There are plenty of decade retrospectives happening everywhere right now, but we'd also like you to participate. Tell us about the best game you've seen in person this decade with the tag #iwasthere. Mine: Patriots at Giants, Week 17!
It wasn't my idea to go to the Giants' final regular season game in late December of 2007. Personally, I saw no upside: the Giants were locked, win or lose, into a #5 postseason slot, and numerous sports shouters were of the opinion that Tom Coughlin ought to rest ailing starters like Plaxico Burress in advance of the playoffs. I figured I'd be better off on the couch.
But a friend of mine — let's call him Bill, since that rhymes with his actual name — peer pressured me to seek out some tickets and did not hesitate for a second when I came back with a pair a tad outside our range. Why would he? Bill's team was the Patriots, and they were coming to the Meadowlands with a perfect season on the line.
The game was at 8:15 on a Saturday night. Bill was in a Wes Welker jersey, and I wore long underwear and a hoodie and a Shockey #80 that I had borrowed-slash-stolen from a friend. (It became obsolete, sniff, and he never asked for it back.) The parking lot of Giants Stadium was a festive if bizzaro affair, with the ratio of home fans to visitors noticeably out of whack.
The result of this crazy alchemy was everyone was just happy to be there. Giants fans in particular were about as laid back as we'd ever been, knowing that (barring injuries) nothing could really go wrong. Should the Patriots win, we'd see history made, and if the Giants could only…
Ha! Yeah right, like the Giants would win.
This was our attitude, or at least it was mine. So when Eli hit Plaxico for 52 yards on the very second play of the game, we reacted with dumb and spontaneous glee.
You know when young toddlers, confronted with candy or the sight of a real live dump truck, get excited beyond their vocabulary and just begin hopping and flapping their arms? That was us, and Brandon Jacobs hadn't even capped off the drive with a touchdown yet. I couldn't embrace Bill, so I bearhugged some strangers around me instead. I hugged them a lot that night.
The Giants were winning at halftime, 21-16, and Bill and I had depleted all of the contents of our flask. I was giddy, and he was zen.
With the Giants leading 28-23 early in the fourth quarter, Tom Brady hit Randy Moss with a 65-yard bomb that set new NFL touchdown pass records for both players and reminded us mere mortals of New England's omnipotence.
Eli would throw an interception on the next series. The Patriots would convert it into a touchdown. We were disappointed, sure, but also impressed. This was Tom Brady and the Patriots. What else did we expect?
The Giants never led again. But down 10 with under five minutes remaining, they did something almost as good: drove an authoritative 68 yards on 11 plays and picked up a touchdown with a minute to go. Against the Patriots, man, who fielded the onsides kick and became the first team to go 16-0.
It was unclear which fan base had more to celebrate. Bill had found some simpatico New England fans in the stands near us and they were busy high-fiving and hollering and basking in the glow.
But the Giants crowd was loopy and amped. The strangers and I shouted at each other in incredulous tones. Did you see how well they played? They almost beat the Pats! Since when does Eli scramble? Since when can Eli drive the field? That was the best they've played all year!
I was drunk enough on whiskey and high enough on life that I guess I scaled a barrier and hopped right onto a bus. I didn't know where Bill was, but I wasn't worried either. I sat down in the first seat and looked out the window over the snaking line of people that I had just cut. I had never left a stadium happier, and my team hadn't even won.