Friday, February 3, 2012


During the entire 2007 season David Tyree had a total of four receptions - just one more than he made in Super Bowl XLII, one of which went for a touchdown and the one you just saw, the velcro-helmut grab, generally viewed as one of, if not the, greatest play in Super Bowl history. When the New England Patriots and New York Giants faced off February 3rd, 2008 in Glendale, Arizona, the Patriots were 12 1/2 point favorites and looking to cap an undefeated season, the first since the 1972 Miami Dolphins and only one since the NFL went to a 16-game format, a 19-0. The Giants on the other hand had backed into the playoffs, no one but the faithful gave them a snowballs chance and really, Eli Manning had no business getting out of the grasp and completing that pass to Tyree. But he did and four plays and 24 seconds later Manning completed a pass to Plaxico Burress for the game winning score in an inconceivable 17-14 victory.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 12,743 the Friday before that 2008 game. Unemployment in the US was 4.9%. Housing prices were continuing their perpetual upward march and the economy seemed to be humming along thanks to the wizards of Wall Street who had taken the risk out of living beyond our means in an orgiastic, credit fueled, consumer binge. Alan Greenspan was still god and had yet to discover the distressing flaw in his model that he perceived was the critical, defining structure that defines how the world worked, despite the considerable evidence. Presidential primaries were raging for both the Democrats and Republicans as everyone started to buy into hope and change, willing to believe anything as long as it ended the nightmare reign of the stunted shrub. We all know how all that turned out; another regularly occurring yet completely unpredictable financial crisis and the election of a Kenyan-Muslim-Socialist to continue and intensify all of Dubya's policies, codifying the darkest side of the regime. Inconceivable.

Fast forward four years and it's like deja-vu all over again. The Giants and Patriots vying for Super Bowl XLVI with the same quarterbacks, Eli Manning and Tom Brady, and the same coaches, Tom Coughlin and Bill Belichick (the Hoodie). After falling as low as 6,594, US stocks have recovered, the Dow surging 156 points on a Facebook news wave Friday to pass the level of four years ago to 12,862 (don't mind that it closed at 11722.98 January 14, 2000). We're assured that unemployment is on the way back down and the economy is gathering steam thanks to the rekindling of the consumer passion for taking on debt to buy stuff at the mall. Black Friday has become bigger than Thanksgiving, well, equally violent with more pepper-spraying. Meanwhile the Republican primary clown show will eventually have to choose Mitt Romney to run against Obama in order to reassure everyone they have a say in how the country is governed. It's winter and eventually got cold again, providing ammunition for the cognitive dissidents happy to make every day Groundhog Day. Plus the Patriots are favoured to beat the Giants in the Super Bowl again, so really, what could go wrong?

Oh, yeah. That whole history repeating itself thing. Panem et circenses while Rome burns and all that. From this year's opening kick-off, which fell on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, through the new Sunday mass shout-out to the troops protecting America's freedom abroad, the NFL provides the perfect propaganda platform. F-16 flyovers and fireworks fueling the jingoism reinforced by generals being paid by arms dealers to sell the next war which only needs to swap an n for a q for Iran to become Iraq. For many the commercials overshadow the game itself as ever increasing viewership figures fuel record prices paid for advertising slots to keep wanna be scientists (we call them economists) debating the value of  paying $4,000,000 for a  30 second chance at passive fatty, chemically charged Super Bowl snack zombie brains which are easily convinced all is well or will be better if they just upgrade their life by opening their wallets. As in Rome, we can forget about the spiraling costs of our ludi and munera while watching the spiraling pigskin while PIIGS wait to light the same fuse as Lehman Brothers four years ago. Seems the world, just like a good football team, is able to forget about yesterday's loss and move on. The difference is a good team learns from their mistakes, making adjustments on the fly and post game before lining up for the next play or game whereas we seem to never learn our lesson.

Yeah, yeah, the world changes, everything's really different this time. Tyree never caught another pass in the NFL while Burress went on to shoot himself in the leg in a nightclub nine months later. Injured the following preseason, Tyree spent the year on injured reserve before the Giants cut him in 2009. He signed with Baltimore but didn't catch on before signing a one-day contract with big blue in 2010 to retire as a Giant. As mall appearance fees dried up, looking for a way to support his six kids, Tyree did what any good born again Christian would do, he tried to raise his pundit profile by saying crazy stuff, "If they pass this gay marriage bill...what I know will happen if this does come forth is this will be the beginning of our country sliding toward, it's a strong word, but anarchy." With the Super Bowl rematch, Tyree will be sure to get on his soap box to tell someone how to live their life. Anything to do with religion is a sure dial-a-distraction success. Remember before Tebowing there was the Focus on the Family commercial featuring Timmy's mom which never explicitly mentioned abortion, only referring to almost losing him. This year stations in states with primaries are forced to air political ads, yes forced, or not, and yes graphic abortion ads bring Jesus and politics together on Super Sunday and Tuesday, where SuperPACs like Romney's Restore Our Future pay for the WMDs (weapons of mass distraction) without coordinating with him to decide elections thanks to Citizens United.

