In His Own Words: Jeff Called The 2008 Giants Upset Over The Packers AND The Super Bowl Win Over The Patriots

23 Jan

Minutes before the Giants’ NFC championship game yesterday against the 49ers, I remembered the pillow.  I’m thankful that I did, because I knew that I needed a tangible connection to Jeff up in Heaven in order for the Giants to have a chance to pull off yet another upset and reach the Super Bowl.  Thus, after posting the message yesterday afternoon that many of you saw on his Facebook group page, I ran into Jeff’s room. And there it was, sitting on the ottoman where it had been for so many years—a small square pillow with the Giants logo on it.  It is yet another simple item that cost so little, yet meant so much to Jeff as part of his overall Giants fandom.  I grabbed it, brought it into our upstairs TV room where Brett was waiting, and I clutched it to my side throughout the entire first half, which ended with the Giants enjoying a 10-7 lead.  Holding onto that pillow definitely did achieve the goal of making me feel like Jeff was watching with me and that we were sweating it out together.  And to solidify our connection even further, I wore the navy blue Middlebury Panthers t-shirt that used to be Jeff’s and that I now wear in his honor.

Jeff's Giants pillow sits next to his famous blind referee costume in his room

In the second half and into the overtime, though, I couldn’t contain my excitement and tension over the events that were unfolding before us.  So instead of clutching the pillow, I began clutching, jumping on, hugging, shaking and otherwise physically mauling my stoic son Brett.  Fortunately, Brett was just as excited as I was and is pretty darn strong in his own right, so he was returning the fire– hug for hug, tackle for tackle, and well, you get the idea.

As Jeff, Drew (who was spared from the rough-housing by being at school) and Brett can all attest, watching a big game together in our household is a test of physical and emotional endurance.  Passive fans, we are not.  Carey and her mother wisely kept their distance and stayed out of harms way.  When the winning field goal sailed through the uprights, Brett and I literally jumped into each other’s arms, screaming at the top of our lungs, and we didn’t let go for what seemed like several minutes.  It was a beautiful thing.  And last week, I was lucky to have both Drew and Brett with me to watch the huge upset of the Packers.

But of course, all of this has brought back the memories of the Giants’ Super Bowl run of 2007-08, and the extreme enjoyment that Jeff experienced during that exciting time.  The best part about it was that he was one of the few people I knew who truly believed and predicted in writing that the Giants would beat the Packers in the NFC Title game and then would upset the Patriots in the Super Bowl. The Giants opened the wildcard round by beating the Buccaneers, which was not a great surprise, but the following week, they stunned the number 1 seeded Dallas Cowboys.  Next up for Big Blue were the hugely favored, number 2 seeded Packers.

On January 15, 2008, five days before the big game, which would determine who advanced to the Super Bowl, I emailed Jeff my assessment of the Giants’ chances to pull off another huge upset:

“Jeff- Unlike last week, I don’t think the Giants can win this week.  The Cowboys were a team in disarray and distracted by controversy.  The Packers are hitting on all cylinders.  I hope I’m wrong.  Love, Sir.”

Oh man, I struck a chord.  Just 17 minutes later, Jeff emailed me back, and in his inimitable style, patiently and eloquently explained to me exactly why I was so wrong (once again):

“Hey- I really disagree about this week.  I actually think the Giants have a better chance of beating the Packers than I thought they did against the Cowboys.  I am still not totally convinced on Brett Favre and think he’s still capable of having a terrible day (obviously the same with Manning but still).  I don’t think the Packers have as many weapons as the Cowboys, so if the Giants kept it close against them, they can certainly do it against the Packers.

The only thing working to their disadvantage is the blistering cold forecast for Sunday.  This is especially bad because Eli is a little girl and plays significantly worse in the cold (he even admitted the adverse weather conditions negatively affected his game the last few weeks of the regular season).  So we’ll see.  Love, Jeff “

 

The Giants kept it close, just as Jeff suggested, and then pulled off a thrilling overtime upset in one of the greatest playoff games ever.  I mean, I don’t think there was ever an occasion when Jeff and I disagreed on a sports topic, that I ended up being right.  His sports knowledge and analytical capabilities were second to none (not to mention his style of communicating his views).

