September 19, 2003
'Monday Night' brings pain, joyThe ball rolls across the white line then flies between the yellow sticks, and all that lingers is the pain. It is the type of pain that can only come from watching your team go down in shocking overtime fashion early on a Tuesday morning.
I'm not talking about the woes of the Philadelphia Eagles, for their fans only wish they knew this pain. To experience this kind of pain you have to be close, on the verge of emerging victorious after all the twists and turns and dramatic swings of four long quarters. Sure there is unpleasantness with a 31-10 loss, but not like this.
I watched the New York Giants play the Dallas Cowboys on Monday Night Football this week with the expectation of cheering my team to a 2-0 start. Instead, I watched in dismay as they looked hapless and sloppy against what was widely considered an inferior opponent.
When I began watching in earnest the score was tied at 7, which was a miracle given the Giants' inability to catch a ball or make a tackle. I watched in angst as much-ballyhooed tight end Jeremy Shockey played tag with the football, declaring "you're it" and running away. Shockey finished the game with two catches for eight yards.
When the Giants fell behind 23-7 in the third quarter, I should have taken it as an omen for bad things to come. But to be a true fan you have to stick it out, even when it looks like a waxing is in order.
Then it happened. Suddenly the team had life after rolling 69 yards in six plays to score a touchdown. The crowd had a spark, and the impending comeback was palpable. The clock ticked off the seconds, all the while reminding me of the 8:45 a.m. class that loomed in my future.
Yet I stayed committed to the cause, rooting and exalting in joy as my beloved Giants grew ever closer. The comeback was not without its exacerbating points, as the Cowboys Matt Cundiff kicked what seemed to be an endless stream of field goals to keep shreds of doubt on the fringe of my brain.
Down 29-21 with six minutes remaining, Kerry Collins completed a pass to Amani Toomer. He promptly fumbled, Dallas recovered the ball and I thought the game was over. I experienced a sharp swing of emotion that ranged from the elation of an impending tying touchdown, to feeling like I had just wasted several hours that could have been spent sleeping. I remember throwing a pen into the hallway at this point.
I quickly jumped to retrieve the pen, riding a wave of energy that came in the form of an offsides penalty on Dallas which negated the turnover. The Giants had new life and I was more on edge than ever.
New York completed the drive with a touchdown and executed a two-point conversion to tie the game at 29. There was no doubt in my mind that the Giants were going to win, giving me a good reason for not getting enough sleep.
After a field goal with 11 seconds remaining, I almost turned the TV off, as the Giants led 32-29. I should have followed through, as New York kicker Matt Bryant was about to kick me right in the heart.
All he had to do was put the kickoff in bounds and the Cowboys would not have had enough time to score. Bryant sent the kick booming into the New Jersey night. The ball bounced a few times and slid out of bounds, taking with it my confidence in a New York victory.
Quincy Carter completed a pass to Fernando Bryant. Cundiff made his sixth field goal of the night. Overtime began, and Cundiff hit a seventh kick. The Giants had lost.
Perhaps in a week or two, I will be able to look back on this Monday Night fiasco and appreciate it as the great game it probably was. But for now, I am a hurting fan. A fan that wonders how hard it is to kick a ball somewhere within a field that is 54 yards wide.
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