Keidel: All Hail Manning(ham)
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By Jason Keidel
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For a fortnight the pretty people – some football fans and some just poseurs at a party watching an old, lip-synching singer – donned Patriots jerseys.
Eli Manning, who spent the last month making people like me look like idiots, made this postseason a prologue to his new legacy. And as the ball sailed down the sideline, impossibly nestling into Mario Manningham’s hands, Manning wrested himself from the family chains and endless comparisons to his older brother. Peyton has his place in the pantheon; now Eli has his.
This is why we love sports. In the World Series, the Cardinals showed that no game ends until the final out is gloved by the enemy. And with less than four minutes left in the Super Bowl, facing the aggregate shadows of Brady, Belichick, and history, the New York “Football” Giants plowed downfield, with nothing but faith at their backs.
Never in NFL history has a 9-7 team won a Super Bowl. Until now. Never has a tandem remolded its fortune so drastically and fantastically in a month. Until now. Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin have no more questions to answer from us, or anyone. Manning has two Super Bowl MVP awards, and Coughlin’s red face will someday be in bronze.
In a sense, even in loss, this game was a pseudo-referendum on Tom Brady’s greatness. Indeed, for all the praise lapped upon Bob Kraft and Bill Belichick for stewarding a fine franchise, it turns out their greatest management skill was the serendipity of snagging Brady in the sixth round. Without No. 12, the Patriots aren’t even a .500 team. For his part, Brady was every bit the Hall-of-Famer we expect, leading his underwhelming team to the lead at halftime and commanding his troops to another touchdown drive to start the second half. It would be the last time he’d score.
Now, there will be no more comparisons to Bradshaw/Noll or Montana/Walsh. The Giants pulled off the dual deeds of etching their place in eternity and rewriting the Brady/Belichick epilogue.
A few years ago, the Patriots traded Richard Seymour and gobbled up draft picks, which were intended to rewire an aging defense, fresh tools for the supposed high priest of defense (Belichick). We were told a new world order was coming, a Patriots monolith rising like a sword to the sky. How’s that going?
Belichick, the grumpy coach with the homeless chic wardrobe, grunted his way through the postgame press conference, saying nothing and everything. As usual, the Patriots relied on the fog of intimidation, pedigree over performance. When you punch them back they don’t know what to do. The Giants knew what to do.
Thank you, Giants. Not just from your followers, but from Jets fans, Steelers fans, all fans west of Westport, CT, and from those of us who don’t consider Boston a part of the republic. I said, on this site, that the Giants would win, 24-21. Sorry I couldn’t hit the exact number, but I’ve never been so pleased to be wrong.
As if to right the wrong of the Parcells Snub, Tom Coughlin honored his mentor by keeping the Super Bowl train on track. Coughlin, who somehow clawed his way from the coaching landfill into the land of legends, said his team’s mantra all year was “Finish.” Indeed, the New England Patriots are finished.
Thank you, Giants. It turns out gritty is better than pretty.