Plaxico. Plaxico, Plaxico. So much like America. So much natural talent, so much promise, so stupid. Weeks after Greenspan's ideology was thrown off kilter with the complete collapse of the housing debt bubble he had created and nine months after the Super Bowl, Plax shot himself in the leg with his own heater in a NYC club. The Giants have 16 active players still on the roster from the 2007 season, the Patriots just seven, Burress playing with the Jets after spending nearly two years in jail. Meanwhile, trillions in fiat money, dollars, euros and pounds, has been poured into the pit dug by neoliberalism's free market flaw and we can't even see the water yet, so we'll sail QE3 from Wall Street across the pond to the City and inflate Europe with ESM and EFSF and IMF to keep banks afloat instead of saving drowning people in underwater homes. And yes, impoverish our future to add to the wealth of the 0.01%, the NFL owners, and temporary 1%, the players, but at least the NFL spins off billions  while banks only siphon trillions up to the few.

To prognosticate, you've gotta look back to look forward in football as in finance, economics and so much more as the past is all we have to go on, which is why everyone is usually wrong. Before the season I picked the Patriots to win the Super Bowl by beating the Chargers, who didn't even make the playoffs, but will go against my preseason prediction, as what happened during the season matters. Resistance to change is why not one in a hundred economists predict bubbles bursting, ignoring the obvious is more profitable for those at the top making it safer to bet on football than the Wall Street casino where the house always wins. Regardless of its value, the barrage of information and the battle for its control will go on so let's take a quick look at the 2011 season to help us find XLVI's winner. I picked the Pack last year but the Colts in XLIV (though I did mention taking the Saints against the spread) and the Steelers over the Cardinals the previous season in my first Super Bowl post making me 2-1, but if the alternating win-loss pattern holds maybe what I've got to say will be wrong. Or not. Let's look back to move on.

We almost lost the whole season thanks to the battle between the 1% and the 0.01%, just having one was a bonus. With the collective bargaining agreement being signed so close to the start of the preseason, mini camps and most of the off season activities along with the first pre-season game were wiped out. It should have been hard on rookies but it wasn't the case on both sides of the ball. Cam Newton is so good he made it exciting watching the Carolina Panthers while Andy Dalton to AJ Green turned the Bungles into the playoff Bengals. The 49ers' Aldon Smith and Broncos' Von Miller were instrumental in getting their teams into the show as well. Along with Smith, the 49ers also had rookie head coach Jim Harbaugh to guide them to 13-3. However, this year will be remembered as the year of the quarterback, beyond Aaron Rogers, the pass happy league had two QBs beating Dan Marino's 5,084-yard season in 1984 record this year, Drew Brees (5,476 passing yards, 468 completions, 71.2% completion rate – all NFL records) and Tom Brady. Peyton went before brother Eli in most fantasy drafts this year, the unknown status of his neck non-fusion not enough to scare owners, but it is the younger Manning with the chance to go 2-1 up on his older brother in Super Bowl victories after almost 5,000 yards and 29 TDs while Peyton missed the year and may never play again. Brady is looking for SB number four.

Manning has the better WRs in the triumvirate of Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham, while Brady has his TE duo of Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski, the latter in a walking boot since hurting his ankle in the Ravens game two weeks ago. His health will be key having set the single season mark for TDs and reception yards for a tight end. Wes Walker put together a big year too for the Pats while Deion Branch has won a Super Bowl MVP on the other side but is on the wrong side of 32 for a speed guy. Imagine if Ochocinco had been able to learn the Hoodies' playbook. Victor Cruz exploded this year making huge plays on 82 catches and 1,536 yards, none bigger than the 99-yard catch and run against the Jets. Nicks went over 1,000 yards too while Manningham came back to life last week. It was the Giants TE Jake Ballard who made a great grab to beat the Patriots with 15 seconds remaining to give his team a 24-20 win earlier this year but he's slowed by a partial PCL tear so I'm looking for Giants' TE Bear Pascoe to make the difference (No, that doesn't have a cause and effect, it just is, like picking stocks versus playing the Patriots like the quants told you to do in your portfolio).

