Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Reverse Jinxing the Giants

About the New York Football Giants...

I feel like the backup second baseman on a team where the pitcher has a perfect game going. Nobody is supposed to say anything to the pitcher for fear of jinxing it. But especially not an insignificant person like the backup second baseman. The catcher might obliquely discuss strategy with the pitcher, the star hitter might exhort the lineup to score more runs, the shortstop might remind his teammates to stay sharp on the infield. But bench warmers should sit meekly in the corner and say NOTHING to NOBODY about NOTHING!

That's sort of how I feel about this run the Giants are on. After a 7-7 start where the G-Men lost to some bad teams, needed 4th quarter comebacks for 5 wins, and were, in total, outscored by the opposition, this team is suddenly playing like an elite football team. And fans are wondering if...

Well, hold on there. I don't want any jinxy-cat thoughts to float into my head. I dream of exorcising the Trey Junkin demons*. I dream of shutting up every Patriot fan who thinks SB42 was a helmet fluke. I dream of making Ray Lewis cry on the sideline, erasing the stain of Super Bowl XXXV. But I'm nervous about giving voice to these dreams - I have a fear of jinxing this team like I never have before.

* Watching the clip still hurts, not just because of the epic meltdown but because the Niners should have been flagged for pass interference on the play. Mike Pereira, who has been a great addition to the Fox broadcast team, was head of officiating at the time, and he made the official decision that it was a blown call, and the Giants should have had a second chance to line up - this time for a chip shot field goal - to win the game.

Regular readers know I didn't have this superstition aversion in January 08. I had multiple blogasms back then. But this time, well, let's say I'm knocking more wood than a carpenter with the yips.

I'm a deeply rational guy. I don't believe in astrology or ghosts or sixth senses. I don't believe in black cats or unlucky numbers or curses. When someone has a feeling that something is going to happen, and that thing actually happens, I don't think it's because they have some sort of second sight - I think that a) they are incapable of recognizing the underlying rational thoughts that led to their feeling and b) they have conveniently forgotten the many times their feeling was wrong.

But when it comes to sports, I'm worse than a medieval peasant in the Transylvanian forest. For example, my daughter gave me some blue and white Mardi Gras beads to wear to the Cowboys game in Week 17. I wore them to MetLife Stadium and voila - Giants won the NFC East! Naturally I took them back to the stadium for the Falcons game and - they worked again!
Would they work on television? Sure enough, I wore them for the Packer game and even though Green Bay is 1,004 miles away from my living room, they worked! I'm sticking with the beads, baby.

I get this from my father. Poppa Keats is a religious man - he's a lector at his church, the pastor of his fire department, and wouldn't miss Mass on Sunday if he had to swim the Mississippi, climb Everest, and parachute from a skyscraper to get there. But he believes in a higher power - he believes the single biggest factor in the outcome of every Giants' game is whether or not he's watching. We frequently have conversations like the one we had Sunday night:

Me: What'd you think of the game Sunday?
Dad: Ah, I missed it.
Me: You missed it?! You missed the playoff game.
Dad: Well, I was watching, but Rodgers threw the TD pass to open the 2nd quarter so I turned it off. I put it back on again in the 4th, and he threw another one.
Me: Dad, I read a lot of articles about the game, and nobody seems to think your turning the TV off was a factor.
Dad: They won, didn't they?

In light of all this, I want to avoid any conversations of "If we win Sunday...". So in an attempt at a little counter-jinx, here's why the Giants won't win Sunday:

  • The 49ers had a regular season point differential of +151! The Giants actually gave up more points than (400) than they scored (394). No team has ever won a Super Bowl with a negative regular season point differential.
  • As for the myth that the Niners have a weak offense and the Giants a strong one...not really true. Niners are ranked 26th in offense and the Giants 8th, but that measures yards. In points scored they are 11th, the Giants 9th.
  • You may have read this elsewhere, but the Giants are ranked Last in rushing. And not just rushing yards, but Last in yards per attempt, too. The Niner defense is ranked First in rushing yards allowed, and First in yards per attempt. That seems like a bad combo.
So yeah, the Niners struggled down the stretch, barely eking out wins against the Seahawks and Rams, and losing to the Cardinals. Sure, the Niners lost to two teams the Giants beat this year (Cowboys and Cardinals). And yeah, the Giants' point differential in each of the past four games is higher than their entire regular season combined (+15, +17, +22, +17), and they came against teams with a .500 record or better. And it's true that the last time these teams played the Giants best rusher and best linebacker were home nursing injuries.

But the important thing to note here is that I am not making any positive assumptions about this Sunday. I hope the gods (now that they are through with Tebow) are listening.

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