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New England Patriots

Love and the New York Giants: It happens when you least expect it

I am single. I’m fine with this, but I know I won’t be forever. As a result, I date a lot. Probably too much if you ask my friends or my wallet, but in the now multi-year, multi-part journey I’ve endured in hopes of finding someone to share a few months if not my life I have been met by one frustration after another and remain single. This is partially because I’m picky and partially because I’m an obnoxious sarcastic loudmouth who occasionally misses the nuances of charmed conversation, but in all irksome experiences that compose the catastrophic cluster that is dating in New York city in your 20s, my friends have continually harped on one maxim to ease my anxieties.

“It always happens when you least expect it.”

Now that is a load of horseshit if I ever heard it. I’ve spent all but three years of my post-pubescent life not particularly trying in the dating world and the vast majority of that was all spent single. So clearly, not expecting it hasn’t really been the elixir. In all of my life the only area in which not expecting anything has truly paid off has been with the first, most dearest thing I ever truly fell in love with: The New York Football Giants.

I was a wide-eyed optimist when I first was cast under the spell of Big Blue in the early 1990s. After all, the Giants were just a few seasons removed from their last Super Bowl title, an upset of the high-powered Buffalo Bills in 1990 that is unfortunately far more widely remembered for Scott Norwood’s miss of a far more difficult than remembered game-winning field goal as time expired than it is for Bill Parcells’ brilliant ball-control game plan — the Giants had more than 40 minutes of possession — or Mark Ingram’s insane, twisting extension that earned a crucial New York first down. The first season I truly got invested in the NFL, the Giants battled with Dallas for the top seed in the NFC before the Cowboys, and Emmitt Smith, literally ran away with it in overtime in the final game of the season in 1994 — on a separated shoulder no less.

Surely, I thought, it wouldn’t be long before the Giants climbed to the top again though. And that’s when the years of frustration set in, starting right with the nationally televised Monday Night Opener in 1995 in which the Giants got drubbed by the ‘Boys on their home turf 35-0. For most of my life that had been the way for the Giants, a constant disappointment as I desperately searched for success in my football team. A few exciting seasons came and went, division titles in 1997, 2000 and 2005 and a Super Bowl berth in 2000 among them. But the frustrating, head-shaking losses came, too.

A stunning loss to Minnesota in the 1997 playoffs, an embarrassing Super Bowl defeat to the Baltimore Ravens, an almost incomprehensibly absurd blown 24-point lead in the 2002 playoffs to the 49ers in a game that featured botched field goals and botched officiating aplenty, an embarrassing playoff loss to Carolina in 2005, Vince Young’s coming out party in 2006 in which the Giants blew a 21-0 lead with 10 minutes to play and the entirety of the 2006 season in which the Giants were poised to enter the second half of their showdown for first place in the NFC with the Bears up 10-0 before a converted draw on 3rd and 22 for Chicago upended the game and Devin Hester slow-played a short field-goal return for a touchdown. All of this would send New York into a disastrous 2-6 spiral to end the season before it was mercifully put to an end on a last-second field goal by Philadelphia in the … Read more...

Instant Trade Analysis: Patriots move up to #21

New England traded the #27 overall pick to Cincinnati, in exchange for the Bengals’ #21 pick. The Patriots also included additional picks to go to Cincy, specifically their 3rd round pick.

The Patriots have finally done something with all those picks they’ve been hoarding and traded up for Chandler Jones. I think it’s a great move. Their biggest flaw heading into this offseason was their pass rush and now they’re getting a defensive end who Mike Mayock said could be the best to come out of this draft.

The defending AFC Champions just got a little scarier. They still have another first rounder and I still expect them to trade down, because they always do.

(Ed. update: the Patriots didn’t trade down from their 2nd first round pick, but actually traded up again!)… Read more...

Super Bowl Preview: The Anxiety of History

Many of you know — or at least assume from the name — that I’m mostly here to talk to you about hockey. I do love hockey, this is true. As a fan of the New Jersey Devils, I’ve been a dedicated and largely satisfied fan for most of my life. Their recent struggles aside, before last season the Devils hadn’t missed the playoffs since before I hit puberty, and in my lifetime I had seen three Stanley Cups, which isn’t too shabby. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when the Devils missed the playoffs for the first time last spring, but as I later discussed with a coworker who was equally as dedicated to his Detroit Red Wings, watching the postseason was, well, fun. And without stress. And kind of enjoyable.

Don’t get me wrong, I would much rather see my Devils in the playoffs than not, but there is a dirty little secret about professional sports that the Leagues and teams would probably prefer you don’t know: It’s not fun to watch your team in the playoffs. Not one bit.

I bring this up because in 48 hours, the first sports team I ever fell in love with — and the one I probably like more than any other — is going to roll for all the marbles in Super Bowl XVLI when my Giants take on the New England Patriots. As I found four years ago, there is no greater high in sports than when your team wins an unexpected championship against a truly great foe in the waning seconds, but the anxiety leading up to those moments can be excruciating, and this time around the stakes are the same, but the expectations are wildly different.

The Giants are a hot team riding not just a strong defensive front but a quarterback who has finally manifested and fulfilled his promise as one of the top signal callers in the League — one with a wide receiving corps that has shredded foes on its playoff run. The Patriots are still a good team, but they are not a great one and they no longer have a perfect 18-0 record blinding the masses from the fact that they are flawed and mentally exhausted by the pressures of perfection.

That changes the perception — and the inherent anxiety — because now the Giants are not just scrappy underdogs, they have expectations from a significant segment of their fan base, the media, and evidently themselves as the last week’s bluster has shown. That adds up to me writhing with knots in my stomach for two weeks after the momentary joy of getting through the NFC Championship Game, which was almost certainly the most angst-inducing, emotionally exhausting football game I’ve ever watched.

Of course, even if it’s angst-inducing for us fans, none of this really matters, for the exact same reason that I told a friend of mine last week when he was worried about being over-confident that it didn’t matter.

We’re not playing.

There are only 106 people who can have an impact on the physical action on the field as players and only a handful more that can do it as coaches or front office personnel. We won’t be performing. We will only be watching. And really, in the end, that may be the worst part about it, having an emotional investment without having any control. But in the meantime we can pretend to have an impact, which we do with an endless series of overanalysis, video dissection, storyline invention and predictions that all add up to ceaseless noise.

Far be it from me to refuse to add to that cacophony, however. So here we go, in as simple a way as possible.

When the Giants have the ball
See, this Eli Manning feller. He’s really pretty good. And after last wee… Read more...