Well its that time of year again in the sports calendar. Training camp is starting for NFL teams everywhere and everyone is full of optimism. This statement is especially true for fans of the New England Patriots, who once again expect to compete for the NFL championship with one of the most explosive rosters in football. These past 8 years have been a charmed time for the Patriots, as the Bill Belichick/Tom Brady combo have led the team to 3 championships and 1 undefeated regular season. But what few people remember today are the true glory years for the franchise, 1999-2001, in which the team exposed to the football world the greatest athlete in the history of North American athletics; Michael Bishop.
The Michael Bishop story takes place in a time of racial upheaval in Boston sports scene. The perennially scrappy white Boston sports hegemony typified by the likes of Tom Yawkey, Peter McNeely, and the 86 Celtics was beginning to become integrated by the forces of progressive society. For the first time ever, non-caucasian citizens were coming to 12 Landsdowne St. to watch a Dominican fireballer named Pedro Martinez dominate the competition and making opposing batters look foolish. A polite young gentleman named Anson Carter was playing left wing on the 2nd line for the Boston Bruins for god fucking knows what reason. There were even rumors in Peter Gammons’ Sunday Notes column that Red Sox were considering signing Terry Pendleton, the only black 3rd baseman in major league baseball history, to a multi-year contract. The stage was finally set to break the final, most taboo barrier in sports integration; drafting a black quarterback. So in 1999, local nice guy Pete Carroll decided to select one Michael Bishop out of Kansas State in the 7th round of the 1999 NFL Draft.
Michael’s path to sports immortality, however, would encounter several road bumps along the way, most notably that of the starting quarterback. Drew Bledsoe, local Everclear fan and Dunkin Donuts ice coffee spokesman, was firmly entrenched as the face of the New England Patriots franchise. Bledsoe’s “aw shucks” good looks and tall drink of waterness combined with a howitzer of a throwing arm were busy putting together hall of fame caliber statistics for a perennially competitive team. To the untrained eye there appeared to be no room for another quarterback on the team, which was perpetuated by the clueless coaching staff who left the greatest athlete of our time to rot on the bench. It would take the combined efforts of linebacker Mo Lewis and Tara Reid’s future boyfriend Tom Brady to finally end the Drew Bledsoe era. In the meantime Michael Bishop put up the following statistics for the Patriots;
Completion % 33%
Now I understand what you readers are thinking to yourselves “McCuddy, you cukoo head. Whats so special about that?” Well what the numbers can’t tell you is statistics don’t tell you everything. Statistics don’t tell you how a guy slept the night before. Statistics wont tell you what shirt I’m going to wear tomorrow. And statistics certainly can’t tell you the game to game brilliance that Michael Bishop was able to exhibit for those lucky Patriot fans. To get an understanding of the athletic brilliance of Michael Bishop you need to go no further than to interview callers of the local sportsradio station WEEI during the Bishop era. These blue collar gridiron academics represent the mountaintop of the hierarchy of sports discourse. A representative sample of discussions provoked by collars would include “Guys whats Varitek hittin these days?” , “How bout that Tom Brady, huh?” and “Dude why don’t they bring Trot Nixon back”. These WEEI callers are so integrated with the sports they love that they are unable to manipulate a computer, television, or newspaper to obtain readily available information that instead provokes a telephone call to a radio station responsible for entertaining listeners. Sample audio clips bear out the greatness of Michael Bishop such as Punchy McLaughlin from Charlestown who was quoted in 2000 as saying “Dude they should staht Bishop”. Liam Finnity “Finnah” from Subbury added “Fuckin Bledsoe, he just stands there like he’s in cement, they gotta start Bishop”. Even longtime crank Frank from Gloucester chimed in during the Bishop era in between burps and sneezing fits with “Your sawwwks are never catching the Yankees, Eddie!” You can’t comment on the beauty of the Sistine Chapel by looking at a picture, just like you can’t appreciate Michael Bishop by using statistics. Listening to the fans who were there to experience the magic of Bishop, is like taking a personal stroll the church in the Vatican.
So the end of the Michael Bishop saga comes to an end during training camp in 2001. After throwing a 44 yard touchdown on a hail mary in his first NFL pass attempt, Michael felt as though he had already accomplished everything he needed to accomplish on the gridiron. Much like Michael Jordan leaving basketball to play minor league baseball, Bishop felt he was out of challenges on the football field, and needed to pursue other endeavors to keep his competitive juices flowing. A quick glance at Wikipedia reveals Bishop went on to conquer the Arena and Canadian Football Leagues and happens to be a first cousin of comedian Jaimie Foxx. No doubt that Foxx’s academy award winning turn in Ray is no doubt attributable to the fortunate genetics of being related to America’s greatest living athlete. So although Michael Bishop’s tenure with the Patriots was brief his impact was immense. Since Bishop’s departure, the name Michael has become the most popular boys’ name in America in annual name rankings. Even myself, the author of this article, was fortunate enough to have parents who had the foresight to name him after what was sure to be America’s proudest accomplishment. Even at 6 years old it must have been evident that Michael Bishop was gonna be something special. And to everyone who has been watching since, we can attest that he has been exactly that. Take a bow Michael Bishop, you will never be forgotten.