Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Eli, Strahan and Coughlin have a few laughs in 'America's Game'

In his four years as a member of the New York Giants, Eli Manning hasn't shown off much of his personality, but one part that has seeped out is his fondness for practical jokes. He once reprogrammed a teammate's cell phone so all its displays would be in Japanese, and replaced all his offensive linemen's shoes with purple ones.

Intentionally or not, he gets away with another good prank midway through the Super Bowl 42 installment of NFL Films' awesome "America's Game" series.

While discussing the second half of the playoff game against the Cowboys, Eli says that whenever the Giants' defense was out on the field, he made sure to park himself in a certain spot on the bench, and to watch the action on a scoreboard screen instead of looking at the field, and the more he did that, the harder the defense seemed to hit Tony Romo.

"I'm not superstitious," Eli tells the camera, "but I am a little 'stitious. I know that's not a real word, but it's my own little saying."

In fact, it's not Eli's saying. It's Michael Scott's, from the fourth season premiere of "The Office." But the NFL Films producers, and narrator James Gandolfini, apparently didn't realize this, and so later in the episode, Gandolfini repeats the line with all the gravity of John Facenda referring to the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field.

It's one of the sneakier laughs in the very funny, very inspiring (though not so much if you're a Pats fan) episode of the show, which premieres on NFL Network on Sept. 3 and will be released on DVD later in the fall.

As usual, we're taken through the season by three members of the team: Eli, Michael Strahan and Tom Coughlin. You know Strahan can tell a good story, and he has a bunch of them, from him mocking Eli's rushing touchdown in the London game against the Dolphins to him discussing neat-freak Coughlin relaxing the team by eating a sloppy In-N-Out Burger (Strahan provides home video evidence of it) the day before the Super Bowl. Coughlin is relaxed and happy (why wouldn't he be?) and though Eli doesn't open up much about his early season struggles and controversies -- the only thing he has to say about the game where he threw an astounding 34 incompletions against the Redskins is, while smirking, "I'm proud of all my records I've broken." -- Coughlin and Strahan both talk at length about their quarterback's refusal to open up about anything, ever. ("Archie told me he can't get anything out of Eli," says Coughlin.)

Among the other highlights:

• Footage of the now-legendary training camp field trip to a bowling alley where Coughlin let the team know he wasn't going to be the same old martinet, followed by Strahan complaining that this finally happened at the training camp he skipped;

• Footage of the infamous pre-Super Bowl practice where David Tyree dropped every ball but one (on the same play on which he scored the Giants' first touchdown in the real game);

• The truth about the story of Eli's then-fiancee sitting in the freezing cold of Lambeau;

• Footage of Coughlin's pre-Super Bowl pep talk to the team, and of Iraq war vet Lt. Col Greg Gadson's (the team's unofficial good luck charm) giving his own motivational speech;

• Strahan doing a perfect impression of the hangdog Eli Manning Face, which fades immediately into a shot of the real thing;

• Strahan in mid-game telling Osi Umenyiora, "I'm very offended that they're leaving (Tom Brady) out there by himself";

• Extensive analysis of The Double Miracle (or The Helmet Catch, or The Play, or whatever you want to call it), including Eli admitting that he was a split-second away from tossing a shovel pass to Chris Snee while he was still in the grasp of the Patriots defenders;


• A shot of Manning fighting back tears after the upset of the Patriots.

It's going to be a great lead-in to the Giants' title defense season.


Bobman said...

(though not so much if you're a Pats fan)

Sigh. You ain't kiddin'. I still haven't recovered.

Anonymous said...

Football sucks. I think it is a poor reflection on our country that it is considered "America's Game".

oh well, at least no one can make me watch.

Anonymous said...

Quick Note: On the comment about the Double Miracle/The Play/Whatever, you said it was the Cowboys defenders. ;)

And is it sad, that I'm really excited for this as a die hard Giants fan? Yeah...

Alan Sepinwall said...

Quick Note: On the comment about the Double Miracle/The Play/Whatever, you said it was the Cowboys defenders. ;)

Fixed. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

any way you can remind us die hard big blue fans as September 3rd gets closer?

Alan Sepinwall said...

any way you can remind us die hard big blue fans as September 3rd gets closer?

No prob. I was gonna write about it much closer, but I of course watched it the second I got it, and then Mike Garafolo (our excellent Giants beat writer) said he wanted to do something for his blog, and I offered to just write my thing immediately.

Anonymous said...

Oh, man, Alan: Why do you have to tease us a month before this actually airs?

I LOVE America's Game!

I'm even considering buying the DVD set, which is Manning-free (Peyton, that is).

BTW, I'm glad to see NFL Films doing this. I know you don't cover sports TV, but I'm saddened to hear about the recent cutbacks at NFL Films. It's too bad the NFL Network folks don't appreciate Steve Sabol & Co.

Anonymous said...

I don't get the NFL network but i'm a huge giant fan. Is it possible to buy just this episode when it comes out on DVD or will it be part of an entire series?

Anonymous said...

The contribution of the Sabol family and NFL Films has helped shaped the way we view the game today. Their influence can not be under estimated.

Remember when they stopped airing Seinfeld in an attempt to through Eli off his game in Green Bay? Appears he has decent taste in TV.

Anonymous said...

America's Game was a 40-part series devoting 1-hour to each Super Bowl-winning team, starting in the fall 2006 and ending right before the Super Bowl between the Colts and Bears.

Each documentary consists of 3 people associated with the team, but no repeats. That means that Tom Brady was only used for 1 of his Super Bowls. Same for Bill Walsh.

Anyways, last fall they put out a Colts version, and now they have a Giants documentary.

You can buy America's Game as a box set on Amazon. Or you can buy individual teams.

I dont' know when the Giants one will be released though.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Was I the only one who thought James Gandolfini being hired as the narrator,.. was a joke? He has a very high, thus terrible voice for narration. They s/have used Martin Sheen or Lawrence Fishburne or one of the half dozen other narrators from previous episodes.