Even the most ardent of New England Patriots fans would have a hard time arguing that the team hasn’t had some stellar luck when it comes to overtime coin tosses in the playoffs.
In their last three playoff overtime games, including this year’s AFC championship game, Super Bowl LI and the infamous “Tuck Rule” game, the Patriots have won the extra period’s coin toss.
That may not seem like a particularly huge deal, but you have to consider the enormous advantage a team has when they win the coin flip. A touchdown drive (or a mere field goal drive, before the NFL changed the overtime rules) ends the game without giving the other team a chance to respond.
Assuming that landing on either heads or tails is truly a 50/50 proposition, the Patriots’ odds of winning three consecutive overtime coin tosses is a mere 12.5 percent.
Even NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal’s putrid 52.7 percent career free throw percentage is significantly better than that.
Now, Patriots detractors and conspiracy theorists might tell you that some nefarious scheme cooked up by the NFL and its referees is the real reason New England has had such luck in playoff overtime coin tosses.
Those critics might find quite a bit of suspicion with how the Patriots always call heads on those coin flips.
But as Patriots special teams captain Matthew Slater told Sports Spectrum last week, there’s actually a really cool reason why he always calls heads. And it’s got nothing to do with conspiracies or shadowy schemes.
Slater, whose father Jackie was a Hall-of-Fame offensive lineman for the Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams, explained how he learned to always call heads because of his dad.
“I remember as a youngster, my dad was my hero, my earthly hero,” Slater said. “I always looked to him, wanted to do everything the way he did it.”
Slater then explained how an otherwise innocuous moment of picking his father’s brain as a child yielded a memory that still sticks with him as a 33-year-old.
“I remember watching him at the coin toss, walk out there and make the call. I went and asked him about it later on. I said, ‘Dad, why do you call heads, what’s your mindset at the coin toss?'” Slater said.
His father responded: “Yeah, I always call heads and for me, when I accepted Christ, I told myself, ‘Christ is always at the head of my life, so it’s just a reminder for me when I go out there, even when I’m playing a football game, he’s still the head. He doesn’t stop being the head in between the white lines.'”
“And for me that was pretty profound,” Slater added.
“As a young person, I was like, ‘Man, how about that, that’s something.’ It’s stuck with me to this day as a 33-year-old, I still remember that conversation in my head,” the Patriots special teams captain said.
For anyone who has seen Slater’s Super Bowl news conferences, which he’s had quite a few of considering Super Bowl LIII will be his fifth, his pronounced faith should hardly come as any sort of surprise.
Yes, the NFL very obviously has some bad characters.
But if it’s players like Slater, Gurley and Michel who are being featured in the Super Bowl, then that’s awesome.
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