It’s funny how perceptions can rapidly change in the NFL. On Dec. 18 the conventional wisdom was that Giants head coach Tom Coughlin was certain to be dismissed at the end of the season after the team’s loss to the Washington Redskins at MetLife Stadium.
At the time the Jets seemed New York’s better bet to make it to the Super Bowl. When the Giants handily beat the Jets on Christmas Eve, the two teams’ fortunes reversed. The Jets would go on to lose their final game to the Miami Dolphins and begin an off-season of finger-pointing. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer submitted his resignation (read: was fired) while anonymous sources criticized QB Mark Sanchez’s work ethic.
The Giants went one to defeat the Dallas Cowboys on New Year’s Day to become NFC East champs. To punctuate that the accomplishment was not a fluke, Big Blue beat the Atlanta Falcons (who are owned by Flushing native Arthur Blank) at home, and more impressively, the defending Super Bowl titleholders, the Green Bay Packers, on the frozen tundra of storied Lambeau Field in the first two rounds of the playoffs. The Giants travel to San Francisco to meet the 49ers on Sunday to determine which NFC team will go to the Super Bowl in Indianapolis on Feb. 6.
The upset of the Packers last Sunday made a lot of folks happy besides the Giants and their fans. The 49ers now get to play at home, saving their players a trip to freezing Wisconsin and allowing the team’s owners to reap the enormous revenues of a home playoff game. You better believe that sportscasters Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, as well as the entire Fox Sports team would rather spend next Sunday in temperate and exciting San Francisco than in frigid and sleepy Green Bay.
I spent last week in the Phoenix area, and as luck would have it, the Islanders and the Nets played there while I was in the Valley of the Sun.
I witnessed one of sports’ greatest rarities — the Nets winning a game, and on the road no less. The stars lined up just right as the Nets, a team never known for good outside shooting, hit an incredible 15 three-point shots, while point guard Deron Williams had a career game with 35 points and 14 assists. The Nets were lucky that the Phoenix Suns were without their star point guard, Steve Nash, and playing their third game in as many nights.
The Islanders were not as fortunate as they lost to the Coyotes 5-1. The team’s only goal came on a power play. As their head coach Jack Capuano has frequently stated, they have to find a way to score when their opponents have five players on the ice.
Forest Hills native Ian Eagle showed why he is arguably the hardest-working sportscaster. Last Friday he was in Phoenix working the Nets game; on Saturday afternoon he was in Tucson for the Arizona-Oregon game that was broadcast on CBS; right after that he flew on a red-eye to Philadelphia to take a limo to Baltimore to call an NFL playoff game on radio.