Sports

Giants, fans in Big Blue Heaven

AP

Iconic Miami Herald sports columnist Edwin Pope, who died January 19, covered the first 47 Super Bowls. This column from Super Bowl XLII, in which the underdog Giants ended New England’s unbeaten season in the Arizona desert, originally ran on Feb. 4, 2008.

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Pandemonium. Glorious, glorious pandemonium.

People — New York people, obviously —were going bananas. They were crying real tears after the Giants tumbled the Patriots 17-14 in Super Bowl XLII. And maybe a few people from other places, too. People who understand everything New York has gone through, in a lot of ways besides just football.

I'm not anti-New England. I understand Patriots folks have feelings, too, no matter how callously the Pats have trampled the Dolphins for so long. But in my own sort of Super Bowl-hardened way, my heart went rushing up right alongside those of all those Giants devotees here Sunday.

The Giants go back so far, so deeply into New York's psyche, a great deal of what happened here Sunday seemed very, very right.

I'm not particularly pro-Tom Coughlin, either, although he does sometimes look a little bit like St. Francis of Assisi, when you compare him with that troll Bill Belichick of the Patriots. But the job Coughlin and his padded warriors did on the Patriots was one of the best anyone has ever ever seen in all of those Super Bowls.

“It wasn't all pretty out there,” Coughlin said, in as wise as postmortem as any Super Sunday has known.

DEFENSIVE INTENSITY

It wasn't, at that. This was low-power offense all around, driven, to be sure, by high-power defense.

Even now, looking back, it's not hard to understand why the Patriots were favored by 12 points. Their talent tells why. But it is the sum total of how you put it all together that wins or loses the day. The Patriots might win four out of every five games these teams might play, but in Super Bowls it is all what you did before the confetti guns go off.

Yesterday doesn't matter. Tomorrow doesn't exist. It's only the moments that count — moments like those flying by when Eli Manning brought the Giants clawing back, banging away downfield, daring the practically perennial champion Patriots to stop them.

No wonder so many folks blew their cool when the final numbers blinked out. Twelve-point underdogs! And eating the Patriots for lunch and dinner.

This is what New York Giants toughness is. It is shutting down the quarterback, which I would guess will go down as the best job ever in a Super Bowl. You hold Tom Brady to 14 points, you deserve all the confetti, all the rings, all the bragging rights.

“They did everything they had to,” Brady said, as ruefully as you would figure.

“Believe it,” said Michael Strahan, the hero of the victorious defense.

Strahan added, “No one expected us to win.”

That is not quite true. That's a bit of underdog paranoia spewing forth after the great upset. Coughlin still couldn't quite disguise his resentment at those who undersold his team.

I thought Giants owner Steve Tisch put everything in the most suitable light when he said, “We play for the city of New York, and the New York Giants fans around the country.”

FINS RELIEVED

I also liked the way the news was received in the camp of the only team that ever went perfect.

“I don't take joy in the fact the Patriots lost,” said Jim Mandich, who surely qualifies as a spokesman for the 1972 gang.

“But I do relish and savor the fact that there has been only one unbeaten team in the history of the NFL, and it is the '72 Dolphins. Of that, I am extremely proud.”

Again, Mandich wasn't gloating. He has more class than that, and he knows better.

Tough as the Patriots are, they still could overhaul Miami's old kings.

Another former Dolphin, Wes Welker, the Patriots' mighty-mite pass-catcher, took defeat as philosophically as his ultra-competitive soul would allow. “The Giants played sharp,” he said. He didn't say his team didn't, because it did, but it couldn't close out a team that wouldn't be closed out.

Finally, no one summarized the Super Bowl better than than Giants receiver Plaxico Burress. “We are the champions, baby,” Burress said.

In all the pandemonium, no one said anything quite that true.

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