Saturday, January 10, 2009

Thinking About Tomorrow
As I'm involved with a couple projects that have had me out and about in the city more than usual, it's been impossible to completely shut myself off from the hype around the Eagles-Giants playoff rubber match to be held Sunday afternoon in the Meadowlands. Pretty much the only prediction I can make with confidence is that it will be a close, entertaining game; I don't think the two teams have played anything but at least since 2005. The two game this year were as different as they could be: an up-and-down-the-field scoring fest in Philadelphia two months ago, won by the Giants in a game they controlled to a greater extent than the five-point margin of victory suggests, and a lower-scoring ground war in north Jersey one month back that the Eagles won by six while dominating for most of the day, which I wrote about at the time. The teams know each other as well as two opponents can, with multiple meetings every year, coaches and players who've been in the employ of both, and markets separated by less than 100 miles of New Jersey highway.

As a Philadelphia fan in New York, it's always a little jarring when this rivalry comes into sharp focus. Not only do I not hate the Giants, I was rooting for them all the way in last year's playoffs--there's little better way to get my support than to do battle with Dallas, Brett Favre (still on the Packers then), and the Patriots--and if they win tomorrow, I suspect I'll be doing so again next week. Maybe more to the point, there's a similarity between the fans of both cities, other than those New Yorkers whose loyalties lie with the Yankees and who thus expect to win it all every year. The common thread is fatalism tinged with self-pity--not something you'd hold up as a virtue to emulate, but there it is. Giants fans seemed sure they were going to lose at every stop on the playoff road last January, just as few Jets fans seemed much surprised when their team blew it down the stretch this past fall. (Bob Herbert's recent column in the Times about the curse upon the Jets is a classic of this form, even more entertaining for how uncharacteristic it was of the author's usual style and topical choices.) Naturally, this is a defense mechanism, the psychological equivalent of bracing for impact.

Also, it almost never works. So I especially hope I'm wrong in my gut sense that the Giants, thanks largely to the week off they enjoyed while the Eagles battled in Minnesota last Sunday, will emerge tomorrow three or four points to the good.

1 comment:

The Navigator said...

It just hit me this evening: at one point in late summer, I really thought it was time to give up on the Phillies' season. It just seemed clear that they didn't have what it took to go on a playoff run this season. Then, at the end of the year, with the odds dwindling perilously, they went on a startling run of 24-6 to sweep to a title.

Not long after that title, most Philadelphians were thinking it was time to give up on the Eagles, who most definitely did not look like they had what it took for a playoff run. And now the Giants are going home and the Eagles face an eminently beatable team to make the Super Bowl. This could happen.

I'll be a little pissed if it does, because I'd like Philly to turn back into a baseball-first town and that could only have happened if the Eagles flamed out in the year the Phils won it all. An NFL championship would seal the football dominance for the foreseeable future.