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Philippines RPCV Barbara Leedom never misses a super bowl
Philippines RPCV Barbara Leedom never misses a super bowl
Super fan never misses a beat
By ROB DUCA
Caption: South Yarmouth's Barbara Leedom traveled 26 hours by bus across mountain paths and muddy rivers while working for the Peace Corps in the Philippines to watch the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXI, devotion to the team that endures today.
(Times photo by PAUL BLACKMORE)
SOUTH YARMOUTH - Barbara Leedom didn't mind the bye week leading up to this year's Super Bowl. It gave her more time to research the teams.
Leedom, 65, is predicting a 17-6 triumph tomorrow for the New England Patriots over the Carolina Panthers. And it's not an idle prognostication. She arrived at the score after spending hours on the Internet pouring over statistics, perusing team and newspaper Web sites and reading up on the daily press conferences with coaches and players.
"It's going to be a boring Super Bowl," she maintained. "If both teams are at their best, it will be a defensive game. For the Patriots to win in a blowout, I see (coach) Bill Belichick confusing the Carolina defense by bringing in plays it hadn't seen on film.
"The key for the Patriots will be defense, defense, defense. I don't think it's a matter of stopping (Carolina quarterback) Jake Delhomme."
Her prediction on the AFC Championship game - which she emailed to the Cape Cod Times the day before it was played - was Patriots 20, Colts 10, nailing the margin of victory. She accurately forecast that "Belichick will get in Peyton Manning's head."
Be advised, Leedom doesn't really mean the Super Bowl will be dull, only that it will be low-scoring. Football could never be boring to a woman who hasn't missed a Patriots game in years and once traveled 26 hours by bus across mountain paths and muddy rivers in the Philippines to watch her beloved team play for a championship.
It was the 1997 Super Bowl when the Patriots lost to the Green Bay Packers, and she wasn't about to miss it. She was at the beginning of a two-year stint in the Peace Corps, and the only television was at the American Embassy in Manila. So she boarded a bus in Northern Luzon (near Thailand) and rode with chickens, fish and assorted other animals to make it for the 6 a.m. (local time) kickoff.
"The bus kept breaking down, so we had to get out and push it through the river," she said. "Losing that game was tough. But I thought they would do it the next year."
Clearly, Leedom is not your typical football fan. And she assuredly is not your typical female football fan, which she is quick to admit. "I don't think there are many women my age who follow football like I do," she said.
There aren't many women who describe the game as she does, either. "I think of football as being ballerina-like," she says. "It's almost a dance."
What do her male friends think when she breaks down a game better than they do?
"They are in shock and awe," she says, smiling. "But they still won't ask my advice. I think it's a guy thing. They all think they know more than I do."
Leedom has been an avid Patriots' fan since the days of Jim Plunkett at quarterback in 1971. Her two sons, Dennis and Timothy, were taught to be Patriots' fans, although her daughter, Cheryl Dunivan, now lives in Colorado and follows the Broncos.
"She's always been a big sports fan, but especially football," says her son, Dennis, who lives in Duxbury. "She watches every play, likes to check out everything that's happening."
Leedom's love of sports traces to her childhood growing up in Brooklyn, when her father used to take her to see the Dodgers at Ebbets Field. "He was devastated when they moved to Los Angeles," she recalls.
Her father also introduced her to college football and basketball and even to boxing. But what she remembers most vividly is watching the New York Giants at Yankee Stadium.
"I can't understand how anybody can't be interested in sports. I just can't," she says. "They're missing life."
Her love of football blossomed further when she married a man who had played at Colgate and was even more of a Giants' fan than her father. Even though they settled in Delaware, the couple attended every Giants' game within reasonable driving distance. They traveled to Washington to see the Giants play the Redskins, to Baltimore for a matchup against the Colts, to Philadelphia for the Eagles and, of course, to home games in New York.
During those long journeys, Leedom's husband taught her the game.
"It started out with him naming a position and I'd have to say the player," she said. "He'd say, 'left end,' and I'd say, 'Robustelli.' Before long, I had all the names. Then he started writing down the plays, teaching me how they worked. Later, when he coached Pop Warner football, I'd watch him game plan."
Which is why Leedom now watches more than the football when she views a game.
"How did that sack happen? Who went where? How did that hole occur so that the running back got through? I want to know those things," she says.
That natural curiosity might have something to do with having spent seven years as a news editor and reporter for the Wayland/Weston/Sudbury Town Crier in the early 1970s. Even then, she wanted to shift into writing sports for the Middlesex News in Framingham (now called the MetroWest Daily News), but was told that women couldn't cover sports.
Instead, she left to work in public relations for John Hancock Insurance, and moved to South Yarmouth in 1986. After being laid off in the mid-1990s, she decided to chuck the corporate life and join the Peace Corps.
"I wanted to do something different and I loved to travel," she said.
But she never stopped following the Patriots.
"They had a lot of dark times, but I always remained a fan," she said. "I was sorry to see (Drew) Bledsoe go, but we're glad now, right?"
She attributes her obsession with researching games to a thirst for knowledge and to a desire to win minor bets she makes with her brother. She enjoys looking back after a game to learn which experts called the game correctly and which didn't.
"And I want to win my bets, so I don't want to rely on guesswork," she says.
Not surprisingly, she's an admirer of Belichick and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. "But it's too early to compare Brady to Joe Montana," she warns. "He's still a kid."
But her son, Dennis, said his mother's affection for Brady runs deep.
"She's in love with Tom Brady. She really is," he laughs.
Leedom doesn't know who will make the key plays that bring a title to New England, and she said that is exactly the way Belichick likes it.
"Belichick doesn't pick superstars in the draft, he just wants guys who can be a team," she said. "He has drummed it into their heads that they are not winning on an individual basis, but on a team basis. That has made all the difference.
"Every week somebody different steps up. I mean, where did Jarvis Green (three sacks against the Colts) come from? All of a sudden he's sacking quarterbacks? That's what Belichick has instilled."
Those who have braved sub-zero New England weather for the past month might find it difficult to delay a trip to Costa Rica. But that's what Leedom did after winning a writing contest that offered a free one-week trip south. She was scheduled to leave today, but insisted that she could not depart until tomorrow.
"I told them there was something serious in my life that prevented me from going," she said. "I didn't tell them it was the Super Bowl."
(Published: January 31, 2004)