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Gentlemen, start your engines
Once upon a time, football teams were actually manned by locals—men who grew up in the area. The Chicago Bears were a bunch of immigrant-stock stevedores. The San Francisco 49ers were freewheeling Western sophisticates.
As soon as football became a successful business, the teams became mirrors of Americana.
But the local flavor is not entirely lost. The Bears defense still growls, the Chargers are still full of sun and finesse and the Saints are an offensively explosive party.
One of the reasons that the Patriots and the Giants are in this game is that they know who they are.
The Giants are a terrifying defensive line, an unflappable and clutch fourth-quarter QB and a well-balanced offensive attack.
The Patriots are one of the best, ice-cold, MVP, HOF quarterbacks to ever grace the gridiron, a decent short-passing game and an improving defense.
In a season without the surgically lethal Indianapolis signal-caller, the Colts turned into holograms.
In a season with a paper-thin defense and only three producing wide receivers (yes two of them are TEs but don’t distract me), Tom Brady became—Peyton Manning. Not so easy without a running game, Randy Moss or a defense is it, Tom?
I’m a tremendous Drew Brees admirer and love watching Aaron Rodgers as much as any newbie fan who “digs the long ball.”
But Tom Brady has turned in the kind of individual will-driven MVP leadership that reinforces historians’ belief in “The Great Man” theory. Franklin Roosevelt, Julius Caesar and John Kennedy all fit the bill.
“It has been said that history is nothing but stories of great men.”
For the purposes of giving Brady his due, I’m going to overlook the gender issue here. (Big of me, don’t you think?) I don’t buy this theory in every world-changing sequence of events, but there are some people who are made for the biggest stage.
Brady is one of them.
I do not care how much Brady and Belichick try to sell us on “we’re just a collection of team-first guys” we all know that this year it’s really about Brady. It’s Tom Terrific and a bunch of role-players. There is a big, big difference.
Conversely, despite the “elite Eli” hype, Big Blue is a team of stars. So far, the Giants have stayed true to their own identity. New York is a straightforward, tell-it-like-it-is city. As glitzy as the dropping ball may be on New Year’s Eve, New York is really a just-get-it-done kind of place.
New Yorkers have a foxhole mentality where each man takes a turn at being the hero. 9/11 proved it.
Eli Manning’s mantra has been that he simply tries to get better and better to be the best quarterback he can be—to help his team win. His public persona says, “Oh shucks, I’m just a working guy trying to make some plays.”
That’s sweet, but it masks a calm determination to “not get beat.” Anyone who takes more than 20 hits in a championship game and doesn’t throw a pick is a machine. A fourth-quarter touchdown-throwing machine.
Honestly, it’s almost Al Davis-esque. Keep hitting them by running the rock and then kill them with the vertical game. Combined with an old-school brand of bull-rush, physically-pounding defense, this type of team character can be devastating.
We hear a lot about culture in football. The Giants mirror the culture of their city: stars who are grounded enough to walk down Seventh Avenue without a posse. A bunch of hard-pounding, hard-working, take-no-prisoners teammates.
Remember that, gentlemen.
Check out my complete matchup analysis of Super Bowl XLVI: Every Unit, Every Star, How Gronkowski's injury will affect the Big Game, and Does Tom Coughlin make it to the HOF?