In February 2008, I was 37 years old and watching the worst Super Bowl of my life. As a Jets fan, all I could take solace in was that either the Patriots or the Giants would lose. But someone was going to win. And as the game progressed, I was really hoping it would be the Patriots.
What? Yes, I wanted to see them win. I had already seen it three times, what was one more? The Jets were already looking up at New England and I didn't want to be in second place in my own city. And it looked like New England was going to spare me, until David Tyree superglued the football to his helmet late in the fourth quarter. He's a Syracuse guy, so he was my guy, sort of, but he helped win the game for the Giants, so that made it hard. It felt like watching one of your best friends marry the girl you had a crush on all throughout high school. (This actually sort of happened to me, when at the prom my best friend made out with a girl I had liked for, oh, like eight years. He didn't know it, so I was able to forgive him. You know what? I think you get my point, so I'm going to move on.)
It's been almost four years since that catch. Four years since Tedy Bruschi and Junior Seau hugged on the sideline like the game was over after Tom Brady put the Patriots ahead with a touchdown pass to Randy Moss. Four years since, according to armchair DBs, Rodney Harrison should have gone up with a soft hand and ripped the ball away. Four years that Tyree's been able to go to card shows and sign pictures of the catch for $25 a pop, if he wants. Or do interviews and say he'd trade that catch to keep marriage between a man and a woman. It's stuff like that that makes me want every player in every sport to be a hero at some point, so we can hear what they'd say when everyone wants to know what they think. "Is there life on other planets? Sure. And I've been there. I'm going again after the season."
I've been thinking a lot about Tyree this week, with 2007 once again a hot topic around football. Specifically, people are talking about how this seems like 2007 all over again for the Giants. How they went to Green Bay, in the frigid cold, won, and then ruined the Patriots' unbeaten season. Tyree doesn't catch that ball and 2007 never happens for the Giants. But he did and it did. History repeats itself, right?
The more I think about it, not so much. It seems like the whole world thinks the Giants will upset the Packers this weekend just because the circumstances surrounding their postseason are reminiscent of 2007! We're getting the band back together! Jimmy's moving back from Minneapolis, and Vic still has his drum set. Just because the Giants made a big run then doesn't mean it's going to happen now. Is it scary, like it was then, that the Giants are getting hot at the right time? Absolutely. But they're going to leave Lambeau Field with an "L". Because this Packers team is nothing like that 2007 Packers team.
In 2007, Brett Favre had a renaissance season, with 28 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. But he was still the Riverboat Gambler (just ask Corey Webster), who still had a penchant for throwing the wrong pass at the absolute wrong time. This season, Aaron Rodgers, coming off a Super Bowl MVP, became the best quarterback in football, throwing 45 touchdowns and six interceptions. Even when he was missing the final game of the season as a DNP-CD, he was helping backup Matt Flynn make $40 million. He's perfect. Advantage, 2011.
In the 2007 NFC Championship Game loss to the Giants, Donald Driver was the Packers' best receiver. Koren Robinson had the second most catches with four, while Donald Lee caught three passes and Greg Jennings one. Um, the Packers' wide receiver corps is just a tad better now than it was then. Advantage, 2011.
In 2007, the Giants snuck up on everyone -- they were the Wild-Card Team That Could. They weren't supposed to beat Tampa Bay on the road, but yep, they did. There was no way they were going to beat the Cowboys in Dallas, but guess what? They did. There was NO WAY they were going into Lambeau and taking a Super Bowl away from Favre. But they did. And it was going to be simply impossible for them to beat the Patriots, but you know how that turned out. This season, though, they won't sneak up on anyone. All week long, Green Bay has had to hear about how New York is coming to town to play David. Advantage, 2011.
But let's not forget the most important thing about this weekend's game -- the Packers are the best team in football, period. They've proven it over the course of this season and last. This isn't a ragtag group looking for one final shot at the heavyweight belt, like that squad from four years ago. This is a team that knows how to win, has won, and won't underestimate anything or anyone. Advantage, 2011.
Sometimes it's not about your team, but about your opposition. This is what the Giants are up against Sunday night.