In the rich history of athletics in New York, the city has produced great champions in all four major team sports. Few victories, however, were as dramatic, memorable and surprising as the Giants’ last-minute triumph over the unbeaten New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII on Sunday.
If you believe in the redemptive powers of sports, if you appreciate the ways in which our games define our self-image and create bonds between families and generations, you understand why two million people gathered in downtown Manhattan on Feb. 5 to celebrate the Giants’ improbable victory.
The Giants, a class organization owned by two great New York families, the Maras and the Tisches, showed there is something to the cliché about the power of hard work, intense focus and fierce determination. It would be wrong to say that the Patriots lacked those qualities. But it would be hard to deny that the Giants won because they outworked and outsmarted New England, and because they never doubted themselves.
So the Vince Lombardi Trophy, named for the Brooklyn native who played college football at Fordham University and learned how to coach as an assistant on the Giants’ staff, belongs to Big Blue. The team and its many heroes—Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning, Michael Strahan, Plaxico Burress, Osi Umenyiora, David Tyree and so many others—have become part of New York sports lore. It’s pretty select company, but it surely is where they belong. Likewise Giants’ head coach Tom Coughlin, who seemed destined for the unemployment line as recently as September after the team started 0-2, and the team’s general manager, Jerry Reese, the first African-American GM to lead a team to the Super Bowl.
But even as the Giants and their fans celebrate, there is a bit of unfinished business that needs urgent attention. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is under consideration for the Washington Redskins’ head coaching job. Mr. Reese seems to think his defensive genius—the man who designed the Giants’ assault on Patriot quarterback Tom Brady—will be packing his bags. He told reporters that if Mr. Spagnuolo is offered the Washington job, “we wish him godspeed with that.”
That would be the Giants’ first mistake of the off-season. The Giants should do everything in their power to keep Mr. Spagnuolo, just as Dallas Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones found a way to keep Jason Garrett as the team’s offensive coordinator despite job feelers from other teams looking for a head coach. The Giants have allowed too many great assistants to slip away: Lombardi, the late Tom Landry of Dallas, and current NFL coaches Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints, John Fox of the Carolina Panthers and that mysterious fellow with the Patriots hoodie, Bill Belichick.
Losing Mr. Spagnuolo, architect of one of the greatest defensive performances in Super Bowl history, would be bad enough. Losing him to Washington, one of the Giants’ rivals in the National Football Conference’s East Division, would be demoralizing. The Redskins made the playoffs this year and figure to be even better next year. The Giants can’t help that process along by parting with Mr. Spagnuolo.
But enough about next year. Giants’ fans should enjoy this wonderful New York moment, and treasure the fresh memories of unexpected glory.