Super Bowl Monday Morning? A Giants Fan’s Super Bowl in China

I have quite the dilemma on my hands.

I’m currently working in China. Come Monday morning (for me, anyway), my New York Football Giants will be playing in the Super Bowl against the Greatest Sports Dynasty Ever Conceived by Man, the New England Patriots.

Obviously, American football isn’t a big deal, or even a moderately-sized deal, in China. The Super Bowl, however, will be played on CCTV5, which will give me the chance to actually watch the Giants play live for the first time all season. Since week one I’ve been dutifully trudging over to my laptop in the wee, wee morning hours to listen to the live radio feed on giants.com. You might think I’d be ecstatic at the idea of finally have the chance to watch a game but I’m not. I have my reasons:

  1. I’ve always enjoyed the quaintness of listening to a game on the radio.
  2. The Giants play-by-play team of Bob Papa and Carl Banks are pretty damn good.
  3. I can avoid listening to Joe Buck on FOX.
  4. Most importantly, they’ve made the Super Bowl with me listening on radio. I’m a superstitious man – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Unfortunately, the giants.com feed will be blocked out for the Super Bowl, so I’ll be forced out of my comfort zone. I’ve been approached by a fellow Giants fan with the idea of finding a sports bar and watching the game on a nice TV. The plan sounds nice in theory – I live in Beijing, where there is roughly one expat bar for every three foreigners – but I know my tendencies as a sports fan. I am beyond a sore winner or a sore loser, I’m what you might call a sore inter-actor – I simply cannot be around strangers when my team is playing.

I remember a specific encounter at a Korean youth hostel in February, 2008; a week after the Giants’ Super Bowl XLII wins. I was approached by a couple of Pats fans who spotted my Eli Manning jersey. “I bet you just bought that jersey this week,” they accused me. I nearly had to be restrained, and that was a week after my team had already won. On top of all that, the game will start at 9 am, Beijing Standard Time, and I am by no means a morning person. Watching a morning Super Bowl in a bar with Patriots fans might just mean a ticket to a Chinese prison. The only other option is staying at home with my crappy TV and a bottle of scotch, nervous pacing the room, muttering to myself and to my wife’s cats…like a boss!

So what of the game itself?

I always enjoy tracking the shifting narratives leading up to any Super Bowl, and this one has been no different. The initial knee-jerk reaction in the press (and from Vegas) was that the Patriots should be slight favorites because – well, because they are the Patriots. Upon further analysis, many writers began pointing at the Giants match up well, have equal if not superior talent, have been playing better of late, and beat the Patriots in Foxboro this year. Now it seems the pendulum of opinion has swung back toward the Patriots. Check out this SI article:

http://www.cnnsi.com/2012/football/nfl/02/02/super.bowl.xlvi.predictions/index.html?eref=sihp&sct=hp_t11_a3 

Five of six writers are picking the Patriots. Especially damning is this quote from Kerry J. Byrne of Cold Hard Football facts: 

“Cold, Hard Football Facts, meanwhile, has eight stats that each predict winners in more than 60 percent of NFL games. New England was better in all eight this year.”

DOOOOOOOOOOOOM! But is 60 percent accuracy really that impressive? I can’t help but remember the last time a guy was so confident in 60 percent: the day Brian Fantana decided to musk up with Sex Panther cologne…

Would you trust this guy to pick the Super Bowl winner? I sure would.

…and we all remember how that turned out.

Some of the other reasons for picking the Patriots seem more ephemeral. Apparently the Patriots insatiable lust for revenge trumps anything the Giants have to offer. Sure, only seven Patriots remain from the team that lost Super Bowl XLII – and you would think the Giants would be equally motivated to vindicate themselves, especially after hearing all week that they “won’t be able to sneak up on the Patriots this time” – but let’s face facts: “The Revenge Bowl” sounds much better than “The Vindication Bowl.”

Also, one should never bet against defensive mastermind Bill Belichick in a big game. Just for fun, let’s take a look at a breakdown of the points scored by Belicheck’s opponents in the fourth quarter of each of his four Super Bowls.

Super Bowl XLII (vs. NYG):                14 points surrendered in the 4th quarter.

