When your rooting interest is "Anyone but the Pats" (and for many, I'm sure, "Anyone but New York") what you really want in a Super Bowl is a good game, a thrilling finish, a bit of historical significance (ideally superlative) and a signature moment.
That's what we got; the game was entirely satisfying, right down to the Hail Mary that undoubtedly had most of the country on their feet thinking "Yes, I totally can see this touchdown happening."
Before that, the strangest touchdown in Super Bowl history -- Bill Belichick making the entirely correct call to let the Giants score so the Pats would get the ball back with enough time to mount a last-minute charge, then the Giants (or Ahmad Bradshaw) seemingly not realizing this, heading toward the goal line, then freezing himself, just before toppling over, his teammates stunned and a hundred million fans saying "There is TOTALLY enough time for the Pats to win."
And before that, one of the greatest individual plays in the history of the Super Bowl -- "Manning to Manningham," the improbable bomb that took the Giants from 88 yards away to the inevitability of a score to take the lead with almost no time remaining, all based on a tap dance by an afterthought wide receiver making not just the catch of his life, but -- if not for Tyree's Greatest Catch Ever -- the greatest catch in the history of the Giants franchise (and one of the tops in NFL history).
And Tom Brady falling short -- not just on that last-minute drive, but specifically on that overthrow of Wes Welker... a pass Welker should have caught, yes, but a pass that Brady should have made easier for Welker to catch. The missed connection will haunt them both. Brady is arguably the greatest competitor of his generation; to miss out on a second Super Bowl title by one or two plays (to the same team, no less) might eat at him more than the three rings satisfy him.
And Eli Manning playing fantastic -- again. Granted, the Pats defense was not nearly as challenging as the Giants' defense was for Brady, but let's not take away from Eli, who now has two rings in just about the most dramatic way he could earn them -- not to mention earning a permanent place within the game's "elite," the tag that dogged him all season (and maybe his entire career).
It isn't just the rings -- as impressive as they might be. It is the WAY he earned them, with steady play and two career-defining throws -- Tyree's catch might have been more miraculous than Manningham's (although that is up for debate), but Manning's throw to Tyree -- a Hail Mary, really -- is a distant second to Manningham in terms of technical difficulty. Eli's place in history is secure; in the ridiculous "Peyton or Eli" debate, give me Eli. Both will end up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
And perhaps the most intriguing bit of history: The Giants became the first team to finish 9-7 in the regular season to win the Super Bowl. This was a championship team, no question; their path in the playoffs was as difficult as any champion of the modern era. But they were a stumble away from missing the playoffs entirely. That said, they were built for a championship run, as long as they cleared that hurdle. The overriding lesson? Every team has a reasonable chance to make the playoffs; 9-7 isn't an impossible standard. And, if they do and they have the specific right pieces, every team has a reasonable chance to go on that 4-game run to win a title. It is the climactic moment of parity.
In the end, I think we will look back and savor this one -- it set a new standard for satisfying Super Bowls.
And, finally, a quick bit about the ads:
*I'm partial to Volkswagen after their amazing ad last year was followed up this year -- this year's VW ad was just the typical "aww, cute" until the kicker when they went to the Star Wars cantina and they had the villainy watching the ad, with one guy muttering "the dog was better than the Vader kid," a great reference to last year.
*The Doritos ad with the dog that used Doritos to bribe his owner not to say he killed the cat was No. 1 on the USA Today "Ad Meter," and it was a great choice -- it was funny and it had the requisite animal theme. Best of all, it was made by an "amateur," beating out all those pricey spots made by the advertising "professionals."
*In the end, both the Seinfeld/Acura and Ferris Bueller/Honda ads lost a bit of punch for having been released earlier in the week. That said, there were 100 million people who had never seen them before, and I'm sure they kept people's attention (if more for the entertainment value than the brands themselves).
*If you're of a certain age, it was hard not to love the Met Life ad that featured the shots of all the cartoon characters. Brilliantly, they are releasing "outtakes," like this one involving Voltron doing some breakdancing during a pause in filmmaking.
*Teleflora and GoDaddy and Fiat (and, yes, H&M) were pandering and dumb.
*I thought the Clint Eastwood ad sounded like an ad for President Obama's re-election campaign.
So many amazing tips at Quickish: Great post-game columns from Bruce Arthur, Dan Wetzel, Will Leitch and more (with more coming); the best Tweets from the game; front pages from triumphalist New York; the night-winning ads and more. Please give it a look (and pass it around).
Congrats to Giants fans. Condolences to Pats fans. For the rest of us, it was just about as good as we could hope for.