In a choice between two forces of evil, how do you make a distinction? When forced to decide, in a situation where either choice dooms you, how is it even possible to come to a conclusion that won't leave you miserable?
It's a situation I've been wrestling with for the last two weeks. Even since Bill Cundiff pushed a field goal wide to the right against the New England Patriots, and ever since the San Francisco 49ers fumbled two separate punt returns to hand the NFC Championship to the New York Football Giants.
Two enjoyable football games to the average NFL fan, but two games that doomed me to an impossible choice. Who to root for on Super Bowl Sunday? (Still not sure if I can legally use the term Super Bowl, but I think it falls within the Fair Use doctrine)
Football games can't end in a tie (at least in the playoffs), so barring a meteor or blimp attack, either the Giants or the Patriots will win on Sunday. Either way, it's a disaster for someone like me, a passionate Eagles fan who's also earned a reputation as an avowed Patriots-hater.
I've been on the fence for literally two weeks. What can you do when faced with this choice? Who should I be rooting for?
I've gone through the list in my head, the pros and cons for each team, and it still seems fairly even. Some might wonder, why do you hate the Giants and Patriots so much? Let me tell you why...
Reasons to Hate the Patriots
1. They defeated the Eagles in the 2004 Super Bowl - Somewhat obvious. Granted, the Eagles really didn't do themselves any favors, but the Patriots beat them in Jacksonville in what will likely go down as Andy Reid's best shot to win a championship (and Donovan McNabb's only shot). What still gets me is the memory of the Patriots players mocking the Eagles by flapping their wings. Probably more directed at Terrell Owens, but still something that smacked of poor sportsmanship to me...along those lines...
2. They're total a**holes about it, winning - The Patriots seem to relish the opportunity to bully other teams and run up scores like a 10 year old Madden player. They haven't been doing this as much recently, but over the years this is a team that would keep passing when up 30 points, running fake punts, drop kicks, and other absurdities, essentially just being a team of a**holes. Often times is seems like the first act of a sports movie, when the evil (if it's a straight misfits storyline) and/or bigoted (if the misfits are black/latino/asian/gay/purple) team comes in and beats the crap out of the hero squad. That's what this team represents to me. To me, that's the Patriot Way...wow, let's keep that going...
3. The Patriot Way - What the hell is this nonsense about? Did the Steelers of the 70's have 'The Steelers Way'? Did the Cowboys of the 90's have the 'Cowboy Way'? Maybe they did and I'm too young to know, but when did we all of a sudden decide the Patriots just do their thing and advance through football behind some righteous approach? Just googling it gave me a decent quote, "Just having mental toughness, everyone doing their job, and ignoring the noise," linebacker Jerod Mayo said. "It’s hammered in our head every day. If everyone does their job, we’ll be successful."
So the Patriot Way is doing your job. Fine, nothing wrong with that conceptually, but what's with the mystique the media lathers all over these clowns? Maybe it's more of an issue I have with sports media, but the Patriots aren't the ones dispelling it either (maybe so they can sell their Patriot Way books on Amazon...yeeesh)
4. Cheating - Don't forget, this team was BUSTED by the NFL for cheating! Somehow, all this gets lost in the shuffle of alternating brown-nosing between Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. As far as I'm concerned, videotaping the other team's signals is the true Patriot Way, tying back in with their overall lack of sportsmanship and their true fate to be cast as a model for evil in the world of sports (note: evil in terms of team performance...at least these guys aren't out raping everyone. I realize there's a distinction)
5. The City of Boston's Happiness - I covered this years ago in an entry on Why Boston Fans Suck, but it's managed to get worse since then. The city has keeps winning titles across all sports. And with championship rings, comes unbelievable arrogance and puffed out chests, and no city seems to have warmed to the role of douchebag fans more easily than Boston. These guys couldn't win anything 15 years ago, now every kid can't remember the years were there wasn't a parade in Beantown. It just doesn't feel right...isn't this city still racist or something? Does Dunkin Donuts cause liver cancer? Can we get a child molestation scandal run out of Fenway Park (oh wait...that actually happened)
Of course, then there's the other side...