Super Bowl XXXIX (vs. PHI):             7 points surrendered in the 4th quarter.

Super Bowl XXXVIII (vs. CAR):         19 points surrendered in the 4th quarter.

Super Bowl XXXVI (vs. STL):             14 points surrendered in the 4th quarter.

In three of four Super Bowls, the Patriots have allowed at least 14 points in the fourth quarter. And the one exception was the infamous Donovan McNabb “did-he-puke?” fiasco, where the Eagles’ coaching staff took their sweet time milking the game clock while trailing on the scoreboard, and the quarterback’s teammates accused him of being so nervous on the final drive that he tossed his cookies. Who knows what might have been accomplished by a competent clock manager and a quarterback with some balls?

It certainly seems as if Belichick-coached defenses have a problem stopping teams in the fourth quarter. Now if only the Giants employed a quarterback with a history of fourth-quarter success – maybe even someone who set some kind of a NFL record for fourth-quarter touchdown passes…

Still, I would be lying if I said I was confident in a Giant victory. It is part of what I call “The Giants Paradox”: they win when they should lose and lose when they should win. I’m holding out hope that, Monday morning at the crack of noon, the Giants will be holding the Lombardi trophy. Then I can go grab a victory lunch at the Dongzhimen branch of Nathan’s Famous.

Designing An Anti-Tebow

Editor’s Note: This article was written before the Broncos were eliminated from the playoffs,  but since our Crusade Bowl had already been set for Feb. 3, 2013, Tebow is still on track.

One of the great advantages of living thousands of miles away from America is that I find it easier to insulate myself from the more annoying and pervasive aspects of American culture. When my students ask me what music is popular in America nowadays, I can smile and honestly answer, “I have no idea.” I recently came across a news site with a photo of an attractive young girl named Selena Gomez. I have no idea why she’s famous – or if she’s over 18 – and I’m probably better off not knowing either.

The same thing goes for sports. I haven’t watched ESPN in twelve glorious months. I haven’t been exposed to Skip Bayless’s leathery goblin mug in years – though it still haunts my nightmares. Through the miracle of the internet, I can follow my teams and bypass the ESPN hype machine altogether.

I have, however, learned that a gentleman in Denver named Tim Tebow has garnered some measure of national attention. I first became aware of him during his college career. Though I’m a maniacal sports junkie, I can no more than casually follow college football, land of the BCS (a.k.a. the closest thing Americahas to the Chinese Communist Party) and Jerry Sandusky. Still, the kid was clearly a great college QB. I heard snippets of his personal life – his missionary father, his awe-inspiring virginity[1]– mostly from a Sports Illustrated article where his father, Pastor Bob Tebow, recounts the miraculous story of his birth. (Spoiler Alert: his parents don’t get the abortion.)

Now Tebow has joined with that most American of hype machines, the NFL.[2] Now, I’m a Giants fan, and I try to keep my football interests as Giants-related as possible. Since the Broncos never played the Giants this season I paid him little mind, but the sheer volume of Tebocity has been mind-boggling. Still, I valiantly stuck to my Giants news blogs, in a vain attempt to avoid being dragged headlong into the fray. Unfortunately, one day I happened to stumble upon a Tebow article by one of my favorite writers, Charles P. Pierce.

Money quote:

To call Tim Tebow a “Christian,” and to leave it at that — as though there were one definition of what a “Christian” is — is to say nothing and everything at once. Roman Catholics are Christians. So are Lutherans, Episcopalians, Melkites, Maronites, and members of the Greek and Russian Orthodox faiths. You can see how insidious this is when discussion turns to the missionary work that Tebow’s family has done in the Philippines. This is from the Five Priorities of the Bob Tebow ministries, regarding its work overseas:

It is the goal of the Bob Tebow Evangelistic Association to preach the gospel to every person who has never had an opportunity to hear the good news of eternal life in Jesus Christ. Most of the world’s population has never once had the opportunity to hear the only true message of forgiveness of sins by faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone.

It so happens that 95 percent of the population of the Philippines is Roman Catholic. Catholic doctrine just happens to be in conflict with what Bob Tebow and his son preach in regard to personal salvation. (To devout Catholics, for example, sins are not forgiven “by faith alone,” but through the sacrament of reconciliation as administered by a priest.) Bob Tebow’s goal is not to convert unbelievers. It is to supplant an existing form of Christianity.”

