Que Sarah, Sarah

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Love It or Hate It - Elisha Edition


By Sarah Spain
Love of Sports Correspondent

He started off his NFL career by giving a figurative middle-finger to the organization that drafted him.

He’s been given a big-deal contract and tons of time to develop in part due to the promise suggested by his famous last name.

He’s pouted his way through countless stretches of inconsistent play, shrugging and grimacing with every inaccurate pass or fumbled ball.

His seemingly nonexistent leadership skills and goofy disposition stand in stark contrast to those of a prototypical NFL QB.

His own GM dubbed him “skittish,” and he’s regularly booed by his home fans. At the end of the regular season, his 73.9 QB rating was 25th in the league, he was tied for the league lead in interceptions and his 56.1% pass percentage was better than just three other qualifying quarterbacks — Cleo Lemon, Rex Grossman and Kellen Clemens.

And yet — love it or hate it — Eli Manning is going to the Super Bowl.

As a Bears fan, I’m in no position to proclaim a quarterback undeserving of a Super Bowl trip. Last year, I openly supported Grossman while haters everywhere deemed him unworthy. Of course, like most Chicagoans, I secretly wished we had a Hall of Fame signal-caller like Peyton Manning on our side.

This year’s Super Bowl features an equally unlikely duo: Tom Brady, the Homecoming King; and Eli, the Captain of the chess team.

Fortunately, for Giants fans, the Super Bowl isn’t a popularity contest, nor is it a beauty pageant. So, while the Jesse Palmers and Brady Quinns of the world watch from the booth or the sidelines, Eli will be one of two starting quarterbacks in Super Bowl XLII.

Fans of a good underdog story can appreciate the Giants’ unlikely drive to Glendale. The team started the 2007 season mired in controversy.

Was Michael Strahan’s lengthy preseason holdout going to affect his play? Was Eli ever going to live up to his paycheck or his perceived destiny as a franchise QB? Could the team recover from the loss of leading rusher Tiki Barber – not to mention the addition of his off-the-field barbs?

Not only did the team match last year’s 8-8 record — and subsequent wild card berth — they bested it, going 10-6 and defeating three division winners on their way to the desert.

New York used a record 10 straight road wins to earn their spot on the big stage, the last of which involved unseating the sentimental favorites, the Brett Favre-led Packers. Two Sundays from now, Eli will be in the biggest road game of his life, trying to tackle an even greater legend — the 18-0 Patriots.

They’re two-touchdown underdogs to New England, but Eli can’t be bothered with predictions. After all, early this season most people didn’t think his team would even make the playoffs. But now that all is said and done, Eli’s going to the Super Bowl.

Love it or hate it? You decide.


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