January 05, 2011
What a difference two weeks can make. On Sunday December 19th, the Giants were heading into an early afternoon showdown with the Philadelphia Eagles. Giant fans picked up their Sunday morning bagels and newspapers and chatted about how a win would put them in great position for a first round playoff bye.
On that same Sunday, the Jets were scheduled for a late afternoon match against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Jets had lost their last two games to their division rival Patriots and Dolphins and their collapse was on the verge of a full blown panic. The whispers from the fan base of "same old Jets" were becoming increasingly loud. Adding to the concern was the fact that the Jets had never before won a football game in the Steel City.
By that evening the Giants had blown a 21 point lead with seven and a half minutes left and lost 38-31. The Jets held on to win 22-17, despite an 82-yard drive by Ben Rothlisberger that fell short of a score. The Giants' and Jets' fortunes flip flopped 180 degrees in the span of twelve hours. The Giants looked like they might be entering their second consecutive season of late game collapses, while the Jets were one win away from a playoff berth. These sentiments were confirmed this past Sunday when the Bears fell to the Packers to close the door on the Giants season (despite a victory), while the Jets played the lowly Bills in a tune up game for the playoffs.
As sports fans, we keep coming back day after day, week after week and season after season despite the pain that our team may inflict upon us. Take game 7 of the 2006 NLCS. My NY Mets took the lead in the first with an RBI single by David Wright. Ronnie Belliard's sacrifice bunt tied the score in the second. Fast forward to the sixth inning when Endy Chavez made the greatest catch in Met postseason history to keep the score tied at 1-1. Then in the ninth, Yadier Molina's two-run home run off Aaron Heilman gave the Cards the lead. With one more chance, the Mets loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth only to have Carlos Beltran strike out while looking at a called strike three.
So many emotions, from elation to dejection, in a three hour span. Where else could we experience such unscripted, spontaneous feeling? TV shows? Scripted and filmed weeks in advance. Movies? Scripted months, if not years earlier, with many takes per scene until perfection. In live sports, nothing is planned or scripted and the endings aren't always perfect. It's the only true form of reality television we have.
I've often debated what reality TV is with my girlfriend. The reality TV shows on Bravo, E!, MTV and Spike TV all have an element of scripting to them. The events are chopped and diced to build story lines meant to evoke suffering, triumph or conquest. In live sports, the ending is never scripted and always leaves one set of fans disappointed. (By the way, if you're a single guy, try playing the "I'm really into reality TV" card. Of course, don't specify that you're referring to live sports. See how far that gets you.)
As the Jets get ready to face Indianapolis in the playoffs and the Giants head into a desolate off-season, don't get too hyped by the playoff-bound Jets or too down from the listless play of the Giants down the stretch. The Jets haven't won anything yet (despite what Rex Ryan might want you to believe) and the Giants are not as broken as you might believe (10 wins in this league is tough to come by). As sports fans we expect the unexpected, assume nothing, and enjoy the ride. As we turn the page to a new year, I know I'll continue to enjoy the ride and I hope you will too.
*Pete is a Montauk resident, producer at ESPN Radio 1230AM, and host of "The Pete Mundo Sports Talk Show", live on your airwaves, 88.7FM WEER Hamptons Community Radio Tuesday and Thursday nights from 7-8PM. Pete can be reached via e-mail at Peterfmundo@gmail.com.