By Jim Hague
By now, unless you live in a clandestine remote location like Tibet or you have been in a coma for the last few days, you realized that the local football heroes, the New York Giants, are headed to the Super Bowl once again.
It’s the fifth time that Big Blue has captured the NFC Championship game and the first since 2008, when the Giants moved past the Green Bay Packers in overtime in the conference title game, then shocked the undefeated New England Patriots to win the Super Bowl.
The similarities between that miraculous run to the Super Bowl and this one are very eerie.
Four years ago, the Giants staggered into the playoffs, then won games against Tampa Bay, Dallas and Green Bay, all on the road, before turning the football world on its ear and knocking off the seemingly unbeatable Patriots.
This year, the Giants were dangerously teetering toward oblivion, owning a 7-7 record after losing a horrific game to the Washington Redskins in mid-December. There were people calling for the heads of head coach Tom Coughlin and defensive coordinator Perry Fewell and everyone else in between.
But they managed to turn everything around in dramatic fashion, first knocking off the Jets on Christmas Eve, then beating the Cowboys on New Year’s Day to win the NFC Eastern Divisional title to get into the playoffs.
They then manhandled Atlanta in the first round of the playoffs, shocked the 15-1 Packers at Lambeau Field and Sunday, they punched their remarkable ticket to Indianapolis and Super Bowl XLVI, which in Roman numerals, means “quite a lot.”
Never could quite understand why the NFL continues to use Roman numerals with the Super Bowl when it’s now downright confusing. It was easy to remember when Joe Namath led the Jets to a win in Super Bowl III. We can count that high.
It’s also puzzling why some promotional contests will state that the winner will receive all-expense paid trip to “the Big Game in Indianapolis.” Like you can’t dare to say Super Bowl without infuriating the NFL. Hey, we deemed it the Super Bowl. We’ll allow whoever we want to call it that.
Anyway, the Giants are going to that so-called big game for the fifth time. They’ve been quite successful in the past, winning three of their four previous appearances.
Can they win again? Sure, they can. They proved anything is possible four years ago and did the same thing this year with the improbable and almost unfathomable five-game winning streak to get there.
While we have a full two weeks to soak in the Giants’ big win Sunday in San Francisco, it’s time to reflect a little on the generations of Giants players over the years that have local ties.
We can start with a legendary old-timer in Alex Webster, the team’s first-ever Pro Bowl running back, who is a Kearny native and still reads The Observer religiously online every week from his home in Florida.
Webster was a standout player for the Giants’ teams in the late 1950s that battled for the NFL Championship practically every year. He played in the game dubbed “The Greatest Game Ever Played” against the Baltimore Colts in Yankee Stadium for the 1958 championship, a game that totally changed the face of the NFL forever.
Webster then went on to later become an assistant coach and eventually the head coach of the Giants in the 1970s. He recently returned to MetLife Stadium to receive his proper place among the Giants’ Ring of Honor and was overjoyed to be there.
When the Giants became a dominant franchise again in the late 1980s-early 1990s, Leonard Marshall was the team’s ferocious pass rushing defensive end. Marshall gained a lot of attention over the past week, because it was his hit of legendary 49ers quarterback Joe Montana that helped the Giants get to their second Super Bowl and a big win over the Buffalo Bills.
Marshall, who currently resides in North Arlington, was asked by several news agencies over the past week to recall that big win over the Niners, considering that the Giants were facing San Francisco once again 21 years almost to the day since that fateful game.
Marshall is readily spotted in the area and is just another local link to the Giants’ long history.
Lawrence Tynes is the current Giants placekicker. Tynes was the one who kicked the Giants to the Super Bowl with an overtime field goal against the Packers four years ago and he did the same exact thing Sunday, booting the 32-yarder in overtime to topple the Niners.
Tynes, who has strong Scottish roots, is a local favorite in Kearny. He has been spotted at the Scots-American Club in town on several occasions and actually lived in the town for a bit after he signed with the Giants from the Kansas City Chiefs five years ago.
It’s been reported that Tynes has family that reside in Kearny, but that can’t be confirmed. But Tynes has been quoted in the past as saying that he loves Kearny and loves visiting every time he can, especially the Scots- American Club to watch soccer, of course.
The final local piece to the Giants’ Super Bowl puzzle is current wide receiving standout Victor Cruz, who has become a media darling with his breakthrough Pro Bowl season.
Cruz, who has become known for his Salsa touchdown dance, had an incredible season, breaking Giants team records for receptions and yardage. On Sunday, Cruz had 10 catches for 142 yards, many of the clutch variety.
Cruz, who was born and raised in Paterson, played high school football at the now-defunct Paterson Catholic High School before heading off to the University of Massachusetts.
Cruz has now decided to reside in Lyndhurst, with his wife and newborn daughter Kennedy, born just last month.
Cruz has become an instant adopted son in Lyndhurst and has graciously welcomed residents who have recognized him as he makes his way around the town.
So there you have it, the local flavor as the team heads to Super Bowl XL something. And one last thing: No clue here where Tibet is either. Just sounded far. Go Big Blue!