Don’t look now, Eli, but…

Who would have thought a couple of months ago that Eli Manning would have a chance to become the savior of the entire New York metropolitan area?

Well, definitely not me, but probably you too –– unless you’re a member of the football Mannings too and then, well, I’d still say it’s up in the air.

After being booed and vilified at home during the meat of the NFL regular season, lil’ Eli and the New York Giants are a win away from the Super Bowl and oh-so-close to sweet, sweet redemption for a city whose teams have been bested repeatedly by rival teams from Boston.

The stark contrast in success for teams these two sparring cities over the last year was brought to my attention two weeks ago in a Dec. 28 Harvey Araton column in the New York Times. (Story here)

Boston and the rest of New England have been living out Bob Ryan’s wildest dreams.

New York? Well, Araton articulated the part of these dreams set aside for New York, the part that makes New Yorkers bite their lips and look away. Ways to describe New York in 2007:

Try Undignified (the Yankees making an October off-field spectacle of themselves after losing again in the first round), Unwatchable (the Mets committing the worst September choke in baseball history) and Unbearable (any snapshot from the Knicks’ continuing and incomparable dysfunction).

Funny thing is, even then, as 2007 was drawing to a close, things remained bleak for NY sports fans –– and for the Giants they didn’t get any better, having the Patriots come back in the second half for the win that capped the best NFL regular season ever.

Even in Germany I could sense a collective dry heave from the boroughs, North Jersey and southern Connecticut.

However, everything has seemed a bit brighter for the City That Never Sleeps –– the loss to the Patriots was moot: the Giants were playoff bound anyway. (OK, the Knicks are still the biggest running joke in pro sports, but I’m trying to be nice here.) In the playoffs, in a fresh year, the Giants have pulled off two solid wins and sit poised to take on Green Bay this weekend.

Peyton (who can get back to making more commercials after the Colts’ loss to the Chargers) now gets to watch Eli in the playoffs.

Don’t look now, Eli, but your brother is probably fuming up there in the skybox and watching you extra-close.

Don’t look now, Eli, but you’re attempting to make up for more than a year’s worth of malaise in New York.

Don’t look now, Eli, but this isn’t just any old road game –– I don’t care how successful you’ve been away from Giant Stadium –– you get Brett Favre playing his best football in years, on the Frozen Tundra, in January, with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.

Oh, Eli. Oh boy.

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