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In Judaism, when we sit for the Passover seder, we sing a song called “Dayenu.” The title roughly translates to “It would be enough,” as in: if God had lead the Jews out of Egypt but left us in the desert, that would have been enough – Dayenu. If God had lead us through the desert but didn’t feed us, that would be enough – Dayenu. We Jews are not a picky people, at least in song form.
The same edict applies to Sunday’s big game. If the Giants had just made the playoffs and that’s it, Dayenu. If they had just won their home playoff game and that’s it, Dayenu. If they had just beaten Green Bay and that’s it, Dayenu. If they had just made the NFC Championship game without winning it, Dayenu.
Well, now they’re in the Super Bowl (!!!) and somehow, it’s not enough. There’s a problem here, and the problem is that they are playing out the exact same storyline as their 2008 victory, the greatest victory in Giants history and arguably the best Super Bowl ever played. Super Bowl 42 and the road to the game were both full of so many surprises, upsets and near miracles that the memory could never be topped. They somehow did it all again, and if they lose now, it’s going to Super Suck.
The strange, twisted, all-too-familiar five-week odyssey that is the New York Giants’ run to Super Bowl 46 is about to end, no matter what. There are two outcomes: either they complete the Disney storyline, triumph over the juggernaut Patriots and pull off two of the strangest championships in the history of sports, or they lose and tarnish the memory of Super Bowl 42.
The stakes couldn’t be higher – the rematch, the weird parallels, the fact that this win may vault both Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin into the Hall of Fame one day (seriously, what?) and may cement the Giants as the team of the Obama Era, in the same way the Pats were the team of the Bush II era.
The stakes also couldn’t be lower – go back to early December, and most people (myself included) were predicting a sub-.500 finish for the Giants and a possible coaching change. The fact that NY is here at all is so beyond expectation, and the fact that they are just four years removed from their previous Super Bowl victory means that this whole experience is icing on a weird football cake. They’re playing with house money, so who cares if they lose it.
Oh I’m doing fine, by the way. Thanks for asking. I haven’t shaved in two weeks, I can’t sleep, I barely shower, and I stare longingly at my Super Bowl 42 DVD and Sports Illustrated Super Bowl 42 victory football. It’s midweek, and I assume by Sunday I will have both the smell and demeanor of a homeless person. Of course, four years ago this time I was already deep in the ocean of insanity, driven mad from anticipation and barely able to communicate with friends and loved ones.
So I guess I’m doing fine.
I don’t know what I am going to feel Sunday night when the game ends. Relief, for one thing, regardless of outcome. Probably some residual confusion, as I remain utterly stumped by how the Giants got here in the first place and what cruel twist of fate ensured that these two teams would meet again. I don’t know why this game matters so much to me, but I am also sure it matters less to me than 42 did.
In general, I think the Giants matter less to me than they did four years ago. I was born smack in the middle of NY’s two Super Bowl victories in 1986 and 1991, and by the time I was aware of my fandom I had the displeasure of watching the Giants lose a sloppy, unsatisfying Super Bowl in 2001. I endured a mostly crappy seven years of Giants football, coupled with decades of crappy Knicks and Mets teams.
Then the Giants won, and they won in incredible fashion, in possibly the most perfect way a team can win. The next season was probably the least invested I have ever been in a football season – the Giants won 12 games, and the division, and it was a wonderful title defense and the loss to Philadelphia barely made an impact. The next season was a wash, but the team was still riding the coattails of their victory. Last season barely mattered until the last game, when playoff math and tiebreakers ensured the Giants would sit at home that January and I felt some familiar pangs of anger.
Then this season began, and it suddenly mattered again. The drama, the disappointment, the elation, the wonderful masochism that is being a sports fan returned and I felt sick pleasure in watching them lose and absolute ecstasy every time they mounted a last-minute comeback. A true Jekyll and Hyde team is the most painful to watch: Give me a boring juggernaut or a pathetic loser over that team that just barely sucks you in, only to crush you every other week.
This team couldn’t put it together until it did. This team has as good a chance as any to win on Sunday, and a strong chance to lose. The hype, and the story lines, and the actual game itself will barely matter next September because this team is not returning to the big game so fast, and hardly needs to do so in order to justify how well they have played these past four weeks.
I will leave you with two quick personal notes that will hopefully appeal to the superstitious fan in all of us. I recently moved to the same location I lived in for Super Bowl 42, and will be watching 46 in the same place with the same person – my father, another lifelong Giants fan. This time, I will change up the karma, and instead of watching it alone in silence, I will watch with dozens of friends and various hangers-on. We can’t try to recapture the past entirely.
But my grandfather, another lifer who is about as old as the Giants organization itself, for the first and only time watched a Super Bowl on a cruise ship in the middle of the Caribbean sea. That was Super Bowl 42.
This year? His boat leaves Thursday, and he’ll watch 46 on the same ocean as 42. But this time, we’re calling it a Cruz.