us.”
Long-suffering Patriots fans, who have gone two years without a Lombardi Trophy, have taken to chanting “We’re still here” as their new rallying cry.
These guys are like a modern-day Hickory High from the movie “Hoosiers.” Maybe Gronkowski will put Edelman on his shoulders to measure the goal posts at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday before the game.
Eruzione, Douglas and Odom all said outside doubters can provide the fuel you need to shock the world. They all agreed the Patriots are searching for that chip on their shoulder.
“When you’ve been there so many times like the Patriots have, I think you’re always looking for that kind of edge,” Eruzione, a Patriots fan, said. “You’re looking for that spark. Maybe something like this can be this year’s mantra.”
Douglas said he remembers hearing people give him no chance against Tyson and using it.
“It helps you stay focused. I think it’s a pretty smart move on their part. You use the underdog role,” Douglas said.
You have to believe Belichick will remind his team that no one believes in them on Sunday. That everyone has forgotten they have won five Super Bowls in the past 17 years. That everyone thinks Brady is a fluke and Gisele Bundchen is not really that pretty.
He’ll channel Herb Brooks, who gave Eruzione and his teammates a speech to remember before they toppled the Soviets and then Finland to win their gold medals.
Get over it, America: The Patriots are winning this Super Bowl
ATLANTA — After all the paralysis by analysis, Super Bowl…
“Great moments are born from great opportunity, and that’s what you have here tonight, boys,” Brooks said. “That’s what you’ve earned here tonight. One game; if we played them 10 times, they might win nine. But not this game, not tonight.”
I asked Eruzione if he thought Belichick might steal some lines from Brooks.
“I don’t think he needs to do anything like that,” Eruzione said. “You have to remember our average age was 21 ½. I’ve got to believe the Patriots are a little bit older and a little bit more mature. I don’t think they need a big speech.”
Odom showed his UMBC players a video, during their pregame meal, with highlights of 15th seeds beating No. 2 seeds in the NCAA Tournament and near misses by 16th seeds against No. 1 seeds.
“It was kind of like, why not us? Why shouldn’t we be the ones to do it?” Odom said.
Why not the Patriots? Maybe Belichick could lean on Odom for some pointers for Sunday’s speech.
“I have no advice for him,” Odom said. “He doesn’t need Ryan Odom, that’s for sure. He knows what he’s doing. He’s been in that situation plenty of times. He’ll know exactly what to say to his team.”
I asked Eruzione if he will welcome the Patriots to the pantheon of great sports upsets should they find a way to win.
“I don’t think they’re an underdog,” Eruzione said.
Shhh. No one tell Brady.