By Jason Keidel
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Before we plunge into purgatory, a frigid hole in the sports calendar also called February, a final nod to the New York “Football” Giants and a few football lessons from the Super Bowl…
The Parade. Like their Super Bowl run, the conditions were impossibly flawless, from the oddly warm weather to the blue tarp of clear sky wrapped around our region to sober and civil fans. Just ignore the host, Mike Bloomberg. If you can get past the carpet-bagging, Bostonian emcee who pretends not only to be a New Yorker but also a Giants fan (as he reads all his stats from a cue card). Mayor Mike should have taken a page from the governor across the river, and watched from a safe distance. (Disclaimer: this is a geographical comment, not political.)
To the Losers. We’ve heard way too much chirping and groaning from Patriots fans. Evidently, New England lost more than New York won, which is poor form of the highest order. Also, those of us who don’t put the proper postmortem on the Patriots – fawning tributes to a team that just LOST the Super Bowl – are instantly branded ignorant hacks. Take it from someone whose team (Pittsburgh) lost last year’s Super Bowl: your best move is to shut up, eat the loss like an adult, hide for a few weeks, and then reappear in a Red Sox hat. A sore loser is a poor sight.
New England. Here’s the truth about the Patriots: they are little more than Tom Brady’s troubadours. Aside from their tight ends and Wes Welker, they have virtually no skill at skill positions and beyond. Brady makes everyone on that team better –including his HC, who may leave a tainted legacy if he doesn’t win a Super Bowl post-Spygate. Bill Belichick is a fine coach who took an average team with a transcendent QB to the Super Bowl, but his thorny persona and penchant for going John Ford on his foes put him in the odd spot of having to prove himself despite winning three rings.
Speaking of Brady and Welker, let’s just say “The Drop” was a 50/50 proposition. We all expected Welker to catch it and, once he didn’t, we realized Brady could have thrown it better. Tip your cap to Wes for eating the whole error when he doesn’t have to.
Much has been made of Brady’s 6-15 finish, ignoring the fact that many of his incompletions came under great duress in the final quarter and final drive. The fact that he was nearly perfect for three quarters – including 17 straight points on 16-16 passing – doesn’t seem to mean much to the front-runners and overall haters.
Face it: unless you have either Manning or Aaron Rodgers under your center, you’d take Tom Brady in two seconds. As awkward as it is to defend anything or anyone east of Westchester, we’ve been blessed to see a signal-caller of Brady’s heft for the last decade. And once Brady retires, the Patriots will be a .500 team. And in a perverse – very perverse – sense, I’ll miss him. You can’t hate someone if they suck, and Brady is a beast.
Gisele. Asking for pre-game prayers is fine, particularly when your beau needed them (I predicted the final score almost right on the number), but please don’t shove players under the team bus before consulting your husband. My impulse is to leave families out of it, until they put themselves in. Even then, let’s just dismiss the demented, “Thomas can’t throw and catch the ball” Bundchen as a grieving wife who doesn’t know any better. And, clearly, she doesn’t.
Giants among men. Eli is now untouchable, his ticket to immortality stamped and laminated. Last summer he compared himself favorably to Brady, we laughed, and I led the conga line of cynics. I was wrong. Eli is the best clutch player in football. And I don’t say that blithely when Big Ben runs my team.
Tom Coughlin goes to Canton. He has the longevity and the Lombardi two times over. Once Bill Parcells slides in (and he will) and Coughlin is forced out the door (because he’ll almost surely refuse to retire) in a few years for his own health, he should speed dial his tailor to be fit for a Yellow Jacket.
Character. In our ADD-addled culture, swollen with sound bites, nanosecond video clips, groin-grabbing dunks, touchdown dances and other me-first mantras, it’s hard not to find Coughlin, Manning, and their Giants quite refreshing. Each man passes the credit to the next. And while none of us outside Big Blue’s locker room saw this run coming (especially when they were 7-7) there’s a larger lesson with this team and HC/QB tandem: don’t dismiss them until they’re officially dead. As if to prove the passes to Tyree and Burress weren’t aberrations, the toss to No. 82 (let’s call it the Manning-Ham) down the left sideline certifies Manning’s mettle forever.
Parity and Parody. Robert Kraft told Sports Illustrated that the NFL is designed to make every team go 8-8. He’s right. The difference is the coach-quarterback couple. Aside from the Mannings, Super Bowl quarterbacks are the product of as much happenstance as hard work. Indeed, Brady, Brees, Big Ben, and Rodgers weren’t even top-ten picks, which means the personnel men don’t necessarily know much more than we do. And then once you have a great quarterback, you have to pray he remains healthy. On top of that, you need Miles Austin to lose a ball in the lights, Ted Ginn to get hurt, and have his replacement botch two balls in the NFC title game.
Some say it’s better to be lucky than good. The Giants were both. And now you have a team you can talk about forever.
Feel free to email me: Keidel.firstname.lastname@example.org