Saturday, September 10, 2011

What Could've Been

My favorite sight in sports is watching NY Giants’ Head Coach, Tom Coughlin, stalk the sidelines during an NFL Game. And tomorrow I get to see it again for the first time in nine months, the first time for real that is. If I were an NFL Head Coach I would do it exactly like he does, play the part of Mr. Miserable, feign ignorance with the reporters when he wants to dodge a question, the only guy who could worry about the work that still needed to be done with Lombardi’s Superbowl Trophy in his hand. I love the way he’s handled this Plaxico Burress joke. All is right with the world if I guy like Tom Coughlin can still better loudmouths like Rex Ryan, and it’s my greatest hope that he will best him this upcoming season, but I also know that NFL Football is like life. Because of that I love the game of football more than any other. Because of that I worry about Big Blue’s 2011-12 chances. Let’s go back before we go forward.

Last December, the New Meadowlands Stadium, NYG’s up by 24pts against the hated Philadelphia Eagles. The Giants were about to do what nobody in the league thought they could: Punch their return ticket to the NFL playoffs. All they had to do was cling to that titanic 24pt lead, and the GB Packers, last year's champs, don’t even make the playoffs. All they have to do is protect the ball, play smart, and Coughlin gets a new contract, and this season’s injury issues aren’t such a big deal, because there’s a great chance the Giants would be fresh off a playoff run, and possibly a Superbowl berth. Why not? They were staring at a #2 seed if they could seal that gimme game. Fast forward fifteen football minutes, and Tom Coughlin slams his paperwork on the Giants’ sideline as DeShawn Jackson dashes past him towards the end zone, taking the game and everything I just mentioned away in one 65yrd punt return, a yard for every one of Coughlin's 65 years. What a turn of events and legacies.

And the only people the NYG’s could blame were themselves. For one moment, the always meticulous, always on-top-of-it Tom Coughlin let his guard down, and the Eagles wriggled an on-sides kick past the sleeping Giants, which began a meltdown of epic proportions, and gave the Eagles the victory in last year’s most impactful regular season game. The loss was so grandiose that it sort of blurred out the epic triumph of defeating the Perfect Patriots in the 2007-08 Superbowl. That’s how huge it was. A few days later Coughlin told the media he went home after that game, sat in the dark for six hours, trying to make sense of it. He promised the team would bounce back, move past it. No way, they never did, still haven’t. That fifteen minutes of football set the NY Giants back five years. They’re still reeling from it. And it’s my fear that shot of Coughlin chasing punter Matt Dodge onto the field will be the lasting and final image of him, the game that will haunt him forever, all that could have been.

Now the NY Giants MUST make the playoffs (can't miss it 3 straight seasons), and every football omen is screaming NOT THIS YEAR. The preseason injuries have been cartoonish, the Plaxico mess has been insane, the loss of key weapons on both sides of the ball unexplainable. Maybe this is the curse of the Patriots. Since that glorious night in Glendale the NY Giants have seemingly been cursed. Starting the ’08 season 11-1 till Plax shot himself and the organization out of contention, the ’09 season that saw so many injuries the Giants were beaten unrecognizable by the end of it, and last season’s everything-went-wrong reality, from fumbles, INT’s, blown leads, weather-delayed games, etc, etc. If the G-Men didn’t blow that mountainous lead against the Eagles, all that I just mentioned wouldn’t matter. Tom Coughlin would be sitting on a new contract and job security, and the Giants would be able to easily work through this mess of injuries, with a playoff berth from 2010-11 to ease the pain. But no such luck. If this injury-depleted team doesn’t somehow battle through a loaded NFC and make the playoffs, Coughlin will be gone, left only to ask what could’ve been. Then the blow up and rebuild will begin in the heart of Eli’s career.

That’s how football’s like life. You can be the smartest, hardest worker, with the best ideas, and longest resume, but if you fall asleep for a second, all that can get washed away, and you could end up on the short end of things. It’s unfair, perhaps, but football like life takes care of those who do ALL the little things, ALL the time, take the time to dot the I’s, cross the T’s. Don’t fumble the ball/Don’t waste your money, Don’t commit penalties/Don’t break the law, Protect yourself against injury/Take care of your health, Be a good teammate/Be a good person. Life, like football, is a smart man’s game, that’s why people like Plaxico Burress will always be bottom feeders. Because even the smart have to be smart ALL the time, and that’s impossible for the ignorant.

For one brief moment in time, Tom Coughlin let his guard down, blew a 24pt lead with everything to lose (symbolically drove drunk through a stop sign just once), and it could end up costing him his dream job. Is his NYG legacy intact? Of course. He beat an 18-0 team in the Superbowl. But . . . But it will take a lot to erase the image of him after that Eagles loss. Maybe more than this NYG’s team has right now, this season. Waste no opportunity in this life, suck the marrow out of every opening, and always over prepare for everything, never get blindsided. Tom Coughlin taught me that. Tom Coughlin forgot that for fifteen football minutes last December. Now what? We shall see. Enjoy the NFL season, the greatest game in the world.

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Brian Huba

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