Both teams have a few options to run the ball too. While the Giants did finish last in the NFL in rushing this year, I like the Giants Bradshaw/Jacobs/Ware combination better than the Pats Law Firm led, Benjarvis Green Ellis, little Danny Woodhead and Stevan Ridley. Green Ellis has yet to fumble in his first 536 touches, catches and carries, an NFL record for the start of a career but Ridley did in the Broncos divisional game and was sat for the conference final. The black swan feeling for the unpredictable calls for a game-changing Law Firm fumble. A knicked up Bradshaw (his foot is always bothering him) is still more dangerous in the open field and is surprisingly powerful for his size while Jacobs can be a battering ram but needs to keep his shoulders turned upfield. Whether Vince Wilfork, the only Patriots defensive starter from 2008, can beat Bass and have the games he did taking out Tebow and then Ray Rice so far in the playoffs will determine the Giants running success. Unsurprisingly, they're all part of the passing attack, the diminutive size of Woodhead and Bradshaw make them particularly dangerous on screens as they melt into the pulling line and pop out with the ball.

The Giants are weak at tackle, Kareem McKenzie and David Diehl allowed 6.5 sacks each this season but it's the Patriots susceptibility to the long ball (hello you lucky bastard DB Sterling Moore for game saving-knocking the ball out of Lee Evans hands in the conference final to preserve the win over the Ravens) that should be decisive. Safety James Ihedigbo is no Rodney Harrison who couldn't even stop David Tyree. The Super Bowl does and will feature big plays on the big stage, any one of the three Giants WRs can, and so one will, go deep at some point. Kyle Arrington, the other regular in a defensive backfield that has had 16 players rotate through, might have had seven picks and 88 tackles this season, but there's a reason. Team's can and do throw at him along with triple-threat WR Julian Edelman who is often pressed into service to shore up the defensive backs, helping the team to their 31st defensive ranking. He couldn't contain the Ravens' Boldin, he'll be burned by Cruz.

The Giants had 48 sacks, third in the league, but have even stepped that up since it counted with 11 against the Jets and Cowboys to wrap up the NFC East and nine in three playoff victories thanks to their front four. All-Pro Jason Pierre-Paul not only blocked the kick to bury the Cowboys but led the team with 16 1/2 sacks in his second season, while Osi Umenyiora added nine in only nine games. Tuck and backup defensive end Dave Tollefson had five apiece, Chris Canty added four and fellow tackle Linval Joseph had two. There’s also linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka, who had 3 1/2 sacks playing as a lineman in passing situations. The back seven aren't their equal but improved as the year went on and the Giants' three-headed safety of Antrel Rolle, Deon Grant and Kenny Phillips may be able to contain Gronk and Hernandez.

While the Patriots did put together a 13-3 record led by Brady and the Giants only finished 9-7, their records are deceptive. The Pats first win against a team over .500 came two weeks ago when they beat the Ravens who probably should have won that AFC championship game. Not only did the Giants wins include one over the Patriots, but after starting 6-2, they then lost five of their next 6 putting themselves in a must win situation to close out the year. They responded and rolled. After beating the Jets and Cowboys, the Giants only gave up two points to the Falcons in the wildcard round, and that was a safety on offense of course. Sure the Packers were flat but they dominated the undefeated team that pretty much everyone and their mom had penciled to repeat as champs, 37-20. The 20-17 overtime victory at soggy Candlestick over the defensively dominant 49ers wasn't flashy but workman-like. The Pats took care of Tebow's Broncos and Brady "sucked pretty bad" and got a lucky field goal miss to beat the Ravens. Momentum favors the Giants.

Near random garble this prediction business but we still tune it in. Ignoring the fact the Giants defense ranked 27th themselves and that Brady can look a lot like that other guy I hate whose records he's now breaking, Joe Montana, as when he threw five first half TDs against the Broncos isn't that hard. It's easy when you just believe. Faith in markets, religion and football is all the American Dream has left, the rest is in hock ($15 trillion+ and counting). Madonna, the Like a Prayer, Material Girl, energizer bunny will be performing at halftime with the Cirque de Soleil while the real life circus goes on and on. The Giants will hit a couple of big plays while the Pats make enough mistakes to give us another upset Giant victory. In Vegas and on Wall Street the house always wins, socialized losses and privatized losses for banksters while Nevada's sports books have come out on top 15 of the last 16 Super Bowls. This year bookmakers have kept the Patriots as field goal favorites despite most of the betting money, about 65%, going on the Giants. A Giant win will likely wipe out more than a few casinos, it may even bankrupt Nevada if the housing bubble hadn't already done it. The one Vegas got wrong in the past 16 years? Yep, the Giant victory four years ago. Could the real casinos be trying to imitate the version the financial markets played of them just four years back? Or, is it vice-versa? Whatever, Giants not only beat the spread, they win straight up, 31-28.