Sunday, February 4, 2018

18 and 1 : Remembering an Iconic Super Bowl

Ten years ago, I wrote this piece on Super Bowl 42: the scrappy wild-card New York Giants vs. the undefeated New England Patriots who were one game away from a never-before-acheived 19-0 season. As a New York Giants fan, I cannot think of this past season without steam coming out of my ears. But this Super Bowl weekend, I will indulge in thinking about one of the greatest upsets in sports history. This is the post I wrote 10 years ago...

The Perfect Climax
by Geralyn Corcillo
Every few years or so I dust off Touch Not the Cat by Mary Stewart and reread it, just so I can get to page 227, when Bryony runs out into the moonlit orchard and well, I won't tell you – but it's the best part of the story.
And I'll bet that everyone knows the feeling I'm talking about: reading a dog-eared book or watching a favorite movie just to get to that scene that makes you go mmmrrh! We don't skip ahead to the incandescent chapter, or fast forward to the culminating scene, because without the build up, the climax is a let down. Captain Wentworth’s striding in and asking for Anne in front of everyone wouldn’t grab you by the guts and never let go without that preceding heartbreak, betrayal, belittling and loneliness.
Build-up, climax, bliss -- it's the pulse of romance . . . and sports.
I watch sports to feel the thrill when that 3-point shot at the buzzer wins the game, when that amazing catch in the end zone defies physics, when that guy nobody ever heard of knocks out an invincible champion, when that bunch of college kids ices a communist powerhouse.
A romance writing friend once commented, "Geralyn, that's why there are highlights."
But come on! Highlight reels provide no more than superficial thrills. But when you know what's at stake in the contest, and when you sweat as you watch the fight, the pay-off is visceral.  Mmmrrh . . . 
Why else was this past Sunday's Super Bowl XLII the most watched thing ever on TV, second only to the final episode of M*A*S*H? Are there so many Patriots and Giants fans out there? Maybe, but I suspect the game’s popularity was due to not just the foreplay, but more significantly, the guarantee of an explosive climax.
As Sports Illustrated so succinctly said of Sunday's game, “The Super Bowl would be either a CORONATION or a COLOSSAL UPSET.” In one corner is a smug, undefeated, championship team who wants to make history by becoming the only NFL franchise to go 19-0 in a season. In the other corner is a scrappy wild card team who had unexpectedly beaten redoubtable play-offs rivals to become the second-worse franchise ever to make it to the Super Bowl. New York's Plaxico Burress predicts a 23-17 Giants win. Tom Brady laughs at a press conference at the notion of his Patriots scoring a mere 17 points. Can the New York defense stop the locomotion of the New England offense? Tom Brady looms infallible – can Eli Manning, league leader in interceptions thrown during the regular season, step up?
As it turns out, Plaxico is wrong. The Giants hold the Patriots to 14 points, not 17, thanks to a defense that sacks Tom Brady 5 times and breaks up the Hail Mary. And in the last 2 minutes of the game, Patriots on top by 4, young Eli steps up. Courtesy of an offensive line that wouldn’t quit, he breaks out of a near-sack to throw to third-string receiver David Tyree who makes one of the most amazing catches in NFL history. Seriously, who catches a football with his head? A final pass to Plaxico in the end zone, and the Patriots end an 18-1 season. Those scrappy Giants won the Super Bowl.
It was the perfect climax.

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