After several heart stoppages and two different televisions -- do you think Best Buy will exchange a flat screen with a lamp through it, since I still have the warranty? -- the chance for redemption is ON. We all remember what happened the first time the New England Patriots and the New York Giants danced in "the Big Cotillion." In fact, there are still many who wake up at night screaming, "HE'S IN THE GRASP!!!" as nightmares of Eli Manning's desperation heave to David Tyree after defensive lineman Jarvis Green held onto the quarterback's jersey for a full three-count continue to crop up.
It is now four years later and the Northeast monopolizes media coverage yet again. Welcome to Rex Ryan's personal hell. His town's successful team and his arch rival doing what he cannot do, at least not with Mark Sanchez under center.
There is a weird familiarity to this game, almost like we've seen it before. Flash back to 2007 -- no, really ... do it. Flash back! The Giants squeak into the playoffs by the thinnest of Joe Flacco Fu Manchus and proceed to win three games on the road, including the championship game in overtime, in inclement weather, after an ill-fated turnover.
Meanwhile, the Patriots, though they made history by achieving the first ever 16-game perfect season, made the Super Bowl, but only after a controversial win (in Week 13) by three points against a Baltimore Ravens team. Sound familiar?
In that season, the Patriots beat the Giants during the regular season. This year, however, they didn't, which bodes well if you're looking for comparisons to the 2001 team which similarly lost to the Rams, then proceeded to run the table, including a Super Bowl win against those same Rams.
And in a season when Brady's chief rival Peyton Manning was inactive, his brother Eli has risen like some sort of Phoenix. (A brilliant reference if ever I saw one as his first Super Bowl win was, in fact, in Arizona.) It's like some weird sort of action movie sequel where the hero, having dispatched of the bad guy, finds that the bad guy had a brother who's much more evil then his dead brother ever was. (Remember, you can't spell "elite" without ELI.)
I understand that this redundant matchup has removed all interest for many of you -- "When is Cleveland ever going to be in the championship?" -- but for those of you who haven't moved on to other sports like Texas Hold'em and the Scripps National Spelling Bee, you have myriad reasons to pick a team and get behind them, if only for one day.
Why Root for New England?
It's not often you see greatness. No, greatness doesn't come around as often as the attempt to make greatness a storyline does. From ownership down to the parking attendants at Gillette Stadium, the New England Patriots do things the right way. This includes Belichick and Brady who, when all is said and done, will be among the most accomplished of all time, if not the most accomplished. In short, they are the Egg McMuffin of football teams.
They're playing for the owner's late wife. Myra Kraft was kind, charitable, and admired throughout the organization. The Patriots are playing this season with her memory in mind. Nothing trumps a dedicated season, save for perhaps one in which the somehow handicapped guy, diminutive or otherwise, gets on the field/court and provides the game-winning score/basket.
They're playing for history. Four Super Bowl wins for Brady would mean tying him for the most rings by a quarterback with Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw. And Belichick would be tied with Chuck Noll. If Eli wins, that's only two. Big whoop!
They're playing for redemption. It's a classic story where the defeated hero rises up again to vanquish his reviled antagonist, like "Rocky 2," "Return of the Jedi" or any of the "Police Academy" movies.
They also have a bunch of undrafted players, a rookie who is a non-Hodgkins lymphoma survivor, a wide receiver moonlights in the secondary, and Gronk! In short, they’re a good bunch of players to root for.
Why Root for New York?
John Mara is the owner of the Giants. His niece is Rooney Mara, the actress who was darned good in "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo." (I’ve never seen it, but I've heard good things.) By association, you gotta pull for the Maras.
You have a hatred of Peyton Manning. A victory for the Giants and subsequently for Eli will show the middle child that he is, in fact, the slow one and not his little sibling as we had previously thought. A win for Eli will provide retribution for all those wet willies, purple nurples, and wedgies Peyton, no doubt, gave him as a child. This winter, vote "Eli, for Best Manning Ever!"
According to Vegas, they are the underdog. Not sure what Vegas is up to on that one, but if your thing is pulling for the underdog (except in that movie "Underdog"), this is the team for you.
Now, on the flip side, for those of you disgusted by the false promise of league parity and the redundancy this matchup provides -- well, you probably already have your reasons, but -- here are a list of reasons to root against each team.
Why Hate New England?
There are lots of reasons. For one, they win a lot. Give somebody else a chance!
"The Hoodie" himself. Not that you liked his brusque and secretive nature before, but the infamous Spygate scandal pushed your disgust of the man to a new level. He was the only coach to oversee videotaping of other teams, except of course, for any other teams that did it too but just didn't get caught. As such, the New England Patriots and Bill Belicheat are the scourge of the league.
The New England fans are out of touch with the 99 percent. They are the Mitt Romney of fans. They don't understand the hardship that other fans go through on a regular basis just trying to make it to the playoffs, let alone winning a game.
Why Hate New York?
Are you kidding? They’re New York! Do you really want those fans around you when they’re winning? (Or losing, actually. A lot of it is the smell.) If you thought New England fans were bad, you ain't seen nothin'.
New York is going for their fourth Super Bowl win. It's boring for a team to be so consistently good as they would have won in the 80s, the 90s, the oughts, and potentially again this decade.
Another Manning?! Really?! We thought we were rid of the Manning talk. Plus, poor Cooper will feel even worse if Eli ends up with two more rings than he has.
The Mara family. Sheesh, how much success do they need?
Whether you root for them, against them, or don't watch the game at all, it will be decided by the talent on the field.
Why New England will win
They don't lose to teams twice in the same season, er ... usually. (Forget about last year’s playoff loss to the Jets.)
The supernatural. After the victory in the AFC Championship game, Bob Kraft alluded to "forces at work beyond anything we can understand." Did Sterling Moore really knock the ball out of Lee Evans' hands? Did Billy Cundiff really shank the kick? Those of you non-believers can stick to that earthy mumbo-jumbo, but BK knows better. The Pats are "playing for the patch," in memory of Myra Kraft. And Myra Kraft, in turn, is playing for the Pats.
Revenge is a great motivator. Tom Brady, though he's cut his hair, may be compared to Uma Thurman in "Kill Bill." And if New England does win, they will finally be given their 19-0 perfect season! (hmm ... wait, that can’t be right ... can it?)
Why will New York will win
First of all, the fact is, the Giants are 3-0 in Super Bowls when Bill Belichick is on the sideline. Think about it. That bodes well for them.
But mainly, it's science. A tough pass rush coupled with an aerial assault from three quick and strong receivers against a less-than-stellar secondary and there will be nothing the Patriots can do.
So what we have is Myra versus Mara, science versus the paranormal. As we all know, sports follows no sort of karmic law or spiritual puppetry ... or does it? Save for Super Bowl XL featuring the Steelers and the Seahawks, the referees are not "in the bag" or blatantly incompetent, frequently making the correct call with the naked eye on plays we, the viewers, need freeze frame technology to barely venture a guess at the correct call. The Golden Rule applies to the Super Bowl and that is: "The better team on the field always wins ... unless it is coached by Norv Turner."
New York won the last Super meeting on a miracle pass and a helmet catch after a missed interception. Heck, they've already marched the field in the fourth quarter against the Patriots in homage to Super Bowl XLII earlier this year. Plus, all of Brady's Super Bowls have been decided by three points. What about this tells you that the Giants won't again win by three in the waning minutes? One thing's for sure and that is the certainty that this game will not be any less exciting.
Mental note: Replenish my supply of EpiPens and smelling salt, charge my defibulator, and buy an extra TV.
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