John G. Mabanglo/EPA
Twenty-three years ago, the 49ers played the New York Giants in the NFC Championship game. The 49ers were hoping to reach, and win, their third Super Bowl in a row, the ultimate capstone to one of the greatest decades by any sports franchise ever. Unfortunately, the Giants ruined it. The 49ers not only lost 15-13, but Joe Montana was thoroughly broken by a blindside tackle from Giants defensive lineman Leonard Marshall. I was less than a year old at the time, but I like to think that some part of me remembers this game. Some part of me remembers how my parents groaned and by big brother cried as the Giants’ Matt Bahr hit the game-winning field goal.
Almost exactly three years later, the 49ers took on the Giants at Candlestick for a chance to reach the NFC Championship game. It was the first football game I remember watching. I can still hear my dad roaring at the TV, imploring Ricky Watters to “GO! GO!” Watters rushed for 118 yards and five touchdowns that day, helping the 49ers bury the Giants 44-3. That game made me a football fan, and ensured that I would forever associate fun and excitement with watching the Giants lose.
I hate all sports franchises on some level. For the hard luck teams like the Browns I have a certain amount of glowing indifference, but little more. That said, I cannot think of a team that makes me angrier than the Giants. The Dodgers are the worst, but that is a rivalry I share with an entire city. With the Giants, it’s personal.
I hate their uniforms, an utterly vacant mix of big, dumb colors that signify nothing. I hate their logo, which has to be the most half-assed in professional sports. It looks like it was drawn left-handed at 4:59 on a Friday afternoon; 80% of the logo designer’s body and 100% of their mind was already outside of their tiny cubicle, raring to head to a bar, drink gallons of gin and ponder how the fuck their life became so crushingly awful.
Look at this shit
I hate MetLife Stadium, a massive, half-used roll of duct tape jammed unceremoniously into the New Jersey swamp. I hate Giants fans, who spend more time complaining about the team they claim to love than cheering for them, only to backtrack as soon as the Giants stumble backwards into another playoff berth. Actually, scratch that. Giants fans spend their time mocking people who had their lives ruined by natural disasters and government incompetence.
I hate the way the Giants play. Their team is exemplary of why the veneration of championships is one of the most reductive and annoying parts of sports. The 2007 and 2011 Giants will be remembered for their dominant defense, but they were actually in the middle of the pack during the regular season. The 2007 team was ranked 13th in defensive efficiency and averaged 1.6 turnovers per game, but averaged 3.5 turnovers in the playoffs. The 2011 team was even worse. They ranked 19th in defensive efficiency, and surrendered an average of 2.7 touchdowns per game. That average dropped to 1.5 touchdowns in the playoffs. Whatever worked for them in these instances escaped the Giants in other playoff appearances. Since 2000, the Giants have reached the playoffs six times. Other than ’07 and ’11, they have been outscored 108-69.
Their quarterback is a scummy moron. He refused to play for the team that drafted him, instead crying to his father until he was traded to New York. He still will not admit that he was too much of a dipshit to sign on with a rebuilding franchise.
Here are three quarterback stat lines:
QB 1: 173:122 touchdown/INT ratio, 3.4 INT%, 61.5 CMP%, 85.3 Rating
QB 2: 246:177 touchdown/INT ratio, 3.3 INT%, 58.5 CMP%, 82 Rating
QB 3: 93:62 touchdown/INT ratio, 2.5 INT%, 59.1 CMP%, 81.3 Rating
One of these quarterbacks is a longtime backup currently starting for the Buffalo Bills. Another is right now watching as fans of his team burn his jersey. The third has won two Super Bowls and will, by virtue of those championships and his brother’s accomplishments, reach the Hall of Fame. That’s Eli. He’s #2.
You can tell me that Eli Manning and the Giants are well coached, are ‘clutch’, or they know how to ‘win when it counts’, but the fact is, none of these truly suffice. There is no statistical, strategic, emotional or metaphysical explanation for this blight.
The Giants are an unfortunate reality. Every few years, they swoop in like a swarm of locusts to devour any joy and entertainment we might hope to extract from watching football. Why? Because the New York Giants hate football, and they want you to hate it too.
Three years ago, I was sitting in the subbasement break room of a swanky Manhattan hotel, watching as the Giants recovered Kyle Williams’ fateful fumble and set up the game winning field goal. The 9-7 Giants, who wheezed their way into the playoffs, had targeted Williams because of his history with concussions. It paid off.
In an effort to cheer me up, some coworkers took me to Korea town to buy me dinner. Just after we ordered, a man on the other side of the restaurant spotted my 49ers shirt and started berating me:
“Hey. HEY! The 49ers are a good team. They’re a good team. But the Giants are perfect. They’re fucking PERFECT.”
This went on for a while. I had a hard time sleeping that night.
So what will I be watching for tomorrow?