New York Giants: The St. Louis Cardinals of football

I saw a Facebook post yesterday that
had a picture of Eli Manning paying homage to the well-known Dos
Equis ad for The Most Interesting Man in the World.

As the commercial’s star says “I
don’t always drink beer, but when I do I prefer Dos Equis,” this
photo said “I don’t always get to the Super Bowl, but when I do, I
beat the Patriots.”

Clever, indeed. And fitting, both for
the New York Giants and their new baseball counterparts, the St.
Louis Cardinals.

Last year’s baseball darlings won a
second championship in six years despite a less-than-stellar regular
season, just as the Giants did this year in becoming the first 9-7
team to win the Super Bowl. For Big Blue, it was their second Super
Bowl victory in five years.

David Freese is to Eli Manning both proved their mettle in the clutch to
cap improbable postseason runs. Though Freese was a newbie on the
championship stage, his game-saving heroics almost equal that of
Manning’s two Super Bowl MVP awards.

When the Cardinals won their first
World Series in 2006, they too set the bar as low as any team ever
had in the regular season. An 83-78 record was good enough to win the
NL Central, but bad enough to be the worst record by a World Series
champion in modern history. Just like the 9-7 Giants.

But as if these teams’ first 2000’s
title run weren’t incredible enough, they saved the best for round
two. The 2011 Cardinals more closely represented the 2007 Giants,
just as the 06 Cards were more comparable to this year’s G-Men.

St. Louis trailed by 10.5 games in the
Wild Card race in late August, and spent the rest of the regular
season playing virtual elimination games. They reached the playoffs
on the season’s last day, and never looked back.

The Giants were 7-7 but by good
fortune of being in the tepid NFC East, were still alive on the
season’s final day. A win over division rival Dallas set them on
their merry way.

Chris Carpenter proved he has ice
water in his veins with his gutsy, three-hit shutout to give the
Cardinals a 1-0 win in Game 5 of the NLDS against baseball’s best
team, the Philadelphia Phillies. The Giants showed their grit by
withstanding the ferocious 49ers defense in the NFC Championship Game
to win in overtime.

The World Series and Super Bowl this
year were equally dramatic. Granted, Game 7 was a bit of a dud after
perhaps the greatest game of all time in Game 6, but the World
Series’ first seven-game set since 2002 was well worth the price of

Though Super Bowl XLVI didn’t feature
the circus-like offense that we’ve grown accustomed to this year, the
season literally was in the air until the final Hail Mary fell
incomplete, as the Giants capped yet another comeback win on
football’s biggest stage over the Patriots.

One has to wonder who will be living
more of the high life these days, Freese or Manning? Granted, Eli was
already a household name having won a previous Super Bowl, and being
a star quarterback in New York isn’t too shabby. But Freese’s seeming
emergence out of nowhere is always a compelling story, not to mention
doing so in your hometown in front of baseball’s best fans.

Resilient franchises, the Cards and
Giants both celebrated titles following humbling trips to the finals in their previous appearances. The Giants
were throttled by the Ravens in Super Bowl XXXV, 34-7, while the
Cardinals were swept by the Red Sox in the 2004 Series. But with 11
World Series titles and four Super Bowl championships, St. Louis and
New York still rank among their sports’ elite franchises.

The Cardinals and Giants certainly
don’t always get to the big stage, but when they do, magic happens.

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