Another Super Bowl between the Giants and Patriots brings to mind what Mark Twain once said about composer Richard Wagner.
“Wagner’s music,” Twain observed, “is better than it sounds.”
So is New York versus New England in a rematch, four years removed, from a terrifically entertaining 2008 Super Bowl that found the Giants denying the Patriots’ bid for an undefeated season.
If this isn’t the collision you craved, consider the alternative:San Francisco-Baltimore would have meant two weeks of family-ties features about 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh and Ravens coach John Harbaugh, who – this just in – happen to be siblings.
Although I have nothing against either of them (nothing against John Harbaugh, anyway) my saturation point of brother-facing-brother stories is way less than two weeks.
On the other hand, Giants quarterback Eli Manning is headed to Indianapolis, home (for now, at least) of his brother Peyton Manning.
So I guess my saturation point will be tested after all.
My aversion to East Coast teams also will be tested. It’s no secret that God created the world in seven days, because – and I think there’s a passage in the Bible about this – that’s how long it takes to make the 190-mile commute from New York to Boston.
The sports history between New York and Boston is comprehensive: Boston’s Bruins twice have beaten New York’s Rangers in the Stanley Cup Finals. When the NBA began play on Christmas Day, the league chose to showcase the Knicks and Celtics – a series almost as old as, well, Doc Rivers’ team.
And, of course, there are the Yankees and Red Sox, who are scheduled to play each other 140 times in 2012. OK, that’s an exaggeration, but this isn’t: Of 107 World Series matchups since 1903, teams from New York and Boston have appeared in 78 of them. That number would’ve been higher had New York Giants manager John McGraw not refused to compete against the American League champions in 1904.
McGraw insisted a World Series wasn’t necessary, because the NL, as he put it, was “the only real major league.”
The only chance for that kind of trash talk to be heard during the Super Bowl media day next week was lost when New York’s other football team – the Jets – were eliminated from playoff contention.
The Giants didn’t have the luxury of firing off in-your-face quotes this season, as they were preoccupied with the more urgent matter of survival.
The Giants were 7-7 after 14 games, vulnerable to the sort of pummeling they took in October, when backup quarterback Charlie Whitehurst – remember that guy? – finished the Seahawks’ 36-25 victory that was more persuasive than the final score.
But as Whitehurst’s career in Seattle was approaching oblivion, the Giants began an all-systems-go crusade toward Indianapolis. They beat the Jets and the Cowboys to clinch the NFC East, then dominated the Falcons at home in the first round of the playoffs before turning into the road warriors who eliminated the Packers and 49ers, the conference’s presumptive superpowers.
Now comes Supe 46, pitting a Giants team on the way up against a Patriots team that, if not on its way down, appears to be in a holding pattern. Only a poor snap, which led to Billy Cundiff’s miss of a game-tying, 32-yard field goal attempt, prevented the Ravens from taking the Patriots into overtime on Sunday.
Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco, denigrated last week by an improbable critic – safety Ed Reed, his own teammate – not only outplayed Tom Brady, he outplayed the future Hall-of-Famer by a statistical landslide.
But the stat that counts the most is the final score, and as several news outlets are reporting – and ESPN’s Joe Schad has confirmed – New England won, 23-20.
It was the Patriots’ first victory this season over an opponent with a winning record, which suggests New England is less a dynasty than an above-average team capable of taking care of business against below-average teams.
The Giants were the very definition of “average” midway through December, but they’ve turned up the heat in January, and despite the two-week layoff preceding the Super Bowl, there’s no reason to suspect their run won’t continue against the Patriots.
My prediction? Giants 27, Patriots 24, in a contest that will be much more savory than its buildup.
I am weary of the same old, same old, and a West Coast representation in the Super Bowl would have been refreshing, even if it were the loathed 49ers who had the opportunity to represent.
But the Niners fumbled a fourth-quarter punt return on Sunday – a fitting conclusion to a season that achieved early momentum on a fourth-quarter punt return against the Seahawks in the opener – and were beaten in a muddy rumble that lasted four hours, prolonged by referee Ed Hochuli’s interminable explanation of the overtime rules.
When the explanation of the overtime takes longer than the overtime itself, maybe it’s a sign to go back to the drawing board, and consider suggestions from the best and brightest minds in the industry.
I’m confident somebody from Boston has a clue about reforming the confusing overtime rules in playoff games. I’m confident the Bostonian’s clue will be used as a blueprint by the NFL, until a New Yorker volunteers an even better solution.
Hey, it’s their world. The rest of us just inhabit it.