Kudos to my friend Mark for putting the NFC championship into Met perspective for me:
I root for the Jets, but I’d have to imagine for a Giants fan, that was kind of like winning Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS.
Yeah, I thought, kind of. There was a definite twinge of life after death that followed the kicker missing the winning field goal at the end of regulation and being given another attempt in OT. It was as if Beltran had gotten just a tiny little bit of that 0-2 curve from Wainwright and was granted another swing.
Now, thanks to Lawrence Tynes, the Giants are going to the World Series of football, the Super Bowl. It’s only sinking in how amazin’, amazin’, amazin’ this is. These are the Giants of Eli Manning, which as recently as a month ago was code for don’t be silly, there’s no way they’re going anywhere even if they are in the playoffs for a third consecutive year. These are the Giants of ornery Tom Coughlin for whom I’ve been willing to endure a 5-11 season just to get him fired on principle. I look at Tom Coughlin and I see Art Howe’s nasty brother.
Yet there they are, Manning and Coughlin and the rest of them I barely know or moderately tolerate in the same laundry and logo I’ve always gravitated to and they are half of the last two teams standing. When I was a kid in the ’70s, I couldn’t imagine the Giants in the playoffs, let alone the Super Bowl. Then, finally, there was that golden age of Parcells and Simms and Taylor with a dash of Hostetler and Ottis Anderson and several other true Giants, and the result was two absolutely thrilling world championships. I really gave a damn back then. As overtime began at Lambeau, it was noted the Giants were 0-2 in playoff sudden death, including the infamous loss to the Colts in ’58. What was the other one, I wondered. Oh yeah — the Flipper Anderson game that knocked them off on January 7, 1990. I was so inconsolable after that one, the date sticks with me eighteen years later.
Somewhere along the way, the Giants’ shortcomings became a matter for which consolation was not required in copious amounts. I never expected a single Super Bowl. I got two mighty wins. Everything thereafter was bound to be letdown (especially Ray Handley). In the handful of dramatic mediocrity-interrupting Giants losses since they last lived up to their enormous name, I’d be miserable for a day, then an evening, then an hour, then maybe the seconds it took me to resume the countdown to pitchers and catchers.
The Mets long ago overwhelmed all my ancillary sports loyalties. Annoyance with Coughlin’s “you’re late if you show up five minutes early” brand of motivation (which probably makes sense to football players) notwithstanding, I’ve never actively rooted for Giant failure. I just became less and less concerned with what they did. A quarter to half of their season interferes with baseball. I resent that. By the time I look up in November (once I’ve had the opportunity, as Chuck puts it, to decompress from whatever catastrophic event I’ve experienced in September and perhaps October), there are suddenly large, tattooed men wearing numbers that used to belong to Gary Reasons and Lee Rouson and spare ’80s Giants I have no business remembering but do because those Giants teams were so memorable and football today is just something that gets in the way of baseball.
A few weeks ago, there was an inane public debate over whether the Giants, a playoff spot inexplicably in their pocket, should play hard against the Patriots, who were going for a perfect record. I watched that game more intently (mostly rooting against the ’72 Dolphins) than I’d watched any Giants game in a few years. I watched them beat the Bucs two Sundays ago and it was quietly gratifying. I watched them beat the Cowboys last Sunday and it was surprisingly exciting. I watched them play the Packers with muted emotions earlier. It was good to see they were still playing hard. But honestly, they were playing at literally below zero, against Brett Favre, the guy with the misplaced “v” and all those comebacks. What was the point?
The point was Tynes the kicker got another shot at a winning field goal and, after that asinine coach barked at him when he missed in the fourth quarter, took the bat off his shoulder and nailed it, and the football team I’ve rooted for as long — if nowhere near as deeply — as I’ve rooted for my baseball team was going to the Super Bowl for the fourth time…which makes it four more times than I ever thought I’d see. I have almost no doubt they’ll lose 43-6 when they face the Patriots again, but I think I’ve been pretty clear that football isn’t the sport where I excel at understanding. I rarely if ever show up five minutes early for anything.