Has any sequel ever exceeded the drama of its original?
Perhaps not until now. While the Giants and Patriots prepare to face off in a rematch of Super Bowl XLII, we are inclined to revisit the past.
However, much has changed since 2007.
Although the setting is quite familiar, the storylines entering this premiere are vastly different. And in many ways, more compelling.
While ‘perfection’ was the primary plot line in Super Bowl XLII, the rematch features a cast of new characters with an array of narratives and legacies at stake. Just like in Hollywood, the theme of this sequel is centered around revenge. In no attempt to avoid the cliché, Super Bowl XLVI can be tag lined with: “This time, it’s personal…”
Let us begin with the cast…
In their first meeting four years ago, a fine line was drawn between “good” and “evil.” Any football fan outside of the six states of New England embraced the Giants as their team in Super Bowl XLII. How could they not?
The Patriots were unlikeable on every front that season. They didn’t just try to beat their opponents in 2007; they went out of their way to embarrass teams. And to their credit (or disgrace), New England did just that. On the heels of the Spygate scandal, New England won all 16 regular season games by an average margin of nearly 20 points. In their six games within the AFC East, the Patriots outscored their division opponents by a combined 153 points.
Then, there were the players. The nearly perfect Patriots were led by an assembly of imperfect and unlikeable individuals. On defense, players like Rodney Harrison (dirty) and Brandon Meriweather (dirtier) led the way. On the other side of the ball, Randy Moss showboated his way to a record 23 touchdowns that season. Even Tom Brady, once dubbed the “golden boy,” loved wearing the “black hat” in 2007.
On the other hand, the Giants played the role of ‘David’ to the NFL’s ‘Goliath.’ They were captained by America’s most famous “little brother” and entered Super Bowl XLII as one of the biggest underdogs in the game’s history. With a 14-point spread pegged against them, no one gave the New York Giants a chance.
But it’s true what they say in the movies: Everyone likes an underdog.
It wasn’t just Mercury Morris and the ’72 Dolphins rooting for New York and against New England in Super Bowl XLII. Picking a “good guy” in the first fight was easy.
This time around? Not so much.
Unless you’re a Jets fan, both teams are likeable. New England has shed its cast of “bad guys” from four years ago. Moss, Harrison, Meriweather, and Adalius Thomas are all gone.
And as for the 2011 New York Giants? They captured the country’s hearts and attention as they snuck into the playoffs, knocked off the league's last team to be defeated and won two post season games on the road. Sound familiar?
As for the “directors” of the sequel…
There’s Tom Coughlin. How the tides have changed since his first Super Bowl appearance. Coughlin entered the 2007 post season coaching for his job security. This time around, he is coaching for his place in history.
The 16-year seasoned head coach has the chance to tie Bill Parcells with two Super Bowl titles as the Giants' play caller. No active coach, outside of Belichick, has more Super Bowl appearances than Coughlin. The 19th winningest coach in NFL history has again silenced his critics and his in-town counterpart. A win this Sunday will cement his legacy as one of the best coaches in NFL history.
And how about Bill Belichick? In 2007, the New England head coach entered the Super Bowl as the captain of Spygate. He sat at the helm of the most hated team in all of sports. Belichick was the villain in a hoodie.
However, in 2011, the general animosity towards the Patriots coach has subsided. Appearing in his eighth Super Bowl, three as a coordinator and now his fifth as a head coach, Belichick has the opportunity pass Bill Walsh and Joe Gibbs in Super Bowl victories. A win this Sunday and he will tie Chuck Noll with four championships as a head coach—one away from Lombardi. Most significantly, he will be able to celebrate it outside of the shadow of both Spygate and the 1972 Miami Dolphins.
And then, there are the stars of Super Bowl XLVI…
First, there is Eli. He entered the first matchup in the seemingly insurmountable shadow of his elder brother. Now, the younger Manning has the opportunity to surpass Peyton in the most important stat of all.
And if he wins Sunday, Eli will celebrate his second Super Bowl victory in "Peyton’s Place" and against his sibling’s greatest rival. The Giants' quarterback has the opportunity to justify his preseason claims that he belongs in the category of Tom Brady; that he too is elite.
Tom Brady is the comeback story of Super Bowl XLVI. In his first game following the first Super Bowl loss of his career, Brady suffered the most devastating injury of his career. It cost him the entire 2008 season.
He returned in 2009 a shell of his former self, struggled to a 10-6 record and then was embarrassed in a first round playoff loss to the Baltimore Ravens. He watched his greatest division rival, the New York Jets, make consecutive championship games. Now, four years removed from his only Super Bowl loss, he is back with the opportunity for revenge.
All things considered, the script to this sequel is just as good, if not better. If Super Bowl XLII was an underdog tale, the rematch is a comeback story. The characters are more dynamic and more interesting this time around. The past four years have helped set the greatest stage in Super Bowl history.
Just gotta hope the ending doesn’t let us down.