Immortality can come with losing the Super Bowl
Posted: Tuesday January 22, 2008 2:11PM; Updated: Tuesday January 22, 2008 2:13PM
"No one remembers who loses the Super Bowl."
It's an oft-uttered statement, most recently by Eli Manning in the pages of the New York Post, but it's not true. The weeks of mind-melting hype and the NFL's grandest stage all but ensure immortality, win or lose.
Amid the luster and hooplah of big brother Peyton's coronation last year, I'll still be able to recall his counterpart Rex Grossman years from now. Or Matt Hasselbeck, Jerramy Stevens and the Seahawks who got run over by The Bus in Detroit two years ago. Then there are the truly unforgettable losers.
The 1990 Bills of Scott Norwood, Thurman Thomas, Jim Kelly and Bruce Smith, not to mention the three editions of the team that followed in successive years. (The scrappy Don Beebe remains in many hearts.) The 1968 Colts of Bubba Smith, John Unitas and Earl Morrall. Steve McNair's and Eddie George's Titans, whose Kevin Dyson fell one yard short as time expired in Super Bowl XXXIV. John Elway's Broncos until they finally grabbed the clean end of the stick in Super Bowl XXXII. The Vikings of Fran Tarkenton and the Purple People Eaters who never tasted victory.
Chances are you not only recall the game, but a host of players on each losing team. Even obscurities stand out. I've never forgotten Norris Weese, the backup quarterback the Broncos fed to the Cowboys in Super Bowl XII after starter Craig Morton had been pounded into the turf in a game Denver lost, 27-10. Or Joe Kapp and Gary Cuozzo, the Vikings QBs who got trampled by the Chiefs in Super Bowl IV. Cuozzo later became a dentist.
If the defeat is bad enough, it can be harder to remember who won. I still recall the Falcons of Eugene "Miami Vice" Robinson, Chris Chandler and Jamal Anderson, partly for the way they derailed the 15-1 Vikings with an OT field goal in the NFC Championship Game, but mostly because of Robinson's pre-Super Bowl XXXIII tete a tete with an undercover cop prior to Atlanta's getting hammered by the....I actually had to look this up: Broncos, 34-19.
So Eli need not worry if the Giants come up short or get their big blue butts handed to them in a fine China serving dish. By dint of his connection with his brother, and the Manning family's' achievement of successive Super Bowl appearances, Eli and his teammates will long be remembered for their unlikely run to the title game, not to mention the kid finally coming into his own. On the other paw, Tom Brady and the Patriots have more to fear by losing as they will end up on the wrong end of one of the Super Bowl's greatest upsets -- I say "one" because the 13-1 Colts being upended by the 11-3 AFL Jets was tantamount, at the time, to these Pats going down at the hands of a CFL team. Brady and Co. will also have a blemish on their remarkable record that stands out like a big blue puswart.
No one will forget that in a hurry.
A silver lining
In a baleful age when you need a Geiger counter to find the redeeming value in sports under the slag heap of cheating, congressional inquisitions, night club imbroglios and other unsavory fooferaw, the Giants and Patriots stand as living tributes to perseverance and unselfishness.
The Giants, in particular, never give up no matter how stupidly they play, how big a hole they're in, or how imposing their foe or game conditions may be. They've weathered a season of incessant criticism and skepticism, pulling together in a "team concept" cited by coach Tom Coughlin and much like the one the Patriots introduced before their Super Bowl XXXVI showdown with the heavily-favored, high-glamour Greatest Show on Turf Rams.
If one can take anything from watching others play a game, it's that you have nothing to lose by continuing to battle and strive when the going gets tough. You can actually point at these Giants and say to your kid, "Pay no attention to that goofball Brandon Jacobs firing the ball against the game clock, just notice the good things that can happen when you don't stop trying."
It's amazing, not mention sickening, how often modern, well-paid athletes lapse into me-first whining and finger-pointing when things look bleak. As a fan who coughs up his hard-earned money and valuable time to watch these clowns, all you ask and deserve is a hard, honest effort until the final gun. You've been getting it from the Giants and the Patriots, who for all their success have remained -- Spygate and charges of smugness aside -- remarkably grounded. The Pats are hardly the most detestable of champions, and even Randy Moss -- his recent flap pending -- has been about on-field performance this season. They're focused and all-business. A rarity.
Sad to say, and it's the times we live in, but these are no small reasons to savor these two teams. They really stand out.