This Bowl is a winner

KEN FIDLIN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:01 AM ET

In the land of hype and dreams, the Super Bowl is king. Nothing is even close.

With two weeks of rhetorical exaggeration as a preamble, the biggest football game of the year seldom is able to live up to expectations.

Not so, here at the dawn of 2008.

This week's extravaganza is about as "can't miss" as it gets. There really isn't anything that can happen on Sunday when the underdog New York Giants and the perfect New England Patriots trot out on to the field in Phoenix that will diminish the aura.

If the Giants somehow pull off the upset, it will complete of one of the most unlikely Cinderella stories of this or any other sports year. And if the Patriots finish off their dream season by making it 19 wins in a line, they will accomplish a level of perfection achieved by only one other team in NFL history.

Even before the first official sound byte of the week, the hype machine is fairly bristling with story lines.

The intrigue swirling around Hollywood Tom Brady's mysterious protective boot that he's been seen hobbling around on all last week could carry the week all by itself but there's so much more.

There's the pursuit of perfection, the Belichick Factor, Boston versus New York and what about the transformation of the "other" Manning, who had rightly earned the monicker Eli The Terrible halfway through this season?

And if Manning's redemption gets a prominent place on the marquee, what of coach Tom Coughlin, whose career looked on the verge of implosion early in the season? He has come off the trash heap and now is going to be signing a multi-year contract for about $4 million US a season.

Truth be told, even without that Patriots and their supposed date with history, the Giants could carry this Super Bowl all by themselves.

If anybody had taken a poll to determine which of the 12 playoff teams least deserved to be there, the Giants probably would have won, hands down. As late as the middle of December when they were beaten 22-10 at home by the Redskins and Manning was 18 of 53 in the passing department, New York looked like road kill.

PUSHED THE PATS

Two weeks later, in the final game of the season, they pushed the Patriots to the limit. The Giants led 28-16 and even though they let it slip away, losing 38-35, it sent them to the playoffs with confidence that far exceeded their modest 10-6 record.

After playoff wins over division champions Tampa, Dallas and Green Bay, who were a combined 35-13 during the regular season, they now are headed for Arizona, as improbable contenders for the Lombardi Trophy, riding a 10-game unbeaten streak on the road.

They are, of course, the complete antithesis of the Patriots, who started training camp as Super Bowl favourites and have only built their reputation from there. They have dominated, yes, but they also have had some incredible near-misses on their way to 18-0.

Baltimore had them on the ropes in the final minutes and bungled the closing. Philadelphia, a week earlier, had the same chance and blew it. And then there was that monumental meeting against the Giants.

Earlier this week, Coughlin began a team meeting by asking who could name the Super Bowl loser two years ago.

After an uncertain moment, somebody came up with Seattle but the point was not lost.

"Nobody remembers who loses the Super Bowl," Manning said.

True enough, unless you're from Buffalo. But these two teams meeting in Super Bowl LVII might just be the exception.


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