Most people’s recollection of history is selective and sporadic. This appears to be less trend and more epidemic among people who analyze professional sports, for a living or for leisure.
To hear it told elsewhere — including a few column inches to my right — two wins by a total of seven points in a four-year span indicate that the New York Giants own the New England Patriots and will eat their breakfast, lunch and dinner and their legacy for dessert Sunday night.
Really? So you want to talk about history? Sure. Let’s rap.
One team in Super Bowl XLVI ended the regular season with an VIII-game winning streak. The other won a grand total of IX games through that entire schedule.
One needed to dispatch two underachieving, disappointing division rivals in order to clinch home field advantage. The other had to beat two of the three most overhyped teams in the league to finish above .500, win the world’s most overrated division since long division and merely make the playoffs.
One beat the tar and the pride out of the teams in the allegedly soft second half of its schedule. The other lost at home by double digits to Seattle and was swept by Washington.
The long-term perspective has been flawed and one-sided, too. Even before the Giants pummeled the Packers at Lambeau Field on Jan. 15, comparisons to their 2007-08 championship team ran rampant. Suddenly they were hailed as the poster franchise for momentum, never failing to catch fire when the calendar flips from December to January.
Not once did I hear parallels drawn between the Patriots’ two-month winning streak and their teams of 2001 and 2003 that evolved from early-season doldrums and were eminently unbeatable.
Las Vegas looks smarter than press row. This should be another air-tight Super Bowl, one that will generate highlights we’ll watch over and over again until all of us assume room temperature. But the Patriots deserve to be favored.
Long-term history says so. Short-term history says so. Contrary to what the New York-centric national media has told you, even the numbers and the intangibles say so.
If you’re sick to death of hearing about Eli-te Manning, his emergence from his brother’s shadow, his ascent to the Mount Rushmore of Clutch and his fitness for a post office box in Canton should he win that second championship ring, imagine how Tom Brady feels.
With even a pedestrian performance Sunday, Brady will become the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for more than 6,000 yards in one regular-season-and-playoffs sequence.
He’s the second QB to start five Roman Numeral games and is on the cusp of joining Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana as the only guys to win four.
Despite missing a full season with a catastrophic knee injury and putting up mortal numbers in his comeback season, Brady is a top-five, all-time signal-caller near the peak of his career.
If the Patriots’ patchwork offensive line gives No. 12 even two seconds to make his reads, he performs surgery on the league’s best defenses.
Ah, and there’s the inconvenient truth. For all the talk about the porous Patriots and the peaking Giants, the latter’s defense stunk equally across the big picture.
The Giants were a bottom-five ‘D’ all season. They have defied just as much (here’s that word again) history to get here as the bend-like-Gumby Patriots. Their secondary won’t make anyone forget Elvis Patterson.
In fact, the Patriots have demonstrated a much greater propensity for forcing turnovers, a game-changing element with which Manning is (wait for it) historically generous. Red zone interceptions and strip-sacks were as much a Patriots staple in 2011 as the perpetual prevent.
All the other categories furnished as damning evidence against the Patriots actually favor them.
Manning has three great receivers?
Brady has the best slot receiver on the planet (Wes Welker), one of the most prolific Super Bowl pass catchers ever (Deion Branch) and a tight end combination that scientists should be using as a proof of evolution (Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez).
Gronkowki is hobbling around Indianapolis in a walking boot?
Hmmm, I must be the only person in America who watched Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz hobble off the chewed-up turf at Candlestick multiple times.
Patriots can’t run the ball to ease the pressure on Brady?
He isn’t the one who had to fling it 58 times in the conference championship games. Even with BenJarvus Green-Ellis showing grandmother-like burst between the tackles, Hernandez lining up at fullback and Stevan Ridley using that loaf-of-bread grip, the Patriots had a better running game than the Giants. All season long.
So the Patriots pass the ball better, run the ball better and force turnovers better. They’ve lost the swagger of 2007 and regained the why-not-us mentality of 2001 (OK, and the 2004 Red Sox).
No 9-7 team has won the Super Bowl, and that history isn’t going to change, either.
The Giants’ predecessors in medicrity, the 1979 Rams and 2008 Cardinals, got close. So will the G-Men. But not close enough.
Brady will set the tone early with a touchdown or two out of the gate. That will atone for two failures of the two previous meetings — putting the Giants’ defense into heavy-breathing, on-its-heels mode, and forcing Manning to play catch-up long before the fourth quarter.
Neither is a good scenario for the Jersey syndicate.
Patriots 34, Giants 27.
Chew on that legacy while you’re thumbing through the history book.
— Kalle Oakes is a staff columnist. He respects the Giants but fears no one.