Anyone who knows me in the non-virtual realm can tell you that I have a long list of things that I Do Not Put Up With. I won’t bore you with a recitation of said list, but I’d like to mark a new addition this week (it’s sports-related, and no, I am not going to add fuel to the Peyton Manning fire until his future has been decided): Making Excuses For the Patriots’ Super Bowl Loss.
*Disclaimer: for any Patriots fans who might be reading this, I promise there will be no talk of Spy-Gate or defamation of any characters or sneering. I promise. (I still detest the Patriots, but I am at least fair in a public writing forum.) I’d instead like to talk about the news-related excuses being made by talking heads not affiliated with the Patriots.
*Let’s start with Rob Gronkowski, or, as I have been dubbing him, the Ankle Heard Round the World. Was it healed? Was he going to play? These breathlessly-worded questions came to a head when he played at half capacity with a taped-up ankle. There were at least two instances where he appeared to be incapacitated: the interception caught by Chase Blackburn, and his inability to catch the Hail Mary pass at the very end of the game, amidst a crowd of Giants defenders. In several cases, I have heard “Oh, if Rob Gronkowski was healthy, this would not have happened” and “Rob Gronkowski’s ankle was the difference in this Super Bowl.” Really? If one player with a taped-up ankle is the difference maker in a game you lose, how good was your team to begin with? That’s the horrible question the Colts had to answer all season without Peyton Manning.
In an ideal world, key players would be healthy for big games. But that’s not always the case, so the team has to make do with what it has. Ergo, if “Gronk” is half-capacity, then other players have to shoulder the burden. If Gronkowski’s injury was the difference-maker,then maybe the Patriots weren’t all that stunning to begin with.
And for that matter, would that Hail Mary pass have really worked? It’s not called a Hail Mary for nothing. When Tom Brady lobs a ball into the endzone with at least four people vying for it, the chances of Gronkowski actually catching and maintaining possession of it are–at best–slim. So, why all the talk about his health? It’s irrelevant to a last-minute desperation play. He was only slightly more likely to catch it on a healthy ankle.
edit: My sister E emailed me to remind me that I’ve said absolutely nothing about the Giants’ TWO tight ends that were injured in the game. My apologies. Additionally, both Giants’ tight ends had to leave the game due to injury. So, Eli Manning adjusted the playbook to fit the needs of the team. Jake Ballard’s out? Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs might have to run it more. Travis Beckum tore an ACL? Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz, and Mario Manningham have to pick it up a bit more. Which they did.
*Another excuse: Wes Welker’s dropped pass (and Aaron Hernandez’s. and…) cost the Patriots the game (thank you, Gisele Bundchen, apparently armchair quarterback extraordanaire). Really, are we going to blame one person for losing the Super Bowl? Players make mistakes individually, and together a team makes a LOT of mistakes. The difference for this particular game was the execution and correction of said mistakes. The Giants made their fair share of mistakes, too: think a couple of fumbles. Yet, there was another player to jump on the fumble and repossess it for the team. Teamwork wins games, as the Giants have proven.
*One of my favorites: The Giants got lucky. Yes, they did. A lot of teams get lucky. But what to do with that luck? The Giants had to beat the Jets and the Cowboys to even get to the playoffs (after a stretch of playing the Patriots, 49ers, Eagles, Saints, Packers, Cowboys, and Redskins–all playoff or division teams). Then, they had to play three playoff games to get to the Super Bowl. Which they did. And then they capitalized on the Patriots’ mistakes to win the Super Bowl. That’s a lot of momentum for a team that had a tough season. Luck was involved, but it also required recognizing an opportunity and seizing it.
*I can’t even believe I’m addressing this: Bill Belichick’s advice to his defense to force throws to Mario Manningham cost the Patriots the Super Bowl. REALLY? Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks were hot this season. So, it makes logical sense for Belichick to have his safetys focus on them. Eli Manning is smart enough to figure this out,so he’s going to spread the ball around (I’ve seen both him and Peyton play enough to mention this…). Therefore, when Mario Manningham gets a catch or two, he’s going to try and do his best. David Tyree was not a well-known receiver before his helmet-catch-heard-round-the-world in 2008. Sometimes the obscurest people can make the best plays. You can’t predict football. So, if Victor Cruz is going to be double-teamed, the rest of the offense is going to have to step up. Which it ultimately did.
Overall, I’m just really tired of hearing the talking heads pick apart all the reasons to rationalize how the Patriots could possibly have lost to the lowly Giants. The point is: when it comes to the Big Game, you have to do the work to pull out the win, no matter how hard, no matter who’s hurt, no matter how ugly it gets. The Giants have figured that out. It’s too bad sports pundits still seem to be obsessed with the glitz of the Patriots.