If your favorite NFL team (Steelers) isn't in the Super Bowl, you just root for a good game.
And we sure got one with the Giants-Patriots.
There were storylines galore, none more interesting than Bill Belichick's decision - the right one, by the way - to allow the Giants to score a touchdown with 57 seconds left so that New England could get the ball back for one final rush up the field.
Had the Giants run a fullback dive on second and third down, it would have melted the clock inside 15 seconds, and the Patriots would have had to block what in essence was an extra point in order to avoid losing 18-17.
Surely Tom Brady, with a timeout and nearly a minute left, provided better odds.
On the other side, the Giants didn't seem prepared for the Patriots' tactic, but it obviously worked out. Had Tom Coughlin plunged Eli Manning into the middle of the line and, then in the waning seconds, had a chip-shot field goal blocked, he would have been second-guessed for the rest of time for putting the weight of the world on his kicker's shoulders.
As he watched the game, Phil Riccio relived some bad memories.
Riccio is now Altoona Area High School's athletic director, but he was the Mountain Lions' head football coach in 2000.
And he was on the verge of a fantastic win in a PIAA Class AAAA western semifinal game at Erie Cathedral Prep. Having reversed a 40-point loss earlier in the season, Altoona held a 7-6 lead and the ball after a Jerrell Jackson interception return to the Prep 2 with 1:57 remaining.
Prep was out of timeouts, and Altoona could have milked the clock well inside of a minute before scoring or turning the ball over on downs and pinning Prep deep in its own territory.
Instead, Prep coach Mike Mischler pulled a Belichick and allowed Altoona quarterback Brian Camberg to score.
According to Riccio, "We were running a quarterback dive, and [former Prep standout and Penn State player] Charles Rush grabbed Brian and threw him into the end zone."
That gave the Mountain Lions a 13-6 lead, but they missed the extra point.
Riccio then watched in horror as Prep's Tim Dance returned the ensuing kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown, and the extra point sent the game into overtime. Altoona wound up losing in double OT, 27-20.
After the Super Bowl, I remembered the Mountain Lions were involved in a similar situation but mistakenly thought it was Altoona that let the other team score.
"I don't know if I could do it," Riccio said. "I've never been in that situation."
Then he added, tongue-in-cheek, "but thanks for reminding me."
Rudel can be reached at 946-7527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.