Sheeeit! Now I have a dog in this fight. I am by no means a practicing Catholic – I haven’t been in a church in about a decade – but a good number of my family members are, including three of my four grandparents (Grandmom is Presbyterian).  I don’t particularly care what religion you claim, as long as you keep it out of my face. But I absolutely cannot abide American Protestants who accuse American Catholics of impiety. Really, you wanna start the Catholic-Protestant beef again? Are we still in the 1800s? Fine, if you want to play the role of Bill the Butcher, then I insist we settle this on the street- Gangs of New York-style: you grab your top hat and knife and meet me at the town square at dawn. Prepare to receive the true Lord!

Maybe I’m too hard on Bob Tebow; maybe his only fault is being too vague.  After all, he’s not trying to evangelise all Catholics, only Filipinos. I used to live in the hardcore Christian dormitory when I taught at Jilin University of Economics, and two of the girls who taught there were Filipina. They certainly seemed, at first blush, like serious Christians, but I never got the chance to ask them whether or not they’d heard the gospel according to Bob Tebow. If they haven’, then their Christianity is clearly invalid.

Goddamnit, this Tebow business is polarizing! I can already feel my blood pressure rising. I’m being compelled to throw down a fat wad of pesos into the sleazy Tijuanacockfighting ring we call the Culture Wars.  Americans have long enjoyed staking their interest to proxy wars – fighting the “real” enemy through a surrogate. We tried this approach during the Cold War, and while it didn’t necessarily work out on the field of battle (Korean War – still technically ongoing, Vietnam – yeesh, arming the Afghan mujahadeen to fight the Soviets – turned out one of those guys was Osama bin Laden), it certainly produced great moments in the world of sports (Miracle on Ice, Rocky IV).

           The only problem is that Tebow, while polarizing, lacks a direct personal antithesis. He’sAmerica’s Christian Rocky, but who is his Ivan Drago? The liberal media? Secularists? In wrestling parlance, Tebow is a babyface with no heel.

This problem seems rather easily corrected – after all, good wrestling heels can be made as well as born.  When Vince McMahon needed a villain on the eve of Operation Desert Storm, he had Sergeant Slaughter team up with two “Eye-raqis,” providing a worthy foil for Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior to fight a proxy Gulf War. The Great Tebow War requires a similar nemesis- what we need is an anti-Tebow.

Normally, this kind of war is better left to individual sports, like boxing; Football, we are told, is the ultimate team sport. But Tebow appears to transcend the concept of the team – seriously, who outside of Colorado can name two other members of the Denver Broncos? So we need mould a talented, charismatic young quarterback to act as the mortal enemy of Tebow.

Now, it goes without saying that this anti-Tebow must be Muslim. Nothing less will do. After all, Tebow’s must fervent supporters are many of the same people who believe that sharia law has invaded our judicial system and that Obama studied in an Indonesian madrassa. Besides, we haven’t had a quality Muslim sports villain since Cassius Clay changed his name to Muhammad Ali[3], setting the stage for perhaps the most awesomely absurd proxy culture sports war in American history, the first Ali-Frazier fight. Fighting for the hippie, pinko, blame-America-first crowd was Muhammad Ali – a man now so universally beloved by Americans that he was chosen to light the Olympic torch. Fighting for traditional, mainstream white America was Joe Frazier, the 100% black grandson of sharecroppers – a man who actually won that fight, and was summarily dumped by mainstream American, dying in relative obscurity. Poor Joe Frazier even had to deal with the indignity of being the subject of an article titled “Is Joe Frazier a Black Champion in White Skin?”…written by Bryant Gumbel. I’m whiter than Joe Frazier and Bryant Gumbel put together, and even I think that’s cold.

Therein lies the beauty of the proxy sports war: we can build our champions and villains out of the ether.America wanted a Great White Hope to beat Ali, so we built one out of a black man. Since the NFL doesn’t have a high-profile Muslim quarterback, we’ll have to develop one, with the generous help of Wahhabi Islam endorsement money.

