When the Giants take the field against the New England Patriots on Sunday evening, fans will be reminded—for the umpteenth time—that the team has been to the Super Bowl four times, and has won football’s ultimate prize twice.
It’s a lie, and Giants fans of a certain vintage know it.
In fact, the Giants have won football’s biggest game five times (not including 1927, when they won the league’s title by finishing in first place), and Sunday will mark the 18th time they have competed in the National Football League’s championship game. No team has appeared in more NFL title games.
What’s that? You’re wondering how that could be? After all, when sports journalists talk about great teams with multiple championship appearances, they talk about the Dallas Cowboys and the San Francisco 49ers and the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Patriots. They’re the dominant championship teams, right?
Wrong. But you can’t blame a young fan for not knowing that the NFL has been playing championship games since 1933—long before the first Super Bowl, in 1967. The NFL and the media have conspired to erase the game’s glorious past, at the expense of teams like the Giants, founded by the Mara family in 1925.
It’s all about the Super Bowl era, and television, and the folding of the old American Football League into the venerable National Football League. There’s no question that professional football changed in the late 1960’s, when the NFL and AFL agreed to merge. But then again, other sports changed dramatically at around the same time. Baseball moved to divisional play in 1969. Hockey expanded from six teams to a dozen. But only the NFL seems intent on obliterating the memory of great players and teams who had the bad luck to win championships before Lamar Hunt, the late owner of the Kansas City Chiefs, coined the phrase “Super Bowl.”
Reporters covering the Giants and Patriots this week have been handed thick guidebooks listing great individual achievements in Super Bowl history, which means there’s no point in looking for the names of memorable Giants like Charlie Connerly or Rosy Grier—not to mention other great names from past NFL championship games, like Jim Brown and Sid Luckman.
Football fans may argue that today’s players are so good, their accomplishments so marvelous, that there’s no point in comparing them with players from the 1950’s, or the 1930’s. That may be true, but surely it is a bit extreme to pretend, as the NFL and the media do, that championship football began when the Green Bay Packers beat the Chiefs in the first Super Bowl.
And so this Sunday, as the Giants bring their best against the Patriots, they’ll have more than just the fans on their side; they’ll have a rich and storied history, even if those great games were played before anyone could watch them on color TV.