HOLLIS THOMAS played defensive tackle for the Eagles at 300 pounds, so sticks and stones wouldn't put a dent in him. Words? Spitballs off a battleship! So, go ahead and call him a sore loser. Tell him he's up to his eyeballs in sour grapes when he yelps about Super Bowl XXXIX, Patriots 24, Eagles 21.
"Sore loser?" Thomas barks angrily. "We got cheated! It's not sour grapes. We got cheated!"
Ten years later, time wounds all heels, and Thomas can't hide his disdain for Bill Belichick, the grumpy coach of the Patriots. Weekends, Thomas co-hosts a show on WIP 94.1. Mondays, he is part of the morning show.
"I don't bring it up," he explains. "But when I'm asked about that Super Bowl, I give my opinion. I played in that game and we kicked their ass in the first half, and if the game was played on the up-and-up we would have kicked their ass the whole game."
Isn't that the game where Freddie Mitchell said he didn't know the names of the Patriots' defensive backs earlier in the week? Isn't that the game where the Eagles took 3:52 for a leisurely touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter? Isn't that the game where Donovan McNabb puked on his shoes during the last futile possession?
Yes, yes, and perhaps.
With all that craziness, Thomas' accusations may have gotten lost in the devious shuffle. So much of his evidence is circumstantial, but Thomas is the guy who broke the story about Nnamdi Asomugha eating lunch in his car during his dismal time with the Eagles, so you may want to listen.
"In those days," Thomas says, "the linebackers didn't have a microphone in the helmet. Our defensive signals were pretty basic and came in from the sidelines.
"New England had a guy filming those signals and then matching them up with the defensive formations on that play. Halftime, they broke it down, and in the second half, they called plays based on knowing whether we were gonna blitz or not."
Super Bowl halftimes last forever. By the time Paul McCartney warbled "Live and Let Die," Belichick could have broken the code.
"And then," Thomas says, skating onto some thin ice, "here came Spygate in 2007. He got caught filming the other team's walk-through. Most times, walk-through you're doing the plays you're gonna use in the game.
"He got fined pretty heavily. And they haven't won a Super Bowl since."
Commissioner Roger Goodell destroyed the videotapes. Why would he do that? "Because he's an idiot," Thomas replies swiftly and bitterly.
"It kills me when people talk about Belichick like he's a genius. There should be asterisks next to at least two of his Super Bowl wins. He won games by three points, he lost a couple by one or two points. He looked for an edge."
The guy in the hoodie had 12 undrafted players on his roster by the end of this season. Eight of them started in the rout of San Diego. You get to the AFC Championship Game with Tom Brady and the Seven Dwarfs (his receiving corps), don't you get some credit?
"He's a decent coach," Thomas concedes. "Hey, those guys were with him the whole year. They knew the system. Every team has injuries. That's football."
Faint praise? That's almost invisible. But you can't forget that he broke the Nnamdi-dines-alone story. "He got a boatload of money here and never tackled anybody," Thomas grumbles. "Eat lunch in your car? C'mon!"
Wound up in San Francisco and departed with another boatload of money. Wooed and won the heart of the gorgeous Kerry Washington. Is Thomas surprised at that development?
"Nah, he was cool, a man of the world," Thomas says. "Got involved with a lot of charity work. I could see that happening."
Despite longer odds than Thomas getting a belated Super Bowl ring with XXXIX diamonds 10 years later. Call him a sore loser and be prepared for him to show you that unadorned finger.