At the risk of alienating readers on this, the biggest day of Primary Season, the Fashion Week -- dare I say -- the Puppy Bowl of American electoral politics, I feel compelled to say a word about professional sports: I lived in New York City for several years, during the waning days of the Yankees empire and I don't recall for the life of me encountering anyone who cared about football. I taught in an elementary school in the Bronx for three years and never once had occasion to toss a football to a kid during recess; yet today the Giants are feted on the streets of Manhattan and their perpetually vexed quarterback has come to assume an unearned place in the mythos of the game. New York, I love you, but stop with the bullshit.
The Giants play in New Jersey. The entire team, with the exception of one player, lives in New Jersey (now that the vilified, contrarian Tiki Barber has retired). Of course, there are practical explanations for these two facts --ones having mainly to do with space -- but it stands to reason that in a city rife with handball and basketball courts, concrete and earth-formed baseball diamonds, football and football players have no place. Even the Jets, who make a far better case for being New York's team and whose cause won the backing of the skilled Mr. Bloomberg, couldn't wrangle a football stadium out of the chagrined local populace. New York, clearly, is not a football town.
And what about the quarterback, Eli Manning (pictured above)? Some say he has been vindicated and that his various doubters are now silenced, but what game were these people watching on Sunday? I saw a slight young man who put up decent statistics -- but hardly iconic ones -- get bailed out by a trio of gifted wide receivers and a defensive line hell-bent on destroying Tom Brady's mortal soul. On a day when a hero of my youth, Doug Williams, was chosen to present the Lombardi trophy, reminding us anew the raw deal black quarterbacks used to get, an insanely hyped white quarterback vaulted to glory -- surprise, surprise -- on the shoulders of black players.
In the pivotal offensive play of the game, Manning -- lucky as hell -- squirmed his way out of a sack and put up an ill-advised prayer to a well-covered David Tyree. Tyree managed to secure the ball away from his defender, trap it against his helmet, fall backwards, roll over, and somehow not lose possession. This was a spectacular play...for Tyree. Is there room for him in the pantheon? Maybe. Maybe not. One of the greatest plays in football history is The Catch in the 1982 NFC Championship game. Everyone knows Joe Montana threw it, but how many people remember it was Dwight Clark who caught it?
As for the game I was watching on Sunday, it was won on defense: the Patriots were held to 17 points, 140 yards fewer than usual, due in no small part to the Giants' unsung Justin Tuck, who had six tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble. For his services, he got one MVP vote out of 20. Eli Manning got 16 and a half. Justin Tuck won the game for the Giants. How many people will remember him?