Monday, January 21, 2008

Giants Beat Packers 23-20 in OT—NY Football Fans Say “WTF?”

Dug out the 1986 Lawrence Taylor jersey for good luck—Son-of-a-bitch worked!

I just got home a little while ago, after doing something I never do—which is go to a local sports bar to watch the “big game” and all that stuff. I'm not the football fan I used to be in my youth, when I worshipped the smash-mouth defensive / pounding running game offense teams like my Steelers, Raiders and Giants (I lived in a house full of Dallas Cowboy fans in the Landry/Staubach era and rooted for the anti-Cowboy teams). I played the game like a madman until my early 20's at wide out, half back, and at linebacker and safety. My love affair with the game ended on Thanksgiving 1988 when I nearly ripped every bit of soft tissue in my left ankle in a pile-up. I stopped playing, I sorta stopped caring.

But every once in a while, the love comes back. I throw a ball around with my son and he burns spirals into my chest with a better QB gun than I ever had. I collect classic jerseys—Jim Brown, Earl Campbell, Namath (Jets and Rams), and Montana to name a few. A bit of the old fire has come back recently. I was entertaining friends from out-of-town a few weeks ago and we caught the amazing Giants/Patriots game at the bar of the W Hotel here in Union Square. the air was electric. That the Jints even competed against the mighty Pats had people wound up in a big way. They more than competed—they played their asses off. That game set things up in town emotionally, giving these Giants fans a bit more confidence than we should have had, what with our general feelings about the team and the QB Eli Manning.

Better than half the team's fans hate the coach Tom Coughlin, and maybe even more hate the QB “Porcelain Pants” (as one bar game-watcher called him) Eli Manning.

Coughlin's a stodgy, stubborn jerk of a man, prone to toss players under the bus and a real red-ass when he gets his defensive shield up—which is all the fucking time.

Manning, the QB has spent his young career as “Mr. Potential”—a pretty good QB in terms of his skill set, but frankly as a fan, I say nowhere near his brother Peyton Manning as far as QB gifts go. Probably the worst thing about him is being Peyton's brother and everybody looking at him through that prism of near-perfection. Eli's been soft too many times—soft and cocky, which has engendered a load of ill will. His post-loss press conferences where he sports a “Nailed it!” smirk and persona just makes a lot of us hate him that much more.

The kid ain't well liked 'round home, to say the least.

But something happened late this year, where Manning seemed to stop trying to be something he wasn't—which is his frighteningly gifted brother. He stopped forcing balls into double coverage and rudimentary zone traps set by secondarys. He—God, I hate using this phrase, but it's apt—started playing within himself, doing what he could do. The Giants improbably managed to beat the Buccaneers, the hated fucking Cowboys, and now, the immensely respected Brett Favre and the Packers in minus-24 degree wind chill on “The Frozen Tundra At Lambeau Field” in Green Bay. People were at the spot worrying about Coach Coughlin's uncovered and apparently cold-damaged face. “He's fuckin' frostbitten!” a friend said.

“A win'll make all that pain feel better.” another said. “Only thing good about a brick-cold game is winnin' it. Lose that bitch and you feel like a corpse on a slab.”

We went to the bar tonight because the big-screen TV at my house is ensconced in the back bedroom, where we parked it upon moving it from my late father-in-law's house. And the wife didn't want me and a bunch of writer friends of mine spilling Dr. Brown's Black Cherry soda, various beers, lime-infused tortilla chips and salsa and whatnot all over stuff in our bedroom. The old 25-incher in the living room ain't what she once was—so out we were banished, into the 18º degree cold.

The crowd? Excited, but pragmatic. They wanted the Jints to win, but didn't expect it against badass Brett Favre at home in that arena of legends. Somehow, Manning kept his cool in spite of the repeated preidictions from patrons. “Inteception here!“ “I'm calling a fumble!” “Here comes the fuck-up...” What they didn't say, many of us thought. Manning has that tendency to fucking implode at the key moment in a big game, and has done it too many times for many of us to have much faith in him. Whan Favre got the ball first in OT, the place cleared out quite a bit, with everyone sensing that the silver-bearded chucker would dink us down the field only to have it finish at the end of a kicker's uncreased cleat.

And yet, here we are...with the Giants (and at least one Manning brother) going on to the Super Bowl after vanquishing the Pack.

The assembled at the bar were happy, but still realistic enough to ask repeatedly, “How did this happen?” Nobody was bragging—just openly wondering “When's he gonna fuck up?”

And somehow, he never did. One guy was doing a cross between Dave Chappelle in the Wayne Brady skit and ESPN's Chris Berman, constantly screaming “What the fuuuuck? What the fuuuuck?” every time Manning and the Giants managed to answer back or stand their ground. The bartender served a round on the house for everyone because “them winning that shit didn't make sense—and neither does free drinks, but hey, the first thing happened, sooooooo...”

And the house whooped and went batshit.

We left the place all wondering, though not quite as loudly as the Chappelle/Berman dude, “What the fuck?”

In retrospect, a few things did happen:

1.) Manning stopped trying to be Superman in tough moments of games. It's easier to throw a Bat-a-Rang than to move a planet. Plus, he's actually reading defenses. Color me shocked as shit.

2.) The offense diversiffied. There was Burress at wide out, supported by a resurgent and clutch-crafty Amani Toomer and the rookie Steve Smith, Plus the backfield strength deepened with the emergence of Ahmad Bradshaw to support the bulling Brandon Jacobs. Give a half-way decent QB a bunch of options to use—particularly a running game that can eat clock like Fridge Perry ate hot wings, and a little time in the pocket and he can do some amazing things. The offensive options developed at just the right time for Manning. Go figure.

3.) The defense also diversified, going from just Strahan terrorizing QB's to Umienyora and Tuck joining him in swamping offensive lines late in the game. That, and the fact that the NFC's “top teams” are ridiculously flawed when compared with their stronger AFC counterparts and if one team got hot as the Jints did, it would “run the table”.

And run the table the Giants fucking did—much to NY football fans surprise. “I dunno who put the bug in his ear,” one patron said, “But whoever told him to stop goin' for K.O.s and just out-point the opposition and got him to listen deserves half the little shit's salary.”

“He can afford it now—his endorsement rate just doubled.” another barfly chimed in.

This was capped by my friend “J” musing aloud “You know who's sayin' 'What the fuck?' louder than anybody else tonight?”


The Jints have been installed as 14-point underdogs against the stupid-talented, perfect-recorded Pats in the Super Bowl as of a half-hour ago.

As they should be.

As they have been against every team worth a damn this season.

And yet.....I mean, it's fucking impossible. It makes no sense. Like me getting a top-shelf drinky—a bone-warming blast of Knob Creek—on the house along with the house, right?

If this annoying shit (Manning) manages to pull this off, a truckload of NY-ers are gonna have to get dumpsters to unload all the debris from our basement-fallen mouths.

Happy? Yes we are.

Dumbfounded over the win? Yeah...that. too.

And I'd put Steve, a rabid Giants fan, God rest him—solidly in that realistic, no bullshit camp of Jints fans.

Happy as hell over the wins, while kinda stunned at exactly how.

Props to “The Pack” and their loyal, crazy-ass fans in Green Bay—who shovel the snow off their stadium's bleachers on an off-day 'cause they're hard-core like that.

And go, Big Blue...and do...whatever you've been doin', and keeping us “WTF?”-ing our asses off.