Can we convince the radical clerics of Wahhabi Islam to offer a huge endorsement deal to an American football player? I don’t see why not. Wahhabi Islam seems to have a lot in common with Nike: both are well-funded, youth-oriented industries with fantastically effective ad campaigns. (Clerics convinced young boys to martyr themselves for fantasy virgins; Nike convinced me I could possibly dunk if I bought their shoes) Who knows: the Wahhabis might have successfully conquered America back in the 80’s if only they had beaten Nike to the punch and signed Michael Jordan. Fortunately for us they never discovered the two most fundamental principles of athlete endorsements:

  1. People will buy anything Michael Jordan sells them.
  2. Michael Jordan will do anything – literally, anything – for money.

So let’s say we can convince the Saudi clerics to pony up a lucrative Islam endorsement deal – let’s say $150 million and 15 wives, at least 5 Somali – we’re still left with the matter of finding the perfect Muslim quarterback. My prayers were answered the other day when I read a report that reigning Heisman award-winning quarterback Robert Griffin III was seeking an agent to declare for next year’s draft. That kid set all kinds of NCAA passing records, and he’s expected to go as high as Number 2 inthe draft, so he can clearly play. One might be concerned to learn he’s not a Muslim – he is, in fact, a God-fearing Christian son of two Army sergeants who is currently working on his Masters degree – but if America can turn Joe Frazier into a white man, I think we can turn this kid into a Muslim.

Besides, once he signs that Muslim endorsement deal, his all-American background becomes all the more insidious, based on what I call the “All-American Muslim Effect.” You might have encountered it last month in the controversy surrounding the TLC documentary series “All-American Muslim,” when the show was protested by “family” groups offended by the dastardly portrayal of Muslim Americans acting like actual Americans. Can you imagine the shit storm that will ensue when the Florida Family Association is introduced to a Muslim quarterback with two parents in the military? The game is afoot!

Since football is still technically a team game, we need to select the right squad for our anti-Tebow to lead. The choice seems obvious: the San Francisco 49ers. The team has a top-flight defense, but their quarterback situation is still a joke. The city itself is the perfect foil for the Tebowites – could they possibly hate any city more than San Francisco? Gays! Hippies! Tim Lincecum smoking dope out of his pot bong! We could turn Candlestick Park into Mecca West: cheerleaders in burkas, halal food in the concession stands, a dancing bearded ayatollah mascot. And the coup-de-grace: our anti-Tebow prostrating himself toward Mecca after each touchdown.

With the Tebow and anti-Tebow placed in opposite conferences, the stage will have been set for the Granddaddy of All Crusades, next year’s Super Bowl XLVII. Now, the week before the Super Bowl the mayors of each team’s city usually make some cute bet involving a local delicacy, like Kansas City barbecue or New England lobster. I say, for the Crusade Bowl, we raise the stakes. If the Tebow wins, than Michelle Bachman and Rick Santorum become co-regents of a new puritanical utopia where everyone wears Pilgrim hats, burns witches and calls each other “Goodman.” If the anti-Tebow wins, we submit ourselves to sharia law and kill anyone who doesn’t grow a beard. If the Tebow wins, we’ll admit that the Lord’s name is God, and if the anti-Tebow wins, we’ll admit that the Lord’s name is Allah. And in case of a tie…haha, I’m just messing with you. Thanks be to God – or, if the 49ers win, Praise be to Allah – that we as a country have evolved beyond the need for ties.


[1] Tim Tebow maintaining his virginity at the University of Florida is perhaps the most impressive feat of self-denial in the history of mankind. He was a football star…in Florida! Seriously, I’m pretty sure Southern states legally permit their football players to keep concubines.

[2] The most NFL moment of my lifetime happened last year before the Super Bowl, when the NFL showed a montage of football players and military personnel reading the Declaration of Independence – the entire Declaration…not just the relevant parts. You’d think that someone would have read it beforehand and said, “Whoa, hold on a second. Maybe we should just read the first few paragraphs, because the rest of it is a list of specific grievances against King George III, and he’s been dead for like 200 years.” Nah, that’s not how the NFL rolls.

[3] “His mama named him Clay, I’m-a call him Clay.”