Rooting for History in Super Bowl XLII
There are games, and there are big games.
And then, there was Super Bowl XLII.
To begin—congratulations on the Giants' epic, monumental, how-the-fuck victory over the New England Patriots. They did something that, admit it, NO ONE thought they'd do, and they did it in brazen, balls-to-the-wall fashion.
They deserve all the kudos in the world, from Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning—even though saying that combination of words still doesn't feel right, like saying that Paris Hilton is a productive member of society—to should-be MVP Justin Tuck, to coach Tom Coughlin, and to a defense that held the statistically best offence in the history of the NFL to just 7 points going into the fourth quarter.
This was a Giants team that started off 0-2, a team with a laughingstock quarterback, a holdout superstar, and a coach that many considered already fired. And now they stand atop the NFL mountain as champions of the entire league, a flag of blue and white triumphantly planted in the conquered carcass of the once-perfect Patriots.
It's a great story, no doubt. And I'm willing to accept that the Giants won. I'm not a fan of either of these teams—I'm a Chargers and Falcons man myself—and so I watched this Super Bowl not as a fan of the Patriots or the Giants but as a fan of history.
For this reason, it gets me so frustrated when I hear people, who may have watched one game of football in their lives, say that they rooted for the underdog.
Ignore the fact that that's one of the biggest cliches in sports. Forget the fact that unless you're a legitimate fan of the underdog team, cheering for the underdog is just a win-win situation for the fan with no allegiances (or testicles)—if they win, you get to say you were cheering for them the entire time, and if they lose, you say they weren't supposed to win, anyway.
Now, don't get me wrong, there's not much better than a good underdog story. When the Edmonton Oilers made their Cinderella run to the 2005 Stanley Cup Finals, I witnessed it first-hand. There's nothing more satisfying than a dogged overachieving effort for a team to win, icing that pervasive philosophy in sports that yes, anything CAN happen.
But I watched that Super Bowl as a fan of history. I watched so I could see something I could tell my kids about, tell them that I saw sports perfection, an undefeated team, the sort of team that comes almost once-in-a-lifetime.
When they came up against the Giants, I, along with everyone else, assumed this would be a coronation-experts called the Giants a team of destiny for winning six straight to get to the Super Bowl, but I can't help but think destiny probably helped a little in letting the Patriots win eighteen straight.
For supporters of the underdog: you could have cheered for an underdog in any other game, in any other sport, on any other date. But when you cheered against the Patriots, you were irrationally cheering against history. I'll never be able to say I saw perfection—I'll say I saw 18-1. And almost isn't nearly as good as full out.
I'm not saying that those who cheered for the Giants didn't deserve it, nor that the Giants didn't. The Patriots' O-line was absolutely overwhelmed by the Giants' aggressive blitzing, and their inexperienced but effective secondary shut down Randy Moss.
New York's pass rush delivered constant pressure, headlined by Tuck's MVP performance and by Michael Strahan, who deserves this championship more than perhaps anyone, the charismatic face of this franchise for fifteen years.
Belichick was out-coached—4th and 13 in field goal range?—and Brady was visibly injured, showing no mobility in the pocket. The vastly underrated Jeff Feagles punted the Patriots into impossible field position.
The Patriots began the game with little energy, their boredom translating to frustration. Eli Manning put together drives that made experts question which brother was behind centre. The Manning-Tyree catch is going to define both of their careers and be on highlight reels for decades to come.
I'm also not saying that fans who cheered for the Giants affected the game, that their support from TVs across the continent propelled the Giants to victory or caused shooting pains in Tom Brady's ankle.
The Giants winning the Super Bowl was a great story. But everyone who cheered for the Giants for the mere fact that they were underdogs, so they could obnoxiously tell everyone that it was great that the underdog won, went the win-win route and rooted for the David in this battle against Goliath. There was a bigger story here that you could have supported.
You could've cheered for history. You could've cheered for perfection. And when you have a chance to cheer for that, Why cheer for anything else?
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