Four years ago this week leading up to the Super Bowl That Shall Not Be Named, I published an article in the paper edition of Barstool Sports about how I hate the New York Giants, why I hate the Giants, the depth of my hatred for the Giants, the way I grew up hating the Giants and all the different ways I hate the Giants.
It was all about growing up in New England in how I've had to tolerate living in the shadow of Big Blue my whole life. Surrounded by older guys like my friends' dads who rooted for the Giants before there was a Patriots and passed that insufferable trait along to my friends. And how for my whole life we've been subjected to Giants games in the Boston TV market each and every damned Sunday the Pats aren't on. How every day they've ever lost a game was a good day for me, even times when they were losing double-digit games a year. And how the time Joe Pisarcik coughed it up at the end to cost them the game against Philly is one of the happiest, most vivid memories of my very happy childhood.
I don't remember everything I wrote, though I'm sure it was just as snarky and Massholey and you'd expect a piece like that to be. But it wasn't sarcastic, I know that much. I meant every word I said. And while it's not my style to make predictions, I have to assume I threw some sort of reference in there to “Therefore the Giants would be the perfect team to finish a perfect season against” or something along those lines.
As you can imagine, I paid the price. For years afterward, I was getting e-mails from gloating Giants fans out to drink my blood. I imagine the piece was passed around on Big Blue message boards and sent out in chain e-mails with subject lines like “Giants Haters' Salty Tears of Incredible Sadness” and so on. It took me a while, but I answered every single one of them. But I told them all that the reason the Giants won the S.B.T.S.N.B.N. was that they were the better team, period. They played better, and that's how we decide who the better team is. It wasn't easy, believe me. It took a lot of liquor to wash the taste of that much crow out of my mouth.
So with that, the week and a half since the Giants beat San Francisco to set up this rematch has been a bit of a nightmare for me. I mean, the Patriots' half of Championship Sunday wasn't cream cheese, either. That entire Baltimore game I didn't have a lick of fun. It wasn't a game. It wasn't fun. It was more like an endurance test you have to survive in order to gain acceptance into some primitive culture.
Yet as bad as that was, even in the excruciating moment I could tell this rematch was coming. I could sense the Giants. Like Ron Swanson in “Parks & Recreation” when his second ex-wife named Tammy -- Tammy 2 -- enters the building and he can feel her presence (“I can smell the sulfur coming off her cloven hooves ...”) I knew this was going to happen and I'd have to face my worst fears.
But that was then. This is now (or so I'm told). And as all-time horrible, worst-loss-ever terrible and I'll-never-follow-sports-again painful as that game in 2008 was, I'm feeling pretty good about this one coming up. Truly. For a while there I figured I'd be as stressed out as the Baltimore game to the 10th power. That there'd be no way I could handle this rematch. But I'm OK. Preternaturally calm. No worries. Clear eyes. Full heart. And do you know why?
Because the Patriots can't possibly win. Not a chance.
I know this because I've been listening to the press all week. WEEI, of course. The sports networks. Reading the national pundits. The ex players. The out-of-work coaches. And they're all speaking with one voice: The Pats have NO shot.
So why sweat it? Why waste perfectly good worry on a situation that's utterly hopeless? I'm just going to say the Serenity Prayer, accept the inevitable and spend the day policing the platters to make sure no one double dips and yukking it up at the ads like all the non-football fans in the room always manage to. Stress-free, no dog in the fight, not a care in the world.
Usually I'm sitting here preaching optimism in this city of anti-Patriots media negativity. I've watched them win 15 of 18 and make it to the final two in the league and thought that was worth feeling good about. But I surrender. The nattering nabobs have won. There's no point in even playing the game. Why bother? Let's just go right from Kelly Clarkson to Madonna to Tom Coughlin accepting the trophy with nothing in between but cute animals selling sodas and cavemen selling insurance. It'll save time and no one has to be hung over at work Monday morning.
For example, on Dennis & Callahan they did a position-by-position comparison the two teams and gave the Giants the edge in every single category. Including coach and quarterback. And I'm with those guys. The Giants get every checkmark, which explains how they managed to go 18-0.
Well, I'm with them and all the guys on TV. No more doubling down on optimism for me. I'm going with the experts, sliding my karma chips into the middle of the table and going all in.
Facts, as they say, are stubborn things. And for this game coming up, the facts are these:
The Giants have been the hottest team in football over the last month. They've won five straight games. The Patriots have only won 10 straight.
The Patriots were lucky to get here. Lee Evans dropped that pass that Sterling Moore ferociously ripped out of his hands, which was pure luck. Kyle Williams letting a punt he had no intention of returning graze off his knee? Typical great clutch play by the G-Men.
Eli Manning is more than just Brady's equal. You can't spell “elite” without him. He's the winningest winner that's ever won. He LOVES taking sacks. Can't be intimidated. He never forces a bad throw and laughs in the face of a pass rush. His legend grows like William Wallace's. He's 7 feet tall. Kills men by the hundreds. He'll consume New England with fireballs from his eyes and bolts of lightning from his arse.
Brady? You can pressure him. Put him on the ground. He doesn't like to get hit. He gets rattled. Don't let the fact that that's been everyone's game plan for the last 11 years, three Super Bowl wins, two MVP seasons and last two weeks of playoff wins make you think it doesn't work.
Brady's played gawdawful in the playoffs, if you take away that unworldly, record-breaking job against Denver. And you must take it away. It doesn't count.
The Patriots looked terrible in some of their games, including that one they barely won in Washington. Sure, the Redskins beat the Giants by two touchdowns twice, but that's erroneous.
The Giants defensive front four are an irresistible force, as unblockable as a tsunami. There is no hope of stopping them with the Pats' measly three Pro Bowlers and best blocking tight end in the league.
The Giants can pound the ball with Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs. Don't get sidetracked by that whole “last in the NFL in rushing” thing.
Rob Gronkowski is missing practices and that's going to cost New England in a big way. Hakeem Nicks (336 yards, 4 TDs in the playoffs) is missing practices, but he'll be fine.
The Giants completely shut down the Patriots offense in Week 9. Besides those 17 points the Pats scored in the fourth quarter once they quit worrying about max-protecting Brady, spread New York out and played their own game.
Devin McCourty might have had a great rookie year but this year he's been a disaster so they had to move him to safety. Antrel Rolle was great as a rookie then was a disaster and had to be moved to safety. But that doesn't count, either.
Eli will shred New England's secondary, which was 31st in the league. Brady has no chance against New York's secondary, which was a whopping 29th.
Coughlin's superhuman brain operates on a plane of existence the human mind cannot comprehend. Don't let all those annual demands he be fired that fill the New York tabloids distract you from the truth that he's the greatest football intellect since the first coach ever crawled out of the primordial ooze and learned to walk on land. Besides, what does Bill Belichick know about winning big games?
Abandon all hope, ye who enter this weekend. I know I have. Now finally I can relax and have fun with the game.
Jerry is on Twitter @JerryThornton1