When Lawrence Tynes finally figured out how to put a ball through the uprights on that freezing Sunday, a strangely bittersweet sensation swept over me. True, the normally disliked rival Packers had just lost. But at what cost?
For with that fatal kick, America had nightmarishly bumped into ESPN’s Viagra: another showdown between New York and Boston. Great for them. But for middle America, this is the Super Bowel. A year after getting our Midwestern kicks over the Colts facing the Bears and turning towns like Rensselaer, IN and Danville, IL into heated pigskin battlegrounds, we now are facing the unenviable task of rooting for a team from the dreaded, attention-grabbing Northeast. But which one?
Not too long ago, the choice would have been an easy one: go with the team from Boston. I’ve always looked kindly to Boston thanks in large part to a big Irish population, tons of historic structures, an affinity for baked beans and farting, and Boston Cream donuts. Most importantly, I could relate because teams from Boston were losers. The underdogs.
New York, on the other hand, was full of mean people who had no patience. I wasn’t sure how to relate to them, even though I literally am since my grandma was born and raised in Brooklyn.
But this year, the traditional lines between Boston and New York in the old underdog/favorite, good guy/bad guy sense have become inexorably blurred. As everyone has noticed by now, teams from Beantown aren’t losing at anything.
The Red Sox wrapped up their second World Series title in four years, and have the tools to win plenty more rings in upcoming seasons. Yeah, I know you suffered for a bunch of years before that, but no one in Boston ever had to wait as long as anyone in Chicago — North Side or South Side — to reach the top of the mountain. And I’m still waiting for my team to do it (and I don’t plan on holding my breath to wait for the Cubs to end the drought at Year 100). So while I was happy to see Boston get the first one, now I’m just jealous.
The one team in Boston that actually had seen a level of success over the years, the Celtics, had been irrelevant for the past 20. But now they’re back, and with Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen leading the way, they look unstoppable in the East. Maybe the aging Pistons will have a say about that in the playoffs, but for the time being the Eastern Conference is Boston’s playground.
Even the “worst” team in Boston, the Bruins, is poised to make the playoffs. Compare that to Miami, where the best team is… er… well, pretty much every team in Miami is going to finish the season in last place.
And then the coup-de-gras, the Patriots, who have already established themselves as the team of the new century, with three rings on their fingers. And to rub a little more salt in Miami’s collective wounds, they are on the precipice of knocking the ’72 Dolphins off their lofty mantle as the only undefeated team of the Super Bowl era.
But for many people, that is precisely the reason to be rooting for the Patriots on Super Sunday. There are precious few people in this country who don’t tire of the ’72 Dolphins cracking open the champagne every year when an undefeated team goes down.
Then again, few characters in the NFL are as unsympathetic as Bill Beliprick. He is one of a very select group who can make Ben Stein’s character in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” look engaging in comparison. And he’s already proven that he’ll do anything to win, rules and regulations be damned.
Of all the strange things that have happened in this year’s NFL playoffs, consider this the strangest: we are faced with a Super Bowl coaching battle in which Tom Coughlin is the nice guy.
And even though they are from New York, the Giants are the ultimate feel-good story. Their coach and quarterback have excelled under constant criticism. They’ve won 10 straight road games, including improbable playoff wins at Dallas and Green Bay. Their roster is filled with guys like Osi Umenyiora, Chris Snee, and Lawrence Tynes, who all took improbable paths to the NFL. (As a quick sidenote, does Lawrence Tynes get to walk around the Giants complex and call himself “The New LT” after winning the NFC title?)
But then again, it kind of makes sense. This Super Bowl is a good reminder that deep down, the real city of underdogs is New York. The place where a simple family, with enough hard work and gumption, can move on up to the east side, to a deluxe apartment in the sky.
Plus, who would you rather be cheering on? The team Ben Affleck is rooting for, or the one that Carl from Aqua Teen Hunger Force is backing? (I don’t care if he’s just a cartoon character. So is Ben Affleck).
So Go Big Blue. I’m behind you. (Even though you’re still going to lose).