Before last night’s big catch, I had a small white dog named Tiki Barber. We picked his name three years ago, partly due to our love of the then-Giant’s player, but more so because we enjoyed the irony that a rodent-like canine would bare the same name as a strapping athlete.
However, after the 2008 Super Bowl victory and Tiki’s mid-season defection, we’ve officially changing the dog’s name to Plaxico Burress.
Let me back up a bit for a moment.
I am not a football fan. Basketball, yes (barely). But football?
Nope. Can’t do it. My husband—and as a result, my children—are football fans, specifically Giants fans. And genuine Giants fans (not fair-weather fans) who’ve been devoted since their dismal 0-2 start at the beginning of the season. When this underdog of all underdog teams made it to the Super Bowl, my family felt it was time for an
intervention: They would make me a football fan no matter what.
Old methods of patiently translating plays into laymen’s terms and offering up stats hadn’t worked in the past. So they resorted to what they hoped would get me—a good, juicy, story. My husband sat me down on Saturday and I listened, spellbound, as he spun a tale that was nothing short of Greek tragedy or a daytime soap opera at the very least. He started with the dismal season the giants had slogged through and the continuing momentum gathered by the stalwart Patriots.
He told me about Tiki Barber’s mid-season defection (shame on him), about his bad mouthing of the team, the coach and then some. He told me about the death of not one, but two of the team owners, the Patriarchs Tish and Mara. He gave me Eli Manning’s bio, that he was like “the little quarterback who could” (my words) who lived in the shadow of his brother, Super Bowl winner and MVP Peyton, and this was his big change to overcome his own doubts about his ability to lead the team to victory. The added bonus was the multi-generational piece that the Manning boys were spawned by NFL player Archie, although he had never made it to a play off game himself. He then threw in more details about early season rumors about the coach getting fired, his insulting one-year contract and other tidbits that burned the story into my memory, especially the fact that the season, to some, had been relegated to the “Eli-error” from the “Eli-era.”
I have to admit, I wanted to say afterwards, “You had me at, ‘Tiki announced his retirement,’” but he was enjoying telling the story too much.
Then he filled me in on the Patriots: about Tom Brady (who of course I knew, but only as Giselle’s Adonis boyfriend), and about their undefeated season record. If they won, it would be history in the making, and if they lost, their victorious season would ostensibly be stricken from NFL memory.
“So it’s not how you play the game?” I asked naively.
“Are you kidding?” he said. “This is professional sports. Not third grade.”
So on game day I dutifully spray-painted my kids hair red, white, and blue, I baked chocolate chip cookies complete with team color sprinkles and I wore a Giants hat, which was the best I could do in terms of my own uniform. Much of the first half I spent only half watching the game, half chatting with my girlfriends. But during the second half of the game I was transformed from passive observer to 110 percent committed fan. All the family history and team drama came rushing forth and heightened the plays on the field, which for most fans were already sensational enough. I had my daughter on my lap, my husband and son next to me, and a gaggle of friends and fans all around me. I am hoarse today from the involuntary screams and cheers I found myself emitting, as what I witnessed what my husband kept saying was “impossible” happening before our very eyes. I felt that rush of adrenaline that all sports fans must feel regularly and the indescribable connection to something that seemed, well, silly to me in the past.
When Eli Manning threw the winning pass that lead the Giants to their
17-14 victory, it wasn’t a quarterback I saw throwing the ball. It was a son carrying out a legacy, a brother coming out of the shadow; it was a boy, like my boy, who loved a game and played it well.
I cheered with my husband, who was teary-eyed and beside himself with joy and frankly, despite his undying devotion to the team, disbelief.
“The Giants won the Super Bowl! The Giants won the Super Bowl!” he chanted over and over, perhaps to convince himself it was really true.
I stood beside him, but despite my newfound fan status, I could feel his disappointment that he wasn’t among super fans like himself (they were at the game) and that we couldn’t ,despite our best efforts, feel what he was feeling as intensely as he was feeling it himself.
Post game day has been filled with replays, highlights and newspaper articles being bandied about. We ordered our Super Bowl champ sweatshirts first thing and I must confess to being disappointed that the game went too late for the NY Post to print a Post-worthy headline about it.
I will never care about stats and probably never understand the difference between offensive and defensive pass interference. But I know enough to change my dog’s name from a traitorous tailback back to a clutch receiver.