On the Ball--Super Sunday and sibling squabbles

Date Published: 
February 10, 2012

There’s plenty to be said of this past Sunday’s big game, Super Bowl XLVI, which drew in the largest viewing of any televised broadcast in the country’s history. The Nielsen Co. estimated on Monday that 111.3 million people had tuned into the big game, as the New York Giants bested the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl for the second time in four years.

The game sparked plenty of social media excitement, as well, setting a new TPS record, too, topping an average of 12,000 TPS. (For those of you still adjusting to the digital media madness, that’s “Tweets per second.”)

Without a particular favorite in the game, I was simply hoping for a close competition, and, fortunately, that’s what we got – and a whole lot more.

The 46th Super Bowl showed us a multitude of truths, such as the fact that history does, in fact, repeat itself. In dramatic fashion, much like in his 2008 performance, Eli Manning solidified his role as a clutch quarterback, mounting a game-winning drive, complete with yet another immaculate catch from a sound receiver. Four years earlier, in Super Bowl XLII, Manning found wide receiver David Tyree, whose unmistakable catch against his helmet kept the drive alive, before Manning landed a shot to Plaxico Burress for the inevitable game-winning score.

This past Sunday, it was Mario Manningham who rose to the occasion, with undeniable concentration on an outside catch in coverage that kept the Giants’ final push going. With just over a minute left to play, Giants’ halfback Ahmad Bradshaw scored what would end up being the game-winning touchdown and, in the process, gave us one of the most comical Super Bowl scoring runs we’ve seen.

In the Patriots’ effort to conserve as much time on the clock as they could for a last-ditch response, the defense opened a path to the end zone for Bradshaw, who tried to go down to the one-yard line but just couldn’t seem to do so. (In his defense, if any of us had the ball tucked away, with a red carpet rolled out in front of us for a late-game lead in a Super Bowl, I don’t think we’d be able to resist the temptation, either.) He rolled, all but unimpeded, into the end zone and put the Giants ahead.

Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady did his best to answer back as seconds ticked off the clock but, in the end, New England would once again succumb to the G-men of New York, to the tune of 21-17. Brady, a true champion of the game, and coach Bill Belichick – arguably the greatest NFL coach of this era – would have to settle for second, as they did in 2008.

Brady and Belichick have been the focus of many sports analysts’ discussions as one of the greatest quarterback-head coach combinations of all time, but the pair have yet to earn a Super Bowl title since 2007’s “Spygate” incident, in which Belichick and the Patriots organization were fined for videotaping the New York Jets’ defensive signals during practice. (Sorry, Pats fans. I’m just stating the facts. But that’s a discussion for another day.)

There was plenty more to come out of Super Bowl XLVI. For instance, as long as you have a live Super Bowl halftime show, you’re going to have to anticipate some sort of controversy. M.I.A., one of the accompanying artists for Madonna’s halftime performance, opted to promote world peace by showing the record-breaking viewership that she was No. 1, with an obscene gesture for which NBC, which aired the big game, later apologized.

We learned that the Lombardi Trophy, one of the most coveted awards in all of sports, sees more action than a room in the Playboy mansion during an all-night party as it makes its way through the gauntlet of players to the winning coach and the game’s MVP. An obviously uneasy Raymond Berry, a Baltimore Colts Hall-of-Famer, shuffled past celebratory New York Giants with the trophy, toward Giants’ coach Tom Coughlin and Manning, but not before it was groped, fondled and manhandled in ways that would even make Hugh Hefner blush.

This year’s Super Bowl also taught us that even the most gorgeous supermodels married to millionaire quarterbacks will talk like a sailor if provoked. After leaving the stadium following hubby Tom Brady’s loss, Gisele Bundchen responded to Giants’ fans who shouted out, “Eli rules!” and “Eli owns your husband!” with a colorful critique of the Patriots’ wide receivers as she defended her husband’s honor and reputation.

But one of the most talked-about topics to surface as a result of the fourth Super Bowl win in Giants’ team history, is the Manning debate – brother versus brother, Eli versus Peyton.

Eli Manning entered the NFL in 2004 much like his older brother, Peyton, did in 1998 – as the first overall pick in their respective drafts. Both were selected by the team that currently employs them, Eli with the Giants, Peyton with the Indianapolis Colts. Through the years, Peyton has secured his name as one of the best to ever play the quarterback position, accumulating nearly 55,000 passing yards, 399 touchdowns and an overall record of 141-67 in his tenure as an NFL QB.

But now, baby brother Eli has something that Peyton does not – two Super Bowl championship rings and two Super Bowl MVP honors, to elder brother Peyton’s one of each.

After a season-ending setback from neck surgery last season kept Peyton from stepping on the field for a so much as a single game this season, no one even questioned his influence, as the nation watched the Colts suffer to an agonizing 2-14 record, reflecting his role as a leader on the team.

With a sprinkle of irony, Eli clinched his second Super Bowl victory last Sunday with a win in Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the Indianapolis Colts, “the House that Peyton Built.”

So, was the Giants’ success this season fueled at all by friendly sibling rivalry? Or was it Eli’s attempt to prove to the nation that he is, in fact, among elite quarterbacks in the game – a remark he made during an interview at the season’s start that had sports analysts in heated discussion? Would Eli be where he is today if Peyton was not his older brother, paving the way in football history?

However you look at it, it’s a great family story – two brothers assuming the role of QB in their head-turning careers, three Super Bowl wins and MVP titles between them, sons of great NFL quarterback and College Football Hall of Fame inductee Archie Manning.

But, I have no doubt that a rivalry between the siblings, even if a subconscious one, exists. In a post-Super Bowl interview, Eli insisted that the win on Super Sunday was a “championship for the New York nation and for the Giants organization,” and that it was “bigger than bragging rights” between brothers.

As an older brother myself, I understand and appreciate the competitive nature between siblings. My younger sister, Sarah, and I have always shared a combative conflict, whether in the classroom or on the field (she typically got the better of me, no matter what we were striving for). And as we have outgrown the petty clashes as young toddlers and attitudinal teenagers, there is still that unspoken feud that drives us to keep aspiring.

This week, however, Sarah upped the ante, after a lengthy academic career finally paid off for her. She assumed the role of a certified and licensed physical therapist and landed a great job as a young professional in the medical field. “Dr. Saxton” earned her undergraduate degree in 2008 from VCU and followed it up by earning the title of doctor of physical therapy this past December from Elon University. Her decorative degrees are her Super Bowl rings; her new job, her MVP award.

While I proudly sport my own “ring” – a bachelor’s degree from UNCW – and my Super Bowl MVP nod (a job that I love, at an outstanding weekly publication), I can’t help but think of how I can match my sister, two years my junior.

While I aspire toward what lies ahead for me, I couldn’t be more proud of what Sarah has accomplished, for herself and for our family. Sometimes, you realize that the journey is not necessarily about you and your accomplishments but, rather, what you’re a part of. For me, it’s about family, and what it truly means to be a Manning... er, a Saxton. Way to go, sis!