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The Bitter End
Rick Reilly
February 09, 2004
IF YOUR wife left you for your best friend, would you follow them on their honeymoon?
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February 09, 2004

The Bitter End

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IF YOUR wife left you for your best friend, would you follow them on their honeymoon?

If you were having open-heart surgery, would you ask for a mirror to watch?

No? Then what Carolina Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme did on Sunday after losing a pupil-popping Super Bowl to the New England Patriots, 32-29, is going to make zero sense to you.

As the Patriots rushed to the middle of the field to do their best screaming, leaping and dog-piling, Delhomme didn't sprint off the field, didn't go hide in the Jacuzzi and didn't kick the holy Gatorade out of a cooler. Instead, he made himself stand and watch the Pats' jubilation, won at his expense.

Nothing could make him leave. Even as the ushers tried to herd him off the field with ropes—"Them rope people treated us like we were Salvation Army castoffs," grumbled Panthers receiver Steve Smith—Delhomme stood fast and watched unblinking, letting the knife cut deeper. He looked like a man watching his prized sailboat sink.

"I guess I just wanted it to hurt as much as possible," said Delhomme afterward. "I wanted to watch the celebration so that it could hurt, so I could remember it, for motivation."

This wasn't the easiest week for the rabbit-eating Cajun from Breaux Bridge, La. All week he was Mary Ann to Tom Brady's Ginger. Brady was called the new Joe Montana. Brady had that Joe Namath dimple women love, that pick-proof caution coaches love and that rescue-the-damsel winning streak press-box poets love.

Delhomme? The best anybody could think to say of him was that he threw a decent enough ball for a sidearmer. Delhomme was the one who was a backup for the Amsterdam Admirals, the one who wasn't even Carolina's starter when the season began. You know the quarterback who was at the State of the Union Address? It wasn't Delhomme.

Nobody seemed to care that Delhomme's postseason passer rating was almost 30 points higher than Wonder Boy's.

But for the first 27 minutes of this very odd Super Bowl, the 29-year-old Delhomme looked as lost as one sock. He started off 1 for 9. He had one passing yard and one fumble and had been sacked three times. He looked more exposed than Janet Jackson's right breast.

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