January 2, 2008

A Lose-Lose Situation

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Wait, the Patriots are 15-0? I hadn’t noticed. I guess I missed the constant articles, coverage, prime time games and the “Patriots” section of ESPN’s “Bottom Line.” Believe it or not, New England will in fact be going for a perfect regular season this weekend. I have ardently rooted against New England for 15 games, all for naught. Normally, this week I would continue my hatred of the Pats, but Saturday night’s matchup presents a conundrum for any Jets fan like myself – the Patriots against the Giants.
Right now, there are no two teams in the NFL than I hate more than these two. Because a Patriots victory would mean the second undefeated regular season in NFL history, I obviously will be watching the game. But who should I root for?
Throughout my life, as a die-hard Jets fan, I have hated the Giants. I’m not one of those “New York fans,” who switches allegiances like Benedict Arnold; I ardently detest the New York Giants. It hasn’t been hard; the New York media treats the Jets like the Giants’ unpopular little friend. The Giants thus get more media coverage, have had more fans and have enjoyed more success. Their shade of blue infuriates me. I hate that the Jets play at Giants Stadium. I get annoyed that the Giants once played at Yankee Stadium.
Furthermore, the Giants’s personnel makes them easy to hate, especially as a Jets fan. During my time following football, the Giants have been coach by boring, crusty old men (Dan Reeves, Jim Fassell, Tom Coughlin), while the Jets’ coaches have been an entertaining cast of characters (Bruce “Irrelevant” Coslet,” Pete “Mr. College” Carroll, Bill “The Greatest” Parcells, Bill “Slimeball Traitor Coach for a Day” Belichick, Al “One and Done” Groh, Herm “You Play to Win the Game” Edwards, and Eric “Genius, Possibly” Mangini). Well, maybe the Jets coaches’ aren’t that entertaining, but at least they give better press conferences.
This year’s Giants team is flawed, much to my enjoyment. Eli Manning has proved to be the black sheep of his family, and Tom Coughlin’s perpetually confused look assures me that Big Blue will not have a game plan to stop Jeff Garcia in the Giants’ first playoff game against Tampa Bay. All opposing teams have to do is stop Brandon Jacobs (admittedly not an easy task), and make Manning win the game. In that case, Manning inevitably folds under pressure.
While I have rooted against the Giants for every week for the past 15 years, I have only started to hate the Patriots recently. Sure, they are in the Jets division, and I really didn’t like them, but I never feared them. I used to become enraged by thinking about the Dolphins or the Bills, but the Pats were like an ant—sure they were annoying, but you never felt threatened by them.
The Patriots had two fluke successful years before the Tom Brady era—both years they got lucky in a weak AFC. Both times they got flattened in the Super Bowl. In most other years, New England was terrible. They even once had a coach named Rod Rust, which sounds like a character that Reed Rothchild from Boogie Nights would play.
That all changed in 2001 when Tom Brady became the Patriots’ quarterback, taking over for an injured Drew Bledsoe. Six years and three Super Bowls later, New England is the most hated team in football and I’m still bitter.
This year’s Patriots win with maddening efficiency and destroy opponents. They almost never make mistakes. And worst of all, their fans have become insufferable. There are of course some hard-core fans who still own Tony Eason jerseys, but I feel like almost every Pats fan I meet just jumped on the bandwagon, couldn’t distinguish Troy Brown from Browne Sanders, and wants to put Laurence Maroney in the Hall of Fame.
Needless to say, I now never root for the Giants and the Patriots. Normally, I would pretend the game between the two wasn’t happening, but with the huge consequences of Saturday’s game, I just can’t. So who should a Jets fan root for? I have gone back-and-forth on this all week, but I think it has to be the Giants. No matter what happens, the Giants will get the No. 5 seed in the NFC, so this game means much more to the Patriots and their legacy. So let’s hope the Patriots get their comeuppance, Plaxico Burress and Eli Manning come to blows in the huddle, the Patriots fans will shut up and the Giants fans won’t gloat next week if their team was the only one to slay the mighty Patriots. Hey, at least one of them is assured of losing (unless they tie, in which case I don’t know how I’ll feel).

Michael Mix is a Sun Senior Editor. He can be reached at mmix@cornellsun.com.