As the confetti settled on Super Bowl XLII, I was struck by the incredible symmetry with the Steelers’ improbable title run two years ago.
Both teams gained confidence after a tough road schedule and drew strength from the white jerseys they wore in hostile environments. But while the Steelers’ victory over the Seahawks was not really surprising to most informed observers, the Giants had an even tougher task in the big game, beating not only the Patriots but history as well.
It was truly a game for the ages. Here are my winners and losers:
Eli Manning: The obvious one first. You could not feel happier for any opposing player. The look of satisfaction on his brother Peyton’s face was great, as was the feeling the Eli stepped out of a very big shadow. Tom Brady is now 0-2 against the Manning brothers in the last two playoff meetings. This looks like Venus and Serena in tennis. Can you imagine the money these two MVPs will make in commercials?
Michael Strahan: Just like the Bus in 2006, Strahan can ride off into the Hall of Fame sunset with the ring that had eluded the NFL’s all-time sack master. What an end to a 15-year legacy. With his charm and outgoing personality (judging from his divorce proceedings), I think he will do very well on TV and should have a good second career.
Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnola: He had what amounted to be the best job interview in sports history last Sunday, and he sure came through with flying colors. Since the game, he was courted by the Washington Redskins’ opening, but he’s decided to remain with the Giants as he signed a three-year contract extension worth $2 million per season. Spagnola remains a top head-coaching prospect, either to eventually replace Tom Coughlin or to move onto the job of his choice.
PSU’s Jay Alford: For a bone-crushing sack of Brady late in the game that brought my two kids out of their seats!
The ’72 Dolphins: You can hear the champagne popping from here.
Bill Belichick: Nobody sucks the joy of victory out of things like Belichick. His premature end to the game smacked of running off the stage to avoid the chorus of boos. Now he has to answer to Senator Specter, and possibly to the Commissioner about Spygate II. It would not be either surprising or unfair to see them lose another draft pick — and this one is a Top 5 selection.
Junior Seau: He came out of retirement to get that ring and was about the only Patriot player I actually felt sorry for (not Randy Moss, whose TD celebration came 2:39 early). Seau was a tremendous player, and I always thought a stand-up guy. I actually had dinner in his restaurant in San Diego once. The rest of the Pats will likely be back and may get another championship someday, but for him, this must have been a very tough way to go out.
Tiki Barber: Where was all that inside access to the Giants players and coaches that one would have expected Tiki to have gotten in the buildup to the game? The rumors that he was not well-liked in his old locker room seem to look more like fact than fiction. His early-season bashing of Eli’s leadership rings particularly thin now, too. I think Tiki’s quick retirement was actually addition by subtraction for the Giants.
The guys on QVC who printed all the 19-0 memorabilia: Coming soon to a flea market near you. Ouch!
Christian Andros resides in Fredericksburg, Va. He is a frequent contributor to the Penn State mailbag and an Altoona native.