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February 7, 2008, 2007

Outdoor Corner

by Chris Feeney

What is more likely, the New York Giants beating the undefeated New England Patriots in the Super Bowl, or a blind golfer scoring a hole-in-one? The odds were pretty slim on either choice, but both took place this past week.

Leo Fiyalko, a 92-year-old golfer from Florida, recorded an ace at the Cove Cay Country Club when his tee shot on the 110-yard par three hole found the hole. The legally blind golfer didn’t see the ball go in, but his regular golfing party let him know he had achieved perfection on the course for the first time in his 60-years of playing the sport.

While macular degeneration, which limits him to just peripheral vision in one eye leaving him legally blind, kept him from visually enjoying his best golf shot ever, the same could not be said for the millions of fans that were lucky enough to view Super Bowl XLII.

For the first time I can remember, I basically watched the entire football game. Not only that, the number of important or exciting football plays I can recall far outnumber the memories I have of the infamous Super Bowl ads.

Still, if this year’s big game did exceed the record average of 94 million U.S. TV sets that were turned on to watch Dallas and Pittsburgh duke it out back in 1996, it speaks volumes for our football viewing society.

The game was supposed to be a mismatch, with the undefeated Patriots favored by most experts by as many as two touchdowns. (I have to brag that prior to the NFC championship game between Green Bay and New York, I told my wife that the Giants were going to win that game and then go on to defeat New England in the Super Bowl. Of course that bold prediction was for an audience of one.)

I know there are lots of Patriots fans and probably even more Giants boosters out there, but for most of us, our favorite teams had long ago bowed out of the trophy race. Still we turned on the tube in droves to watch a game that by most accounts was going to be a blow out.

I know there are plenty of folks that view the Super Bowl more of a social event, taking the time to enjoy fellowship with friends, while munching on some goodies and enjoying the humorous advertisements while putting up with the silly football plays in between.

But to reach a record number of viewers, the game had to be drawing upon something else? I suspect there were plenty of watchers that couldn’t help but cheer for an underdog. It wasn’t David and Goliath because the Giants won this one, but we all like to see an upset.

Yet I can’t help but wonder if we were really rooting for David or were we all tuned hoping to see Goliath topple back down to Earth?

The saying goes, “No one is perfect.” Well New England was bidding to put a stop to that cliché, at least in NFL standards. Only once has an NFL team won every game, the 1972 Miami Dolphins, who went 17-0 and won the Super Bowl.

This was supposed to be even better, as New England had to go through a longer regular season to go unbeaten, winning 16 straight games, before adding two playoff wins to go 18-0.

I only watched a handful of those contests, but I was pretty impressed by what I saw. The Patriots were the best team in the league this year.

But that’s why we play the games, because the best team on paper doesn’t always give the best performance on game day. When you have athletes of such great ability, there are always opportunities to stand out above the rest. The biggest play of the game in my mind occurred when quarterback Eli Manning was being dragged down by his jersey by a pair of New England defenders. Somehow he escaped the sack and was able to loft a deep pass down the middle of the field. Backup wide receiver David Tyree out-leaped the Patriots bad boy safety Rodney Harrison and was somehow able to pin the ball with one hand against his helmet as he was being drug down to the turf. The second hand came up just in time to squeeze the ball for the biggest completion of the Giants’ season.

Of course that play was set up by a long completion from Manning to another reserve, rookie Kevin Boss that moved the Giants into scoring position after New England had finally regained the lead.

I enjoyed seeing these little-known players get their share of the limelight.

Yet I must admit I enjoyed watching the Giants sack poster boy Patriots quarterback Tom Brady even more. Okay I’ll admit it, I was one of those people that really only tuned in to watch the Patriots lose.


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