INDIANAPOLIS — Giants or Patriots?

Patriots or Giants?

New York or New England?

For me, it’s always been an easy choice. I grew up in Massachusetts, and back then, the Giants were the only team on television.

They hooked me the first time I saw Fran Tarkenton throw deep to Homer Jones, streaking down the left sideline. They hooked me the first time I heard Spider Lockhart’s name.

Spider? They have a player named Spider? I wanted to be Spider Lowe.

The Giants are the NFL team I follow most closely. And I’ve passed that passion along to my son Alex, a senior at Thornton Academy.

I happen to cover the Patriots for this newspaper. And over the 14 years I’ve done that, I think my loyalty to the Giants has been a plus in that coverage, allowing me to remain objective through the good and bad times.

Funny thing, though. People close to me think that I don’t like the Patriots. In fact, my mother-in-law once said to me, “I know you hate the Patriots because you like the Giants.”

Not even close to being true, and I told her that.

I like the Patriots. I respect the Patriots, who run perhaps the best franchise in the NFL, a fact that many of the former Patriots walking around the Media Center this week have verified. I like many of the players, especially Mr. Brady, who I’ve had several personal conversations with over the years regarding our kids, movies and one of our favorite baseball teams, the San Francisco Giants.

(I just like the Giants nickname, I guess. Andre the Giant was always one of my favorite wrestlers, even in his rare heel period.)

It’s an interesting dynamic in my house, because my wife and daughters love the Patriots. But they understand why Alex and I follow the Giants.

But I digress.

Getting back to the original question: Giants or Patriots?

Normally, it’s an easy pick. Not so today, when the teams meet in Super Bowl XLVI at Lucas Oil Stadium.

I know the Giants are the vogue choice these days, the national media hopping on the Eli Manning/ferocious pass rush/Tom Coughlin bandwagon this week.

I walk around this Midwestern town, which has embraced the Giants — one Indianapolis Colts fan told me Friday night, “It’s not that I like the Giants; I hate the Patriots.” — and I find myself wondering what’s going to happen when the Patriots win.

Oops, I guess I let my prediction out.

Yeah, I think the Patriots are going to win. I know there’s this great possibility that Manning is going to pick apart the secondary, that the Patriots aren’t going to be able to get to him. If that happens, the Giants are going to win in a blowout.

I know there’s a possibility that the Giants JPP and Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka and Chris Canty and everyone else are going to have a reunion in Brady’s face every time he drops back to pass. If that happens, the Giants are going to win in a blowout.

I don’t think those things are going to happen.

Couple of reasons.

Last night, I turned on the television in my hotel room for the first time since I got here on Monday. What was on? “Bill Belichick: A Football Life.” If you haven’t seen this two-part documentary, you’ve got to find a way. Fascinating.

One of the things I found most interesting was a scene in which he is walking with his son on the floor of the Superdome in New Orleans before the Patriots were to play the Saints. He’s explaining how the Patriots scored the first touchdown of their historic Super Bowl XXXVI win on Feb. 3, 2002, over the heavily favored St. Louis Rams, how they put that play into practice on Friday. Friday! The final practice, two days before the game!

That’s what Belichick does, makes the last-second adjustments that define a championship coach.

Another reason is Tom Brady.

I’ve watched him and listened to him all week. He has that look in his eyes again, that look that he’s not going to let the Patriots fail.

He didn’t have that look in Super Bowl XLII, when Manning led the Giants back to that stunning upset of the previously unbeaten Patriots. I truly think that he, like most Patriots four years ago, thought they were going to win, maybe easily.

Yes, I know athletes should think they’re going to win. But that year, I saw the same attitude that I saw in the Rams back in Super Bowl XXXVI: too relaxed, too confident. They lost the edge.

Brady’s got that edge back, I believe.

That’s why I believe that the Patriots are going to win. I think it will go down as possibly one of the best Super Bowls ever. A back-and-forth game in which both defenses give up big plays, then make big plays.

A game in which two of the game’s best quarterbacks, Brady and young Manning, show everyone how great they truly are.

Score? Well, we know it’ll be a three-point game. Hey, this is the fifth Super Bowl I’m covering with the Patriots. The first four have been settled by three points. I don’t see this one any different.

Let’s make it New England Patriots 31, New York Giants 28.

Enjoy the game. I will.

 


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