One for the Ages

The 1969 New York Mets now have a football companion when it comes to monumental professional sports upsets for the ages; monumental enough to tell your kids and grandkids.  The New York Giants 17-14 beating of the New England Patriots has to rank right up there with the all-time shockers in sports.

And, make no mistake, the Giants deserved the victory.  They outplayed the Patriots, and outgained them as well.  The didn’t dominate them, but you don’t expect the underdog to ever dominate the favorite, although the 1969 Mets did beat the favored Orioles 4 games to 1 in the World Series.  If the Pats had held on, they would have been deserving champions and every accolade that would have come with a 19-0 season.

This was a fantastic Super Bowl, a white knuckler, where every play mattered and the action was so intense.  The only other Super Bowl that had this much drama, where every play was so vital to the game’s outcome was Super Bowl 25, when ironically, the Giants beat the Buffalo Bills 20-19 when Scott Norwood missed a 47 yard field goal with 4 seconds left in the game.  The Giants, arguably, have played in the two most exciting Super Bowls of all-time.

Speaking of field goals, the Patriots showed their arrogance by electing to go for it on 4th and 13 from the Giants 32 yard line.  Leading 7-3, a make-able 49 yard field would have given the Pats a 10-3 lead.  Instead, Brady misfired on the pass and the Giants, who had committed the 12 man on the field blunder were spared major damage. 

This Super Bowl pushed the sports of baseball, basketball and all the others even more behind football in popularity.  Already the established king, this game will leave fans salivating for NFL Draft, minicamp, training camp and dare I say, pre-season football.  The highest rated Super Bowl was Super Bowl 16 in January, 1982 with a 49.1 rating, but that was during a time when most Americans still didn’t have cable TV, and yes, there was a blizzard that kept most of Northeast and Midwest indoors on that particular day.  Half the country watched the Super Bowl, the other half made babies.  My bet is that Super Bowl 42 will come very close to that rating. 

Eli Manning established his legacy with this win and the game winning drive. If he is nothing more than a mediocre quarterback the rest of his career, no matter, he won the big one and he won it in New York.  When you win in New York, it’s different.  Only in New York, can 173 touchdown passes, 220 interceptions, and a 50.1 career completion percentage make you a legend, and those stats belong to Hall of Famer Joe Namath.  Namath’s career marks were overshadowed by his masterful play calling in Super Bowl 3, where he went 17 of 28 for 206 yards with no touchdown passes and no interceptions in a 16-7 Jet upset win over the 18 point favorite Colts. 

Manning never has to answer the doubters, because when the game was on the line, young Eli took the Giants 83 yards against the undefeated Patriots.  And, David Tyree became the Max McGee and the Lynn Swann of this Super Bowl with his touchdown catch and his acrobatic play of the game catch that gave the Giants a legitimate chance to pull off the upset. 

The Patriots can no longer be considered the greatest team of all-time, not even the greatest regular season team of all-time.  In order to cement their legacy, they had to win this game and they came up agonizingly short.  Nobody remembers who loses the Presidential elections and nobody is going to give the Patriots their due.  For them the one loss, because of when it happened will always overshadow their 18 wins. 

The 1969 Mets, the 2007 Giants.  I don’t know which teams could realistically rank ahead of them.  The 1968 Jets were an 18 point dog in Super Bowl 3, but the Jets were better than most thought and because the AFL and NFL did not play interleague contests from 1960-1969, it was very tough to gauge how overrated the NFL was and underrated the AFL was.

The 1990 Cincinnati Reds stunned the heavily favored Oakland A’s to win the World Series in a sweep nonetheless.  The A’s were the defending champions, but they showed some warts when they lost the 1988 World Series to the upstart Los Angeles Dodgers in just five games. 

We might have to look to amateur sports to find a comparison.  The 1985 Villanova Wildcats 66-64 upset win over Georgetown in the NCAA Basketball Championship ranks high on the shocker list.  The Hoyas were the defending champions and had crushed everybody en route to the title game.  Villanova shot 78.9 percent—-78.9!—and only won the game by two points. 

North Carolina State’s 54-52 over Houston in the 1983 NCAA Basketball Championship game also deserves a mention as well.  And, of course, the USA Olympic Hockey Team’s 4-3 win over USSR on February 22, 1980 might be the greatest sports upset of all-time. 

Professionally, though New York has the top three and chronologically they are the Jets, the Mets and the Giants. 

John Furgele

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