The remarkable run of the Giants

by Jim Hague, @ogsmar

First of all, let me apologize to the loyal readers, who might have wondered if I had fallen off the face of the earth or was finally kidnapped by the aliens that hover about North Bergen’s Braddock Park.

I had a bit of a hospital stay, complete with an assortment of surgeries, infections, fevers, what have you. It was a wonderful way to spend late January and early February, stuck in a hospital bed, then hooked to a portable IV pump for two weeks.

Most of you might not have known I was under the weather, but I have a funny story. On my worst day in Clara Maass Hospital in Belleville, I had a fever that was hovering in the 104 range. I was totally dilusional and speaking jibberish. I couldn’t see well.

As people were coming in and out of my room, a priest walked in, wearing the purple sash around his neck. I perked up a little to ask, “Are you here for that?” Meaning last rites. He said, “No, son, just a prayer for the sick.” As I eventually told my friend Bill Herenda, I thought I was a candidate for the proverbial Catholic favorite, “extreme unction.”

Certainly didn’t want any of that extreme unction stuff. Not ready for that.

Anyway, I am grateful to all of those who called, texted, sent e-mails and even came to pay a visit. I got a refresher course in “Liar’s Poker” with my great friend Glenn Gardner, who posted a picture of me in my hospital bed, causing international hysteria and concern. Yes, I got two phone calls and texts from overseas, one from England, one from Germany.

I also got a great visit and a card from my friend Buddy Matthews,the long-time Hoboken baseball and basketball coach, now coaching the girls’ basketball team at St. Anthony. Buddy got to see me in my hospital gown glory and I even let him cop a peek at my business.

But to all those who sent messages via Facebook, I am humbled by the care and concern. I guess, in the immortal words of Sally Field, you like me, you really like me. Thanks for all your well wishes. I am doing well and had the IV removed from my arm this morning.

Now, back to sports:
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It still amazes me that the Giants actually won the Super Bowl. It’s incredible that the Giants have won the Vince Lombardi Trophy four times now — and only once (1986) were they the best team in the NFL. The other three times (1990, 2007 and 2011) were downright shockers.

But of the four, none was more startling and amazing than this year’s championship. I remember watching the game against the Redskins in mid-December, a game where the Giants couldn’t do anything right, and lost at home. It forced me to write a blog stating that the reason why the Giants (or Jets, for that matter) wouldn’t make the playoffs was because they had no home field advantage.

Maybe they don’t need one, because in both of their latest Super Bowl runs, they were the quintessential road warriors, even better than Mel Gibson as Mad Max.

When you take a look at it, it’s amazing that the Giants won the Super Bowl because they needed so many things to go right for them down the stretch. One after another, it’s almost miraculous.

The game against Dallas in the Jerry Jones Dome, they trailed by 12 with a little more than five minutes left, yet came back to win. However, if Tony Romo hits a wide-openMiles Austin with that pass with three minutes left, the whole late-season run is over before it begins.

Flash forward to two weeks later and Christmas Eve at the Meadowlands. The Giants are getting beat up physically by the Jets and they’re losing by 10 in the second period. They have the ball on their own 1-yard line and Eli Manning hits Victor Cruz for a nine-yard curl and he takes it to the house, 99 yards, the longest pass play in the team’s history. Cruz’s salsa down the sidelines turned that entire game around and enabled the Giants to get a victory. Without that play, more than likely the Giants lose, the Jets win and they go to the playoffs instead of the Giants.

A week later, it’s do-or-die against the Cowboys again. They win, they’re in. Lose and go home. They take a big 21-0 lead in the first half, but the lead is dwindling in a hurry. It’s now 21-17 in the third quarter and Manning somehow finds Hakeem Nicks for a 44-yard gain that keeps a scoring drive alive. The Giants win the NFC East, but wouldn’t have without that play.

They beat the snots out of an outmanned Atlanta team in the first round, then go to Green Bay and shock the Packers, again using one big play to get the win. Manning throws up a Hail Mary prayer right before halftime and Nicks catches it for a touchdown. How many times do you see that play work? Three, maybe, in a lifetime. But the Giants get one, keeping their miracle run alive and getting past the 15-1 Packers.

