2011: The Year of the Hot
The 2011 New York Giants accomplished a feat that the 2008 Arizona Cardinals were two minutes and 37 seconds away from achieving themselves: winning the Super Bowl as a 9-7 team. Bear in mind, only three such teams have even made it to the Super Bowl (the 1979 L.A. Rams being the third), but the Giants became the first to win the game. Not only that, no team has ever won an NFL championship with a winning percentage as low as the G-men.
Look at what we've witnessed in the last calendar year: The Green Bay Packers, 8-6 and in danger of missing the playoffs, runs a six game win streak all the way to the trophy that bears their legend's name. The 5th-seeded Arizona Wildcats, having already disposed of top seed Duke, were two points from crashing the Final Four party along with Butler (an 8 seed) and VCU (an 11 who disposed of top seed Kansas). The Dallas Mavericks, and their 57 wins, were no slouches but neither were they anybody's favorite to win a title. St. Louis Cardinals -- 10 ˝ back. What else do I have to say? Alright, I'll give you one more. LSU was the best college football team all year; the best record against the best competition. But on January 9th they weren't and that's all that mattered.
2011 was the Year of the Hot. A year where being the best and playing the best were two completely different things. Were the New York Giants the best team in the NFL in 2011? Absolutely not. Were they the team playing the best when it absolutely mattered? Tuesday's parade provides the answer.
Parallels could be drawn between the 2011 Giants and 2008 Cardinals right up until the moment when Brady's Hail Mary fell to the turf on Sunday. Certainly luck was involved too. For the Cardinals, it was a home game against the Eagles in the NFC title game. For the Giants, it meant avoiding the Saints under the dome.
But make no mistake, all the blahblahblahs that are thrown around during the NFL playoffs - defense wins championships, you have to have an elite quarterback, homefield advantage - none of them mean squat compared to a hot team. The Giants proved it this year (and in '08), the Packers proved it a year ago and the Cardinals were 2:37 from proving it three years ago.