Eleven days to go and they’re already rattled in Boston.
The fear fairly reeks from the headlines: “There’s no way Patriots lose to Giants again, right?” “Will the mistakes of Super Bowl XLII come back?”
And this curious downer, which seemed less a comment on the past than a prediction of the future: “Patriots can’t avoid Super loss to Giants.”
Actually, the Boston sports writer meant to chide fans and players to remember their Super Bowl Alamo — a 17-14 loss to the Boys in Blue in 2008 — so as not to repeat the past in their Feb. 5 rematch in Super Bowl XLVI.
But New Englanders, especially sports fans, have long memories (see “Bambino, Curse of, 1920-2004”). “There are a lot of people here who wanted San Francisco to win (in the NFC Championship),” said Boston native and Patriots fan Eileen Marr, “because we’re afraid of the Giants.”
There it was. Plain and simple.
New England blinked first.
If you think there’s more than a little whiff of fear in the frigid New England air or concern about — dare we say it — the curse that haunted the Red Sox for 84 years after they traded Babe Ruth to the Yankees, then you’d be right.
And it’s not just the writers. Anxiety is already bubbling up on Patriots message boards. One fan wrote to the Boston Herald, “giants are scary, brady will be on the ground a lot, eli is much better than he was 4 yrs ago.”
Another wrote, “giants are peaking right now, pats are not.”
And a third added, “history will repeat itself, AGAIN! … Giants are good on both sides of the ball, hope we have the schemes to overcome this team, just being real about it.”
Eileen Campbell, who lives in the Boston suburb of Hanover, put it more simply.
“Eli’s on fire, and it makes me very nervous.”
Three weeks ago, before the Patriots even suited up for their first playoff game, Marc Freshman, a columnist for bleachereport.com and a Bostonian, warned fans to “recognize the coming storm” if they were rooting for a Super Bowl rematch with the Giants.
“Without rhyme or reason the Giants are New England’s kryptonite,” he said.
Perhaps that explains why Tom Brady, the Patriots’ GQ QB, sounded a bit unsure of himself after Sunday’s win against Baltimore in the AFC Championship.
“I sucked pretty bad today, but our defense saved us,” he told reporters. “I’m going to try to go out and do a better job in a couple weeks.”
Try to go out and do a better job?! Really?!
What a difference four years, and a Super Bowl loss to the Giants, have made. In that 2008 ubermatch, the Pats were riding the crest of an 18-0 unbeaten streak. The Giants, on the other hand, were a slightly ragtag wild card team that had just lost to New England in a high-scoring squeaker in the final game of the regular season.
In the days leading up to the championship game, the Boston newspapers fairly crowed: “Patriots-Giants also means we get to see the Patriots beat another Manning brother, this time in the Super Bowl instead of the AFC Championship,” the Boston Globe wrote. “It means we get to torture New York fans again.”
Well, not quite. Instead, the devastating three-point loss meant Patriots fans got to torture themselves by watching endless reruns of the Giants’ game-winning final drive: a suddenly slithery Manning, a gravity-defying “helmet catch” by David Tyree and the inevitable TD pass to Plaxico Burress that clinched the Giants their third Super Bowl win.
Ignominy overtook immortality that black Sunday, as the Patriots were robbed not only of the championship, but also of their perfect season.
It’s understandable, then, that New England fans may be a little gun-shy. Instead of touting their less-than-lockdown defense, they have spent endless hours this season in silent prayer to the ghost of Myra Kraft, the late wife of Patriots owner Bob Kraft, who passed away last July. She is sometimes referred to as the team’s “gridiron guardian angel” and her ethereal cheerleading has been credited by fans for the Ravens kicker shanking that chip shot of a field goal in the final seconds of the AFC Championship Game. Cheers of “wide left!” not a Brady touchdown bomb, sent the Patriots to the Super Bowl.
With Baltimore safely in the rear-view mirror, all of New England is obsessing about the Giants.
It should come as no surprise, then, that New England’s fans are taking this game personally. Many, in fact, are calling Super Bowl XLVI “Revenge Bowl 2012.” But as the poet John Milton wrote, “He that studieth revenge keepeth his own wounds green.”
How fresh are those wounds? Some Patriots fans won’t even speak Big Blue’s name. Instead, they refer to the Giants as “the team from that city south of Hartford.”
Others avoid mentioning the infamous Super Bowl loss by invoking J.K. Rowling (see Voldemort, Harry Potter nemesis) and calling it the “Game Which Must Not Be Named.”
Even Brady has admitted he can’t watch highlights of the one that slipped away.
All this Sturm und Drang is lost on most Giants fans. When it comes to professional football, New England is just a breakaway republic of New York and
New Jersey. From 1925, the year the Giants were founded, until 1960 when the Patriots played their first game at Boston University Field, New Englanders had rooted for its nearest football neighbor: New York. Y.A. Tittle, Sam Huff and Frank Gifford were hometown heroes in Beantown and Southie, Dorchester and Charlestown as much as they were in Brooklyn, Bergen and Bayonne.
“The Giants players were household names all around New England,” former Patriots wideout and kicker Gino Capelletti told USA Today in 2009.
Even after the Pats entered the NFL — and spent their first 10 years rotating among four fields, including Boston University and Harvard — many hearts in New England still belonged to the G-men.
“The Giants were the big favorites,” former Patriots quarterback Babe Parilli said in 2009, “and we were infringing on them.”
It took a couple of decades for loyal New Englanders to switch allegiances, but when they did, they did it all the way. They are still “blue bloods,” of course, but they bleed Patriots blue now.
Which is why these colorconscious, jinx-fearing fans were expressing worry this week after it was announced that the Patriots, designated the home team for this year’s Super Bowl, have chosen to wear their navy blue jerseys and gray pants.
Just like last time.
Article Source: Amy Ellis Nutt @www.nj.com