Don Shula can keep drinking that champagne.
Eli Manning made the first great step in becoming his brother Peyton’s equal and created a legend in the annals of Super Bowl history with a drive that eclipsed Joe Montana’s in Super Bowl XXIII and a win that rivaled Broadway Joe’s as one of the Super Bowl’s—and pro football’s—great upsets.
While Manning’s 19/34 255 yard 2 touchdown performance won’t rank high on the list of great Super Bowl performances statistically, it was his poise under pressure on that final drive that will make the performance noteworthy. When Brady threw that touchdown to Moss most people thought the game was in the bag because who would think that Eli Manning of all people would be able to lead a last-minute game-winning touchdown drive in the Super Bowl? Even people in New York felt the despair.
The fact that there were several plays, including the craziness that was David Tyree’s catch, on that final drive reminded you of the Patriots against Baltimore or Indianapolis added to the irony that New York beat the Pats on Sunday in a way that we’re accustomed to see New England do to anybody else.
The game itself turned into a real old-school Super Bowl with defense and running being the focus of the game offensively for three quarters. The first quarter saw the fewest drives combined (2) in Super Bowl history and the game itself started with the longest drive in Super Bowl history clocking in at 9:59. Those two drives provided the only offense for three quarters—a 32-yard Lawrence Tynes field goal and a Lawrence Maroney one-yard touchdown run. If that isn’t old-school sounding, I’ve messed up the definition.
The fourth quarter was when the offense that we all expected to see finally rose to the surface as both of New York’s touchdown and Moss’ nearly game-winning score all took place in the fourth quarter. From a television perspective the first three quarters were like watching weather channel coverage of a major storm and the fourth quarter was the footage of the storm itself.
So in this postseason I’ve gone 0-4 with the Giants as the four times they’ve played they’ve played against a team that on paper was better than them and yet every time they’ve come out triumphant. What does that mean? Well, what I took out of the Giants’ postseason run was that the “on any given Sunday…” mentality got a shot in the arm and the ultimate example of why it works as the ever-underdog Giants took down the unbeaten and mighty Patriots. Hyperbole maybe, but everyone at the parade earlier this week in New York likely won’t mind, maybe Jeremy Shockey.
And in the end, what’s the big story: Spygate, spygate, and more spygate. Sadly, the Giants won’t get the respect they deserve for their win—remember I picked the Pats—because the evil empire just has to go down. Personally the only evil empire in sports is the Yankees and if Spygate turns out to be the nothing I believe it will, it won’t matter because in society today the story is bigger than the result. Like the World Series this past year—with the Boston/New York relationship reversed in this case—the big story was not the outcome of the sport’s world championship, but something having nothing to do with the game.
Despite the fact that this was the most watched football game ever, what does that say about us that the biggest story to come out of it had nothing to do with the game?
The main reason I was cheering for New England on Sunday, like the reaction to the game, had nothing to do with the game: I wanted the Year of the Upset to end with the best team winning. Instead, the year ended fittingly with the biggest upset of them all. Remember, Appalachian St. happened opening weekend, and the Giants’ postseason wins would’ve been more examples rather than an exclamation point to this upset filled year if the Pats had triumphed on Sunday.
Hopefully next year things will return to normal. Some may be thinking that I’m looking for a return to boringness despite the fact that the sport has never really been boring with the increase in parody in the NFL year after year since the turn of the century and college football always able to be entertaining (there are over 100 teams for God’s sake). What I want is a return to sanity as this upset filled year had the game going in a million different directions at once with the very job of analyzing the game taking a hit as anyone with even a decent percentage of avoiding these upsets being described as a miracle worker.
Unfortunately, I was not one of those miracle workers. Maybe next year will be better.