The New York Giants weren't simply an underdog. They were, to use the parlance of Plato, the Form of the Underdog. They were up against a team whose record was unblemished-- practically unchallanged-- and whose seemingly inevitable victory in last night's Superbowl was unquestioned. The Patriots were "perfect." They were "historic." In one of the pre-game montages, Russel Crowe (yes, the "gladiator") narrated a short reflection on the meaning of perfection. Pictures of the Patriots were interspersed with the Sistine Chapel, the Mona Lisa, Einstein, Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. Crowe even began his little diatribe by referencing Aristotle's idea of perfection. (The montage itself may have actually constituted "perfect" hyperbole.) We were all but promised that we would witness perfection realized last night.
Then, the Patriots lost.
I really can't capture in words how happy this makes me. I've said for a long time that football was the one professional game that seemed to still maintain what is good and pure about sport. Even if there were players who weren't exactly good and pure, their individual character flaws had not really changed the game (as happened in baseball and basketball, I think). "Any given Sunday..." as they say. I was this close to being soured by football last night. But the Giants, who looked so very un-giant before the game began, confirmed what those of us who have spent our years and tears loving the game always believed about it. That is, what matters is The Game at hand. The Game always equalizes the teams at the beginning, zero-zero. You can bring your schedule and your repuatation and all the hype about you to the game, but all those things have to be left in the locker room, because they don't count in The Game. Whoever plays the best and scores the most points wins The Game. And whoever wins The Game, that day, is the best.
As it turns out, the game last night was historic, though not in the way everyone expected. I'm glad I resisted everything pessimistic and jaded in me that told me not to watch the game. It was beautiful.