Like the elemental psychological battle between fear and greed being played out every day in the financial markets this week, I am psychologically being torn asunder between rooting for my hometown New York Giants, and rooting for the New England Patriots.
Any fan of Dr. Strangelove will know what I am talking about.
On February 3rd, by all rights, I should be screaming for the Giants. After all, I grew up in New York, rooting for the early-1960s teams that had true Giants on it: Andy Robustelli, Rosey Grier, Y. A. Tittle, Del Shofner, Frank Gifford, Kyle Rote. Rooting for the Giants who fought the Packers valiantly on the frozen tundra of Yankee Stadium in 1962. A little part of me died that day when we lost 16-7 in frozen 40 mile an hour winds that rendered our passing attack next to useless.
While a few years later I found myself rooting for the anti-establishment AFL and the Namath-led New York Jets, and later (swayed by my kids) for the 49ers after our family moved to the Bay Area, let’s face it: It’s next to impossible for anyone who grew up in the Big Apple to root against our team from East Rutherford when they’re playing a team from the Evil Empire, Boston.
Moreover, these Giants are worth rooting for. After a slow start at the beginning of the season, they came storming back to a great second half. They fought the Patriots valiantly to a 38-35 loss on December 29 in the last game of the regular season—a game where they had nothing at stake and could have rested their starters for the playoffs, where they were underdogs.
Even Eli Manning, who New York fans have a love-hate relationship with, came visibly into his own against the Patriots in December. His confidence growing, Eli has played flawless ball since then, even in Ice Bowl II at Lambeau last Sunday, where he out-thought and out-lasted even the great Brett Favre.
But there is something else going on this year, and even New York fans need to root for the Patriots, for Patriotic reasons. For the good of the game. The Patriots, although looking much more vulnerable during the second half of the season, are 18-0. They are going for the first perfect season since 1972, the second perfect season in NFL history, and the first perfect 19-0 season.
Why do I care? Why should everyone care? Because it’s time to silence the 1972 Miami Dolphins for good, that’s why.
I watched those Dolphins in 1972. They were a balanced, elegant team, classy and fun to watch. Griese was a solid quarterback. Larry Csonka was a punishing fullback, and Mercury Morris a slashing runner and return specialist. Don Shula was a classy coach who was clearly a future Hall of Famer.
But that was then. In the years since, the 1972 Dolphins have virtually redefined bad sportsmanship.
For the past 20 years, every time an NFL team starts out 8-0, or 10-0, the 1972 Dolphins start sniping at them on TV and in the media. They show up at games and are visibly rooting against the team on the roll. They are quoted saying unsportsman-like things in newspapers and on TV. And they visibly sip champagne and literally dance on the grave of the team when it inevitably then goes 8-1, or 10-1, rejoicing in the fact that their Dolphins have maintained the distinction of being the only perfect team.
I am tired of their poor sportsmanship. The 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalties many of us have been awarding them for years are hollow. While the Dolphins are entitled to their own private opinions of other teams, and of themselves, they should comport themselves like the champions they were and appear to encourage perfection in the sport, not discourage it.
They are a disgrace.
The final blow came this year in early November. It came after the Spygate scandal at the beginning of the season where the Patriots were fined for shooting video of the Jets. And it came after the awesome Patriots defeated the previously-undefeated Peyton Manning and the Colts to go 9-0. Fearful that the Pats would go all the way, what then did Don Shula say? "The Spygate thing has diminished what they've [the Patriots] accomplished," he told New York Daily News. "I guess you got the same thing as putting an asterisk by Barry Bonds' home run record.”
That is NOT what a Hall of Fame coach should say. It is obnoxious and low-class. It is shameful. Shula’s retraction a few days later was too little, too late.
No, the 1972 Dolphins need to be silenced forever. And the Patriots are the team to do it.
That is why I am, very reluctantly, turning my back temporarily on the city of my birth and rooting for the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. Then, count me as against all Boston teams forever beginning on February 4th.