As the country inches closer to Super Bowl Sunday, the flurry of story lines that accompany such a monumental football game continues to pick up force. February 5th's showdown features an endless list of star players; it marks the newest chapter in the already-storied New York/Boston rivalry; and it has an aura of vengeance and redemption that the American public seems to enjoy to endless extents. Hell, as we learned yesterday, it will even have the triumphant return of a gray-haired Ferris Bueller.
Yet one story has flown under the radar for even the most observant fans: what would a fourth franchise title mean for the New York Giants?
The question has both local and national implications.
The majority of the Big Apple's sports scene resembles the city itself: strangely intertwining a sense of professionalism, class, and unadulterated, sheer arrogance.
And plenty of teams have exemplified this while thriving in "the city that never sleeps," but New York's sporting allegiance lies undoubtedly with the Yankees more than anyone else. The gritty '86 Mets, the dominant '94 Rangers, and the heart-stopping Knicks lineups of the late 90s captured the love of millions of New Yorkers, yet the Bronx Bombers' reign over New York sports remained untouched.
It seemed that Big Blue's stunning upset in Super Bowl XLII had a chance to de-throne the almighty Yanks, if for just a moment, but the Yankees claimed their MLB-record 27th world championship just a year and a half later, ending a nine year drought and subsequently re-establishing their standing as the Empire State's go-to team.
As that happened, the Giants collapsed into a second-half spiral that ended any chance at a second-straight title, culminating in an early playoff loss to the worst possible opponent: their sworn NFC East enemies, the Philadelphia Eagles.
Call it bad timing.
Yet the Yankees have come under immense criticism in recent years, with World Series runs cut short in consecutive season by lackluster playoff performances. In practically any other city, this would not be a problem—but mind you, this is New York, where rings are expected to come as often as the A train.
Enter the G-Men, who are amidst yet another improbable postseason run, reaching 2012's title game with just a 9-7 regular season record. Would the franchise's fourth Super Bowl victory—the second in four years—make them the leaders of New York?
While no team can quiet the Yankees' passionate constituency, a win on February 5th just might put the Giants in New York's center stage. True, the Yankees are the most successful franchise in all of professional sports, but baseball's waning fan support, combined with the skyrocketing popularity of the NFL, helps Big Blue's case tremendously.
The Yankees will have a stranglehold on Major League Baseball's ring count for maybe even a century, but a fourth championship for the Giants will put them near the top in their respective sport as well. A win in Super Bowl XLVI will draw the Giants even with the exalted Green Bay Packers, and will put them just two titles behind football's leader, the Pittsburgh Steelers.
A second Super Bowl in four years—both claimed against the dynasty that is Tom Brady and the 'Pats—fortifies the Giants' case as a top-five franchise in the NFL. Already a member of the league's upper-elchion in terms of Hall of Famers and historical relevance, a win next Sunday is crucial for the marketability, legacy, and fan support of the G-Men. Super Bowl XLVI will be about more than what the story lines will suggest; it will be a chance for John Mara and Steve Tisch to develop their brand even further, and make Big Blue the talk of the town—the biggest town in the world, that is—for years to come.