Much more than money

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Remember when Milloy, the former New England safety now playing for the Bills, told Boston radio station WEEI how the Patriots had such a good thing going with players hypnotically following Bill Belichick like he was Jim Jones, taking less money to stay in New England instead of making bigger paydays elsewhere? "Some of those guys, I think, are underpaid," Milloy said. "It's always been a team thing getting thrown around there, but if some of those guys would test the market, being a champion, they could really go out there and make top dollar. But for some reason, they want to stay.''

For some reason, they want to stay.

That Milloyism is why so many people are turned off to pro sports today. And the New England Patriots' clear rejection of that Milloyism is why so many people from Bangor to Bakersfield -- not just in greater Boston -- love this team right now. The Patriots win, and they win right. Milloy's inference is clear: He is happier being on a team hovering around .500 making more money than he would be on a team winning two straight Super Bowls and making, say, 30 percent less. That is nothing to be embarrassed about. In fact, many athletes would do it, and do it every day. But here's where Milloy's a fool: By mocking his teammates for staying, he's saying that the right way to go about your business is my way, and my way is taking the money, not the Super Bowls.

"You can't feed your families off of Super Bowl rings,'' Milloy said. "The more they focus on, 'We don't have any stars' and all that, the more you get overlooked as far as individual accolades and contracts.''

In the last two years, since signing a four-year, $15-million contract with Buffalo, Milloy has made $9.75 million in total. Had he stayed with the Patriots and taken a pay cut, he'd have earned maybe $6.5 million in these two years -- plus, of course, playoff money, and whatever additional money he'd have made in appearances and endorsements by being a three-time Super Bowl winner. Just guessing, but I'd put that extra income at $750,000 over two years. So Milloy, by playing in Buffalo, by my math, has earned $2.5 million more than he'd have made by staying in New England.

Which would you rather do: Make $9.75 million by being on a 15-17 team or make $7.25 million by being on a 34-4 team, with two Super Bowl wins and the pride and exultations that comes with being a key player on the best football team on the planet?

Tedy Bruschi could have had a similar choice this offseason. But last spring, he negotiated his own deal with the Patriots, a four-year, $8.1-million deal, to stay in New England through 2007. I asked him if, knowing what he knew now -- that he'd have made maybe double that on the open market had he played his contract out -- whether he sometimes thinks he made the wrong decision by signing, or whether he thinks he did the right thing.

"Both,'' he said. His honesty surprised me. "I'd be lying if I told you I didn't think about what I could make in free agency after this season. I still think about it. But I love being on this team. I wanted to stay. And I'm happy I'm staying.''

Bruschi will go down in Boston sports history as a big-game player for a championship team, maybe even a sports legend like a John Havlicek. Milloy will go down as a good player who, in the end, chose money over the prospect of more Super Bowls. To each his own. If I ran a team, you can guess which one I'd want as my defensive captain.