I can’t begin to describe how excited Jeff was by the Giants’ unlikely trip to the Super Bowl that year.  And what great timing it was, because by that time, Jeff had his own sports column in The Middlebury Campus called “J.K. Rolling”, and he thus had free reign to write about the Giants and offer his own Super Bowl prediction.  I thought a nice way to celebrate the Giants’ 2012 trip to the Super Bowl would be to reprint Jeff’s January 24, 2008 column below, which ends with his prediction that his beloved Giants would triumph.   As usual, he was right.  I am confident that his prediction in 2012 would be the same as it was then, and I will be praying for some form of communication from Jeff before the big game.  I’ll keep you posted if I do receive it.  In the meantime, enjoy the article:

        “Wow. I’m still catching my breath from this exhilarating day of football.

          After winning their respective games Sunday, the New England Patriots and New York Giants will meet in Super Bowl XLII in what should be an epic game filled with all sorts of drama and storylines.

          In the afternoon affair, the Patriots protected home field and fought off the Chargers 21-12 to continue their pursuit of a perfect season. It wasn’t the prettiest of games for the Pats, especially not for quarterback Tom Brady, who threw a season-high three interceptions. For the second straight game, Randy Moss was a non-factor, as he did not catch a single pass. The only impact he made was on a fourteen-yard end-around late in the first quarter. Overall, the Patriots offense was not nearly as efficient as last weekend, in which Tom Brady completed 26 of his 28 passes en route to a victory over Jacksonville. But as has been the case all season, the Pats came through in the clutch and earned the victory. They are 18-0 on the season and will try to complete their historic season undefeated when they host the Giants in two weeks.

          Speaking of the Giants, they again proved the naysayers wrong with a stunning, excitement-filled overtime victory, as they outlasted the Green Bay Packers 23-20 in a frigid Lambeau Field (temperature at kickoff was -1, with a wind-chill of -23). Quarterback Eli Manning still has his large share of critics – many people thought he wouldn’t be able to handle the cold – but nonetheless he turned in an excellent, turnover-free playoff performance for the third consecutive week. He has yet to throw an interception in the 2008 playoffs, a remarkable turnaround from the regular season, in which he threw almost as many picks as touchdowns. Plaxico Burress played the game of his life, catching 11 passes for 154 yards, which establishes a Giants postseason record. The Giants as a team showed incredible resiliency, having to overcome five fumbles and two crucial missed field goals by Lawrence Tynes, the second of which would have won the game in regulation with four seconds left. But Tynes was able to atone for his blunders with the game-winning 47-yard field goal in overtime, sending the Giants to Arizona and a date with the Patriots.

          Many people across the country wanted to see a Packers-Patriots Super Bowl, but the Giants-Pats presents an interesting match-up in its own right. New England played at New York in the final game of this year’s regular season, winning 38-35 in a fiery and competitive affair. The victory gave the Pats a perfect 16-0 regular season, the first team ever to achieve such a feat.

          But in that game, the Giants proved that they could compete with the Patriots, to say the least. The G-Men led 28-16 early in the second half, which accounted for the Pats largest deficit of the season. They were able to get consistent pressure on Brady using an array of blitzes and were able to expose New England’s suspect run defense. While the Patriots pulled it out in the end, the Giants showed that they could match up with the league’s best and have been rolling ever since.

          Expect the Giants-Patriots Super Bowl sequel to be no different. Eli Manning has grown up infinitely in this year’s playoffs, Ahmad Bradshaw has developed into a legit and explosive running back, and the defense has shown that it can harass opposing quarterbacks into submission. Yes, even Tom Brady.

 While the Patriots may be the better team, as a die-hard Giants fan I feel compelled to take them in the rematch. The Patriots are being labeled as a “team of destiny” and one more win would produce a storybook ending. But in the biggest came of his career, Eli Manning will come up huge and propel the Giants to victory, avenging their regular season defeat and ruining the Pats’ perfect season.

Now that’s what I call a storybook ending. “

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