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Super Bowl tale not about two cities
It's officially Super Bowl week, which means every middle-aged man with a flat tire around his stomach and a laminated press credential dangling from his neck will be hustling to justify his airfare, hotel costs and a week of fast food dining expenses by churning out a steady flow of daily Super Bowl content from Indianapolis.
Churn, baby, churn. It's the Super Bowl week media mantra. In the age of Twitter, a radio row that now spans 10 hotel banquet rooms and 37 all-day, 24/7 sports news networks and rumor mill sites, the more meat the better, and at all costs, you've got to feed the beast.
The result of this tried and true annual tradition of content saturation? An unavoidable flow of hearing and reading the same things over … and over … and over again.
Rob Gronkowski's ankle may get more Internet attention this week than his bye week photograph with the lovely and talented Bibi Jones. The upcoming daily — hell, hourly — obsession over Gronkowski's ankle might as well be referred to as "Ankle porn."
Chad Ochocinco — he of just one offensive snap this postseason — is going to be all over the place during Tuesday's media day, likely with a posse of reporters, 100-deep, salivating over his every word. He might not even suit up Sunday, but that's no issue. He's talking! And he's wacky! And we'll read, oh, a million articles and hear, oh, a million screaming talking heads debates on ESPN over whether Eli Manning's had the better career than his brother Peyton.
We're also going to hear about the New York-Boston sports rivalry and how this game is the latest chapter in the two cities' rich and entangled sports histories.
And that's where I have to draw the line.
Let's resist from going there this time. It's too easy. It's lazy. We can do better.
Get ready for the same montage of the Aaron Boone and Bucky Dent home runs, Babe Ruth cigar puffs and bloody sock shots you've seen 20 times before. Gear up for the shots of Dave Roberts' stolen base, Johnny Damon's grand slam and maybe a clip from Game 5 of the Celtics-Knicks 1990 NBA playoffs first round matchup.
I understand, it's Boston and New York. And yeah, I get that there's a long storied history of sports hatred there. But with this Giants-Patriots matchup being so damn good in itself, with the Jets serving as the Patriots' true New York rivals — and a mutual respect between the two fan bases — must we really trot out the same old tired storyline about Boston and New York sports venom?
What makes the real Boston-New York sports rivalries vitriolic is the proximity and familiarity between the two rival teams' fan bases. The Yankees and Red Sox play 18 regular season games a year, with each of those games taking roughly six hours. In the American League East, it's a zero sum game starting on Opening Day. A Yankees win doubles as a shot to the Red Sox postseason dreams, and vice versa. Though they haven't played in a postseason series since 2004, fans of both teams root for the other squad's opponents on a nightly basis nearly as much as they cheer on their own boys. It's a sick reality that both fan bases admit to. From April to October, it's the Yankees or Red Sox and whichever team's playing the other one.
Yankees-Red Sox is a rivalry built on hundreds of years and thousands of meetings, triumphs and disappointments. That "hatred" is real. Go sit in the Yankee Stadium bleachers with a Red Sox hat on. You'll get more than an earful from the Bleacher Creatures. You'll get a beer shower or two as well. The same goes if you dare wear pinstripes into a Red Sox bar outside of Fenway.
The Celtics and Knicks, though a seemingly one-sided "rivalry" in recent years, typically play four times in an NBA season. A win over the other one means just a little bit more than a win over another NBA squad. Even the Rangers and Bruins, two teams that haven't played in a playoff series in years, have deep-rooted Original Six ties that keeps that eternal fire ablaze.
The Giants and Patriots? They've played each other just 30 times since 1970, with only one of those games — Super Bowl XLII — actually having any real significance.
If anything, Giants and Patriots fans are kindred spirits, brought together by a mutual distaste and disregard for the New York Jets and their fans. Giants fans, openly and almost proudly, look down upon their MetLife Stadium co-habitants as second-class citizens and lifelong losers, while Patriots fans take great pride in pointing to nine AFC East division titles in 11 years as proof of their dominance over their division rivals. Fans of both the Giants and Patriots took great pleasure in seeing the Jets fail to reach this year's postseason.
BUILDUP TO INDY
- Super Bowl XLVI: 6:30 p.m. ET, Sunday
- Manning family vs. Brady
- Super Bowl Cheat Sheet
- Patriots' Kraft still hurting
- Belichick needs to secure legacy
- Billick's matchups and storylines
- Jacobs savors another Super Bowl
- Eli's leap could come in Peyton's place
- Super Bowl odds a mix of science, art
- Giants linebacker a true inspiration
- Ochocinco has 86'd 'me' attitude
- Reason for Giants' turnaround
- Giants' Coughlin forging a legacy
- High price of the Super Bowl
- Not about Boston vs. New York
- Picks, predictions
Beyond a shared disregard for Jets fans in the Patriots-Giants Venn diagram, there's a shared history of Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick and former assistant coaches Romeo Crennel and Charlie Weis. Dave Meggett's probably in that graphic, too. But saying these two teams are "rivals" and assuming that just because they play in (or around) Boston and New York City, isn't doing this game, these two talented teams and the real New York-Boston sports rivalries justice.
It's too easy and stretched a Super Bowl storyline for a meeting that's so rich with others.
The Giants and Patriots are "rivals" just as much as the New Jersey Devils and Hartford Whalers were "rivals" when the Whale played in Connecticut. They sorta kinda were in the New York and Boston markets, but there wasn't any true venom or hatred from the franchises. Geography aside, they — like the Giants and Patriots — weren't in the same division and didn't have some rich history of make-or-break meetings.
I've witnessed a Steelers fan spit in the face of a Ravens fan on 3rd Avenue in New York. I've seen a Dolphins fan take on 20 Jets fans in an ugly brawl that cleared out three rows of seats in the upper bowels of the old Giants Stadium. I've seen YouTube clips of young Packers fans crying over Brett Favre signing with the Vikings. There's history with all of those teams. That's real hatred. Those are real rivalries.
The Giants and Patriots?
There's too much respect for one another, too little history and too infrequent a big meeting for there to be any real hatred.
So, let's lay off resorting to the Boston-New York rivalry stuff this week. Though it's easy and can fill some time on a clock on one of 75 sports debate shows, it doesn't really apply here.
After all, there are ankles to obsess over.