“We can’t all be heroes because someone has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by.” -Will Rogers
About 50 blocks south of me the New York Giants are holding court in the Canyon of Heroes. Thousands are flooding lower Manhattan in an overwhelming parade of gratitude. Thank you, Big Blue. For doing for your fans what the Red Sox did for Boston in 2004. We needed more than just a Super Bowl, and somehow the Giants gave it to us.
They didn’t simply win an NFL championship. They toppled the most arrogant, “flawless,” and powerful force ever to take the field. They stripped down Brady to reveal he is, in fact, mortal. They humiliated a man who spent the 2008 season calling pass plays on 4th and goal, running up the score, and perfecting not just an army of athletes, but a condescending smirk he bestowed upon losing coaches on 18 different occasions.
Every Brady sack, every pass completion, every tackle–they weren’t just “playing to win.” It was like watching a team transcend themselves. Yes, the Giants fought their way to the Super Bowl, but never had they looked like this.
They were playing on a different level as they bounded into history on a kind of karmic boomerang, bringing everything that had happened full circle and into a surreal realm of poetic justice…
This all started with New York. It seems fitting it should end with New York. I don’t know if I think the Patriots are really cheaters or not, but their response to Spygate allegations were even more offensive than illegal sideline taping. New England fans were giddy over the 40+ point wins Belichik repeatedly posted, but maybe this gave the league an all-access pass to the Pats’ playbook–as the season wore on, the Pats’ offense became less of a mystery, with the team barely scraping by against teams like Baltimore and Philly.
And now? The Giants ended the gluttonous run by holding them to the fewest points the Pats scored all season.
Plax’s Outlandish Prediction…and Brady’s scoff
Why was this such a big deal? He predicted a modest score for the Super Bowl, and people acted like he claimed he could win with one arm tied behind his back. Not to mention the fact the Patriots unequivocally had the market cornered on overconfidence. (“19-0: The Historic Championship Season of New England’s Unbeatable Patriots” was available on presale for $14.95. Amazon should have distributed it anyway–they would have made double the sales off Giants fans.)
Maybe Brady was right to laugh at the measly 17 points. But it was certainly enough to beat him.
Tom Brady’s Transformation
I’m picturing an E! True Hollywood Story about Brady, chronicling his golden boy days, and then right before a commercial break we get, “Coming up: From 18-1 to done.” Throughout the season, every clip of the MVP QB showed him laughing and twinkling, kissing babies, kicking it with the glitterazzi, helping little old ladies across the street, etc. After Big Blue’s defense kicked him into the turf, he could do nothing more than sheepishly purport his ankle had been bothering him.
And in a spectacular display of maturity befitting to a man regarded as God’s right-hand guy, Brady has opted out of the Pro Bowl.
Fourth Down and Irony
What did Stephen Gostkowski do all season, really? He’s like the intern you give the meaningless jobs to just to get them out of your hair. “Ok FINE, you want to go in? Go make the extra point kick.” Belichik’s arrogance and penchant towards general bad sportsmanship had him going for it all season on fourth down, even when up by, well, hundreds of points. The final game of his season proved no different, when he opted to pass on 4th and 13 in the 3rd quarter.
Well, somewhat different. The difference between 3 points and none. The difference between overtime and aborted perfection. Belichik impaled himself on his own sword.
United They Stood, Divided They Fell
When the Pats beat the Rams in 2002 for their first SB win, they entered the stadium introduced as a team, rather than as individual starters. A lot of their success this year has been attributed to their ironclad unity and well-oiled chemistry.
But with one second left in their final game and one loss left in their record, their fearless leader abandoned ship and hightailed it across the field prematurely–bookending his failed season with classless lies obscuring his tainted tactics.
19-0 to 18-1
The more I look at these numbers, the less they resemble W-L counts, the more the numbers 19 and 18 stand out, and the more I’m sublimely grateful to have a new chant to replace 1918.
The Best of Times, the Worst of Times
Feburary 3 marked the biggest win of the New England Patriots’ history. And now six years later, the same date will be remembered as their biggest defeat. The symmetry is just otherwordly.
* * *
This past Sunday undoubtedly ranks among the All-Time best nights of my entire life–from the second I walked into my favorite bar in upper NYC at 3:12pm (wearing an old school Giants helmet) til the second I walked out of it, exactly 12 hours later (helmet still on).
It’s been 3 days, but I still have the 4th quarter of the game running on a mental loop, I still get chills when I think of Plax’s game-winning TD, and I’m still reliving the night the Giants restored faith in New York by bringing everything full circle. The night we witnessed a genesis of heroes.
I ran into a guy at said bar, that I had met once before–on the day the Yankees had just lost to Detroit in the ALDS. I had ventured to that very same bar on October 7, 2006, to suffer a litany of abuse, jeers, and psychological warfare. And after watching the Giants rise to glory in the same place where I’ve watched the Yankees fall from grace, this guy says, “Remembering that night makes this one even more amazing. Because we’re on the other side of it now.”
We were. We don’t pretend to be tortured Boston or Buffalo or Chicago or any other hapless sports town. New York wasn’t aching for a ring, we needed a renewed allegience. We didn’t need a title, we needed a hero.
It was a tall order, but it’s been said that heroism is not just in the man, but in the occasion. Like beating Boston as harshly and dramatically as they beat us 4 years ago. Bringing the pride and glory back to the New York in the most satisfying and stunning way possible. The ticker tape parade ended earlier today, but the streets are still pulsing with lingering electricity and delirium.
So maybe their 14-6 record proves the Giants were indeed flawed. But to New York, their season was perfect.