Reasons to Hate the Giants
1. New Yorkers are even more arrogant than Boston fans - During the Red Sox-Yankees games, you know what people outside of those two fan bases think? We think about how much we hate BOTH of you! If Boston has become the most arrogant fan base going right now, the New York is the standard by which all arrogant fan bases must be judged. Such smugness, a direct corollary to their belief that New York is the center of the universe. The idea of them winning a Super Bowl just makes my skin crawl, what with all their 'Go Giants' and their stupid accents.
I need a YouTube break just to make me feel better. Oh, here's one...
Ahhh...nothing beats it.
2. The 'Sliding Doors' theory - People don't even think about the fact that the Eagles very easily could have made the playoffs instead of the Giants. People are going to jump all over me here and talk about how the Giants 'Did What they Had to Do' or some other such nonsense to get where they are. Cram it. That's a bunch of horse hockey.
Fact: The Giants finished the season 9-7, the Eagles finished just behind at 8-8.
Fact: The Giants were OUTSCORED by their opponents in the regular season by 6 points. The Eagles outscored their opponents by 68 points.
Fact: The Eagles beat the Giants once this season, and in the other loss were forced to use Vince Young and Mike Kafka at quarterback
People can talk all they want about how the Giants 'Just know how to win when it counts', or how 'Tom Coughlin gets his team ready to play in big situations,' but realize that it's all nonsense. Lucky bounces determine a lot more about where teams finish than we'd like to admit, and in many alternate scenarios, the Eagles would be in the playoffs and the Giants would be at home. That's what makes this season so frustrating. If the Eagles had bothered to find a linebacker who could play NFL football, it might be some embittered Giants fan ranting about who he'd have to root for.
3. Tom Coughlin - We were so close to a world in which this guy was fired years ago. I don't even think Giants fans liked him. Every year with this guy it was 'when is he going to get canned'. Actually, this article lays it out quite well.
Now, people are saying he'll likely be a Hall of Fame coach if the Giants win tomorrow. Sorry for being an elitist, but if every year people debate whether you're performing at a level worth of just keeping your job, you probably shouldn't be going to the Hall of Fame. Doesn't everyone work with at least one person where you constantly wonder, 'How do they keep their job? They're terrible!' Now picture them going to a Hall of Fame for their work. There's a disconnect there.
4. A Giants win would convince some people Eli Manning is better than Peyton Manning - This gets my goat too. At this point in the blog so many of my goats have been gotten. I doubt I have any more goats. But when you live in a world of idiots, some people are going to look at the team-based game of football, and they're going to oversimplify and they're going to say, 'Hey, Eli Manning has won two Super Bowls, and Peyton's only won once, so Eli's better'
They'll link it to toughness or clutch or some kind of charisma, because objective performance criteria clearly won't explain the theory. They'll be morons, but we'll have to deal with them.
So after all that, what the hell can I do? The easiest way to settle the debate would be to sign up for an online sports betting site, flip a coin after establishing the Patriots as heads and the Giants as tails, and bet $100 on the result. That would at least give me a financial incentive and that would probably be enough. But let's pretend gambling is illegal (wait, it is?!?), what kind of outcome can I hope for?
Well, the way I see it, I absolutely can't stand the Giants winning. That would be too much New York arrogance overload. But I also can't stand the Patriots hype machine building Belichick and Brady to be two demi-gods who delivered us football glory with their presence.
So...I think I'm hoping for a big night for Zoltan.
Zoltan Mesko is the Patriots punter, and I hope he is the one shining light in what proves to be the most poorly played and poorly coached Super Bowl of all time!
I want to see missed receivers, dropped snaps, and tons of false start penalties!
I want to see a coach try to challenge something unchallengable!
I want to see someone pick up a fumble and return it to the WRONG end zone!
I want to see someone vomit, wet themselves, or maybe both!
And dozens, DOZENS of punts.
Zoltan Mesko for MVP!