Monday, February 04, 2008

Tom Petty's group weren't the only Heartbreakers in the house...

It was humbling. Perhaps humiliating. Definitely heartbreaking for the New England Patriots, a team once assumed to reside on Mount Olympus rather than Foxboro stadium.

Sunday's 17-14 loss to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII did more than just dash New England's dream of becoming only the second team to complete a season undefeated -- it has unmoored the very equilibrium of the sports universe.

Coach Tom Coughlin's wild carders, who started the season with two losses totaling up to 80 points, pulled off a win that ranks alongside that of the New York Jets defeat of the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III, Truman’s 1948 electoral victory over Dewey, Gary Kasparov’s checkmate against the Deep Blue computer, and Odysseus’s triumph over the Cyclops Polyphemus.

It’s the sort of win that’ll give John McCain vivid nightmares of Ron Paul snatching away the GOP nomination.

Quarterback Eli Manning, the MVP who displayed the sort of cool that could reverse a core meltdown at a nuclear reactor, said afterward, "There's something about this team. The way we win games, and performed in the playoffs in the stretch. We had total confidence in ourselves. The players believed in each other."

New England believed, too. Such was the adulation of the media -- who touted predictions of a Patriots win by 14 points -- that it's a wonder that anyone bothered to print victory caps and T-shirts for the Giants.

Bill Belichick will spend the next dazed six months of the off-season trying to unpick the defeat at University of Phoenix Stadium and wonder where it all went wrong. Ultimately, it came down to this: If a good offense is a good defense, then the Giants battled the turf war with Spartan ferocity. The fabled triumvirate attack of Tom Brady, Randy Moss, and Wes Welker was never fully unsheathed as men in white swarmed...

.... oh, sorry, for a minute I got carried away there. You probably thought you'd wandered into SportsCenter rather than a blog about entertainment. But this was definitely an occasion where the game itself upstaged both the half-time show and all the ads. Janet Jackson could have made out with Madonna and Britney during a full-on burlesque routine and it wouldn't have supplanted the next morning's watercooler talk about the game. And, with the sole exception of the Clydesdale Budweiser ad that took its inspiration from "Rocky," "Seabiscuit," and "Babe," the commercials were utterly unmemorable. Ok, the Victoria's Secret ad was memorable, but for all the wrong reasons.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were pretty good, though, even if Petty isn't a dynamic gymnastic of a frontman like last year's Super Bowl guest, Prince. The grizzled Floridian sounded tremendous during four of his greatest hits, climaxing with the satisfying guitar growl of "Running Down a Dream." The star of the group was guitarist Mike Campbell who, despite an unfortunate hairstyle seemingly modeled on that of Latrell Sprewell, wowed the crowd with his dextrous digits. The critics' response so far has been laudatory, too.

I'm a casual fan of Petty and own several of his albums, so I'm looking forward to seeing him in concert in June for the first time – my wife, a big fan, cannot wait after watching last night's halftime gig. In the meantime, we'll enjoy the outstanding Peter Bogdanovich documentary that makes one fully appreciate Petty's artistic integrity amid a trove of live clips from past to present.

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