It’s the morning of February 6, 2012, and the blast has passed. Although fallout levels are still likely dangerous, I’ve exhausted my stash of PBRs and must emerge. The worst is behind us now, I keep telling myself. The worst is behind us now.
As I climb up the ladder towards the hatch’s vault-like circular steel lock, all I feel is numb. And even as I work the lock hand over hand like a crazed pirate sailing in circles, the New England air that seeps through previously air-tight seal doesn’t feel as crisp. The sky is a bit yellow, few cars crawl along the streets, and a caustic melancholy hangs, feeling like it will never thin.
It comes with the territory of playing in five Super Bowls in 11 years, an unprecedented run the sports anchors tell us. But any way you cut it, I can assure you that losing a Super Bowl to New York is wicked uncool.
In my emotionally unstable state, I’ll start with a little ego coddling. Heading into this game I was criticized for picking the Giants against the Packers, against the 49ers, and eventually against the Patriots. I was told that I was trying to jinx the Giants, that I was picking the Giants in the self-interest of making a loss that much more bearable. To those who shared these sentiments, I’d like to share one of my own; I was right. I picked the Giants against teams that were 15-1, 13-3, and 13-3, and the Giants won them all. They earned this win, and good for them. Now onto the game…
From my perspective, this was the fastest football game that I’ve ever watched – it really seemed like the game was over in 15 minutes. Most Super Bowls that I’ve been invested in drag by, each play of excruciating importance seemingly playing out one act at a time. Not this time around. It seemed like Eli played great, and so did Tom. It seemed like both defenses played pretty damn well. It seemed like a pretty error free game. Everybody played well, and the Giants just happened to end up on top. From the perspective of a Giants fan, I don’t think anything could be more important.
We all know that Patriots fans (hell, NFL fans aside from Giants fans) think that 2007 was something of a fluke. Make no mistake about it, there was nothing flukey about this win. It was won as a football game should be won, and thus provides the validation that Eli Manning so desperately needed.
So now the fun part, the part that you all want to hear – I can’t hide forever without dishing on what this means for Eli Manning. Eli Manning just became the 11th quarterback in NFL history to win two Super Bowls – that’s one more Super Bowl win than his brother Peyton has, and in my eyes that puts him in an elite class. I think that Eli and Ben Roethlisberger now share a spot together in terms of their place in the current NFL landscape. I would now mention Eli in the handful of the best quarterbacks in the NFL – I’m not sure he has the talent of Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, or Drew Brees, but he has something that none of them aside from Brady have – a knack for winning. Yes, I think you have to call him one of the NFL’s elite quarterbacks.
My only knock against the Giants this time around was the general lack of class they showed around the Super Bowl – all of the shit-talking by their players leading into the game, posting that they were Super Bowl champions on their website before the game was even played, etc. But these are things that aren’t surprising, and from an on-field perspective the Giants took care of business.
As for the Patriots, you’ve got to feel for Wes Welker following his dropped pass. I think the Patriots were generally right in targeting Aaron Hernandez so much, and I also support Bill Belichick’s decision to let the Giants score in order to give Tom Brady the ball with some time left on the clock. Brady got the ball with 57 seconds to go and needed a touchdown, which he didn’t get. It was really the first time he failed to do what needed to be done with the Super Bowl on the line.
Sure, Rob Gronkowski was a non-factor in the game and was clearly severely inhibited by his ankle. But from a New England standpoint, none of these storylines are what this game was about. This game was about Tom Brady and Bill Belichick being denied the cherry on top, the win that would permanently cement them both as the best ever and allow them to ride off into the sunset no matter what happens in their remaining time together. As Bostonian’s have now realized with regards to the Celtics, there’s a window of opportunity that any team has to win. Tom Brady is 34 years old and should have 3-4 seasons left in him, but the window of opportunity is closing and there’s certainly no guarantee that he’ll ever have a shot at winning a 4th Super Bowl again. Ultimately, that’s why this loss hurts so much.
Kudos to the Giants, on a win whose importance cannot be understated for their franchise, and especially for their embattled quarterback. As for the Patriots, they made a season that started with little hope a whole lot of fun to watch. Let’s all hope that we get to see Brady versus Manning act number three.