They then go on to San Francisco in the NFC title game and had yet another miracle happen when the punt grazed off the returner’s leg in one instance and then the same returner fumbled a punt in overtime, leading to the game-winning field goal. At that point, you would think that maybe St. Peter or St. Paul or Mother Theresa or some holier than thou person was standing next to Tom Coughlin on the sidelines.

It gets better. In the Super Bowl, the immortal, wonderful, splendiforous lover of foul-mouthed supermodels Tom Brady throws a lollipop toss to Wes Welker late in the game. If Welker manages to make the catch, the Patriots win, but the pass falls incomplete. Announcers and analysts are quick to blame Welker, but he stands only 5-foot-9 on top of the Manhattan phone book no less. That ball was overthrown and softly thrown. I blame Brady. A typically strong Brady release and the wide-open Welker catches the pass and the game is over.

So think about it. The Giants needed all of those things to happen their way to win the Super Bowl. They needed Romo to overthrow Austin, needed Cruz to turn a little play into a season-saver, needed the Hail Mary against the Packers, the two miscues on punt returns against the 49ers and the Welker drop/Brady overthrow in the Super Bowl. If they don’t get all of those, then they don’t get Lombardi Trophy No. 4.

So congratulations to the Giants and their fans. It’s a Super Bowl run for the ages. One thing is for sure: The so-called experts who were calling for Coughlin’s head in December can slink back under the rocks from which they crawled. Coughlin, who was never, ever the problem with the Giants, gets to stay for as long as he wants.

Here’s one aspect about these Giants. In all my years of covering pro sports, I have never seen a team totally adore their coach like these Giants love Coughlin. Never. There’s not a soul in that locker room who wouldn’t go to war for the guy and that’s a rarity in pro sports. There’s usually one or two dissenters who cry the blues about the coach and let everyone know about it. Not this team. They totally love the man like he was their own father.

I’m certain that love for their head coach went a long way in bringing that big shiny silver thing back to the Meadowlands to stand with the other three. It was a remarkable and unthinkable run, one to behold.

And yes, I’m jealous, because as a Rams fan, I have one big shiny silver thing. Should have had two if it weren’t for the cheating conglomeration known as the New England Patriots, but that was 10 years ago now and I should let it go.

Congrats to the Giants and their fans. You are all in. And have every reason to be PROUD TO BE A NEW YORK GIANT.
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Seton Hall basketball coach Kevin Willard has to stop being a fair-weather coach. When his team is winning, everything is hunky dory. He tells jokes to the media, some of them off-colored quips about the caucasian background of some of his players. And then the locker room is opened for the reporters to ask questions of his players.

But twice this season, against Villanova and then last week against UConn, Willard acted like a spoiled brat in defeat. He wouldn’t allow the media access to his players. He even went as far as to first say he wasn’t speaking to the media after the loss to UConn, but then was somehow cohearsed into doing the right thing and speaking.

You can’t have it both ways. In all sports, you have to take the good with the bad. You have to be equally gracious in defeat as in victory. You can’t have two sets of rules, simply because you felt the officiating was poor and you got ejected for saying so.

Willard has to learn to be the same person in defeat as he is in victory. He has to swallow his pride and do the right thing. The spoiled brat routine was wrong when he did it the first time. Now, it’s already stale and awful.

Sure, he was gracious again Wednesday night, when the Pirates defeated Rutgers at the RAC. He was glib and he allowed access (which by the way is an NCAA and Big East rule) to his players. Here’s to hoping that’s a consistent thing for the remainder of his career, because the other way doesn’t work at all — and only puts Willard in a bad light.

Because let’s face facts. Even his predecessor, the horrendous schmuck known asBobby Gonzalez, never pulled such crap. He might have kept his locker room closed for an hour, even after a win, but he never closed his locker room door the way Willard has now done twice.

Willard has to learn a valuable lesson here. Take the good with the bad and it makes your life as a basketball coach much easier.
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You can read more of my work at http://www.hudsonreporter.com (a look at the new North Bergen football coach this Sunday), http://www.theobserver.com and http://www.dailyrecord.com.

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Posted on February 9, 2012, in Jim Hague. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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