Occasional blogging, mostly of the long-form variety.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Giants Slay Goliath

What a game! The Super Bowl is often a blowout and anti-climatic, but not this one!

First of all, while I'm not a Patriots fan (nothing will turn you off a team like knowing a really obnoxious fan), credit to them for an undefeated regular season, the highest scoring offense in NFL history, the most touchdown passes in history, and the most touchdown catches by a receiver in history. None of that's anything to sneeze at. (By the way, I do root for the Red Sox, mainly because as a Cubs fan I could always commiserate, and unless you're actually from the New York area and entitled, ya gotta root against the Yankees, especially give the ridiculous lack of a salary cap. I also had a pet theory before the two recent Red Sox championships that if the Cubs and Red Sox ever met in the World Series, a black hole would erupt and engulf the entire universe.)

The Patriots' dominance makes the Giants victory all the more impressive. The offensive line is always the most important-but-overlooked aspect of a successful team, and the Pats' O-line has been superb for the past several years. The Giants defense, though, was amazing. Back to back sacks on key downs and consistent pressure kept the game close throughout and the Giants in the game.

But none of that would have mattered without a phenomenal performance when it counted by Eli Manning and the Giants offense. The basketball-leap reception by David Tyree in the 4th was spectacular and a game-saver.

(And boy, did Belichick look pissed at the end!)

I'm not normally a fan of the Giants either (I'm for the Packers, and in the NFL East, the Redskins), but I said I'd forgive the Giants for beating the Packers if they beat the Pats, so all is forgiven. Deciding to play all the Giants starters against the Patriots in the last game of the season, a meaningless game for playoff positioning, was a risky decision for Giants coach Tom Coughlin. Had a starter received a major injury, he would have been severely criticized. But although the Giants lost, they played very well and measured themselves against the most dominant team in the league. It energized the Giants going into the playoffs, and they played superbly. If I remember correctly, three wild card teams from the AFC have reached the Super Bowl and won (Raiders, Broncos and Patriots), but the Giants are the first from the NFC, where generally the top seeds advance. Earlier this season alone, there was chatter that Eli Manning might not have the presence and speedy decision-making to be a franchise quarterback, let alone a NFL champion. Boy, has he arrived. While he can continue to refine his physical game, his mental game can't get much better. He has no reason to doubt himself ever again for the long haul. Bravo.

Two more thoughts. First, every year there's a warehouse full of merchandise made up for the team that winds up losing, because the NFL wants to hock their wares and can't take chances. That's why they have those championship hats ready at the awarding of the Vince Lombardi trophy. I've always thought it would be cool to get one of the hats for a losing team before they were destroyed, like say, the hat for the "world champion Atlantic Falcons." (It'd be rude to wear in Atlanta, but pretty damn funny elsewhere.)

Second, I get annoyed when folks, let alone the NFL Commisioner, talk about the Giants' "third championship." It's their third Super Bowl win, and the game wasn't even called that yet before the merger, back when the Packers won the first two "AFL-NFL World Championship Games" and the NFL Championship (including the fabled Ice Bowl) was the real game of note. The Packers have three Super Bowl victories, but they have twelve championships. Similarly, the Giants have three Super Bowl victories, but seven total championships. Yes, it's a much larger league now and the game has grown very different, but respect for history is a good thing.

Speaking of history, congratulations again to the Patriots for their impressive run, but even greater congratulations to the champion Giants!

(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)

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