Monday, November 17, 2008

Giants? I'm still not so sure.

I grew up a New York Giants fan. My dad is a Giants fan and so was my grandfather. I reached an age when I could really watch and understand the game of football at exactly the same time Lawrence Taylor and Phil Simms came on to the scene. My father and I never missed a game -- how could you pass up watching Simms-to-McConkey, Mark Bavaro rumbling over safeties and cornerbacks, and that spark plug Joe Morris who literally ran out of his shoes once en route to a touchdown?

Then, after the G-men had scored, out would come LT (who forced offenses to change how they played the game) and Carl Banks and Harry Carson and they would simply crush the opposing offense, sometimes quite literally. I remember watching the end of Joe Theisman's playing career as an LT hit snapped Theisman's leg in 2 places live on Monday Night Football (and yes, it's available on YouTube and no, I'm not going to provide a link because it still makes me queasy even thinking about it). While it's a cliche now, that's when the dumping of the Gatorade cooler first became a pop culture item thanks to Carl Banks, Harry Carson, and a perpetually shocked Bill Parcells. Hell, Joe Madden even did a telestrator assessment of the Gatorade bucket's dimensions, volume, etc., during the Super Bowl!

We loved those guys. I had a Phil Simms poster in my bedroom. My dad? A matching LT poster. I bought him Phil Simms, LT, and Mark Bavaro action figures and to this day, for big Giants games, the poster and the action figures come out to create a shrine to the Giants Gods of Old in the hope of recapturing some of that glory.

But when the Giants won the Super Bowl last year, I just couldn't get myself excited about it. This year, they're 9 - 1 and I know that some commentators feel they're the best team in the NFL. I watched Sunday's game as they blew out the Ravens 30 - 10 and looked moderately impressive doing it. So why can't I get myself to like the new Giants very much?

I think it comes down to the quarterback. I just can't get over my perhaps irrational dislike of Eli Manning. Maybe it's a lingering distaste for how his father Archie appeared to blackmail the San Diego Chargers into trading Eli to the Giants on draft day ("make a deal to trade him to the Giants or he sits out a year and you don't get him"). Perhaps it's the feeling that you just can't ever trust Eli to be sharp enough when he needs to be. You still see the dumb mistakes, the glazed look, the "Manning Face" as it was dubbed by Bill Simmons. And maybe it's the Patriots fan in me rebelling against anything Manning.

I suppose it's like the Presidency where you can have absolutely no respect for the person but respect for the Office. In this case, I'm a fan of the Giants and I always will be. I'm just not a fan of the man standing under center and calling the plays.

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