Thursday, February 7, 2008

Super Super Bowl

This year’s Super Bowl was seen in more US households than any other, and ranks behind only the final episode of M*A*S*H as the 2nd most-watched TV show ever. Yes the game was close and therefore kept viewers tuned in, but that’s not why it was so popular. It was watched by so many people because of the New England Patriots, and their attempt at making history. The NY Giants were an inconvenience between the Pats and immortality.

For the first half of the season, the Pats were steamrolling their opponents by an average score of 144-3. Then came the game with the Ravens. The Pats very nearly lost that game and were exposed as imperfect, mortal. The games that followed had similar results – yes the Pats won them all, but no longer were they blowing teams out.

In the final week of the season, both the Giants and Pats had zero incentive to play their starters against each other. Both had clinched all they could, and both had an eye on the playoffs. But, instead of rolling over and getting their starters healthy, the Giants decided to give them a game. They did, leading for much of the game before losing by 3 points. It provided the Giants - and in particular Eli Manning – with a major dose of confidence.

In the playoffs, the Giants went on the road and mowed through Jeff Garcia and the Bucs, Romo and the Cowboys, and Favre and the Packers. All 3 losing QB’s made the Pro Bowl as the top 3 in the NFC, and all were upset by Eli and the Giants. Garcia looked overrated. Romo looked Jessica’d. Favre looked old. Each win was more improbable, especially in the below-zero temps at Lambeau field. But with each win the Giants – and in particular Eli – got stronger.

But beat those 3 QB’s and then Brady too? The #1 QB in the NFL, lock for MVP, stud of the NFL Brady? No way. Vegas agreed, and made the Pats a huge favorite.

Meanwhile the Pats did their job and made it to the Super Bowl, where everyone expected them to be. But their opponent was not Dallas or Green Bay as expected, it was those Giants, the same team that had them on the ropes a few weeks earlier. As the 3rd quarter came to a close with the score still only 7-3, I will admit that I was bordering on boredom (sounds catchy). Without a rooting interest, I was looking forward to an exciting game and this was more of a chess match.

Then came the 4th quarter. Quite possibly the most exciting quarter in Super Bowl history, at least in my understated opinion.

The Giants scored their first TD of the game to take the lead. Then late in the quarter, watching Brady drive the Pats down the field to retake the lead, it felt so clearly preordained that here was where the Pats would cement their place. Watching the clock tick, watching the drive, it was all so inevitable. TD pass to Moss, Pats lead, 2 minutes left. There it is.

Then Eli led the Giants on one more drive. On 3rd and long with about a minute left in the game, Eli was swarmed by the Pats defense and very nearly sacked. Instead, he escaped and lobbed a long pass up for grabs. Way down the field, a no-name receiver waited – along with a pro-bowl cornerback. The receiver grabbed the ball and made a miracle catch, pinning the ball against his helmet with one hand while fighting off the defender with the other. The ball never touched the ground.

Greatest play in Super Bowl history.

A couple plays later, Manning threw the game-winning TD with 35 seconds left. Brady coolly led the Pats out one last time but could do nothing. He tried 2 long passes to Moss, probably hoping for an interference call as much as a catch, but got neither. Game over.

Yes it was the most watched Super Bowl ever. The polarizing Pats were the main reason people tuned in - there are teams that people are indifferent about, like say the Jaguars or Seahawks, but EVERYONE had an opinion about the Pats. Still, in the end it was the Giants that had everyone cheering. Everyone except the Pats fans, that is.

As many viewers as the game had, it still amounted to only half the US. What on earth was the other half of the country doing???


Cathy said...

That was one of the few times I rooted for the Giants. Normally, it's against all common sense!

kevin said...

I agree completely. As a Red Sox fan I wanted to root for the Pats but just couldn't. As a Redskins fan I wanted to root for the Pats but just couldn't. Great game!