This week in: US Politics – Romney wins Michigan

Romney moves closer to GOP Presidential Nomination

In the final debate and primaries before Super Tuesday, when Republican voters in ten states will select their candidate to face President Obama in November’s election, Mitt Romney came out on top – but only just.  Romney won his home state of Michigan – the place he grew up and his father had been a three-term Governor – but the race was closer than expected as he defeated Rick Santorumby only three percentage points.  The former Pennsylvania Senator had even attempted to enlist the support of Democrats in the state – Michigan has an open primary and voters can participate in either party’s ballot, regardless of their registered affiliation – a practice that was denounced as being “dirty tricks” by Romney.  Despite his sudden indignation, the former Governor of Massachusetts has in the past admitted to voting in Democratic primaries against

Mitt Romney and his wife celebrate his win in Michigan. She drives TWO Cadillacs you know...

President Clinton and Senator Ted Kennedy.  The angle that Romney should have taken, was to have used this targeting of opposition voters as a concession that Democrats would rather face Santorum in the general election, as they believe him to be the weaker candidate.  That tactic, rather than the hypocritical path he chose, would have strengthened Romney’s grip on the nomination.

Governor Romney also won in the other state that had its primary yesterday, Arizona, by a wide margin and will hope to gain momentum going into Super Tuesday next week.  Romney is all but certain to win in Massachusetts, Vermont, Idaho and Virginia – but the main battleground will be Ohio, where Rick Santorum currently leads in the polls. Santorum is also ahead in Oklahoma and Tennessee, while Speaker Gingrich is favoured to win in his home state of Georgia.  Congressman Ron Paul is continuing his campaign to amass as many delegates as possible going into the Republican Convention in August.  His team is working tirelessly in the states where caucuses have already been held, but delegates are yet to be allocated between candidates, to ensure Paul receives as many as possible – the proportion he gets could far outweigh the share of the vote he received in those contests.  If Romney wins in Ohio, then the race will be all but over – should he lose to Santorum, then the process could drag all the way to the convention, at which point Ron Paul would be in a strong position to play the role of “King Maker” – in exchange for some guarantees of policies a new administration would pursue.

Lou Dobbs hates Dr. Seuss

On his Fox News show last week, Lou Dobbs decried the film adaptation of Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax – which is released in the US this Friday – as being an attempt to indoctrinate the youth of America with the President’s green energy plan.  Dobbs claimed that it was another example of liberal Hollywood demonising the “1%” and pushing Obama’s agenda through a kid’s film.

Not that I want to pour scorn on Dobbs’ conspiracy theory, but The Lorax was written more than 40 years ago and promotes such a radical message as “not cutting down trees” and “protecting nature”.  Are those really now policies that only liberals would believe in – can everyone not get behind those ideas?  I guess Dobbs would prefer a movie where an oil company drills in an area that had previous been protected by the Environmental Protection Agency, strikes black gold and the wealth trickles down – but not through taxation of those who profit most from the venture of course.  There is also the fear that this could be just the start of a prolonged attack by the Republicans and Fox News against the works of Dr. Seuss:

Damn Mack the Socialist Turtle...

Cat in the Hat – this tale is of great concern to Newt Gingrich.  He is not worried that two children were left in the house on their own minded only by a fish, Gingrich is wondering why labour laws prevent these layabouts from having jobs as they did in the good old days.

Green Eggs and Ham – while the whole Republican establishment fear that this is propganda laid out to support the First Lady’s campaign to have children eat more healthily, Ron Paul is particularly concerned that the liberty of the main character has been inhibited by (possible Government employee) Sam-I-Am’s insistence that he tries a food product he does not like.

Yertle the Turtle – the victimisation of King Yertle will have Fox News up in arms.  He is a job-creator – giving employment to about 200 turtles, and it would have been 5607 if he had been allowed to have his way.  Yet the jealousy of Mack, who is clearly trying to form a union and is jealous because he has not worked hard enough to be king himself, brings down the whole system and socialises the pond economy.  Claiming all of the turtles had rights and that everyone should be considered, not just Yertle at the very top – Mack might as well have started the Occupy Sala-Ma-Sond movement.  Why couldn’t he accept that it was a pond of Kings, and soon-to be Kings…?

Grover Norquist’s Tax Pledge

All but 13 of the Republican members of Congress have signed the tax pledge created by Grover Norquist, in which they categorically state that under no circumstances will they ever raise taxes.  During the debt ceiling negotiations last summer, there was gridlock in a large part due to this unwillingness to budge on the issue of tax rates – as they had signed this assurance they would not vote for anything that would increase the rates, they were unable to agree to anything except for spending cuts as the United States teetered on the brink of default.  The lack of progress that was made by Congress ultimately resulted in the downgrading of the US debt by rating agencies.

Here is the text of the pledge:

Taxpayer Protection Pledge I, _____, pledge to the taxpayers of the (____ district of the) state of ______ and to the American people that I will: ONE, oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rate for individuals and business; and TWO, oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates.

This is nothing new, the Lobbying firm that Norquist heads, Americans for Tax Reform, have been pushing this agenda for many years.  However, on Tuesday’s The Daily Show, Norquist revealed that he had the idea for this pledge when he was 12 years old.  So Gridlock in Congress was the result of people signing on to the ideas of someone in 7th grade – yet that might not be the most incredible thing about it.

When I was 12 years old, I was not creating strategies for political parties – my pledge would have been that I should be allowed to stay up to watch World Cup games, even when they were in a different time-zone.  Or that Tottenham Hotspur should win the League…okay I may have been solely focused on football, but at least I was not fabricating monetary policy that would eventually result in the downgrade of the US debt rating.

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Tottenham’s hopes dashed

Walcott drops the Acme Anvil on Tottenham

I wish I had been wrong.  I wish all of my pessimism leading up to the North London Derby had not been quite so well placed.  When I said to a friend, and fellow Spurs fan, that I feared we’d be thrashed on Sunday – with Walcott suddenly playing like he did for England in Croatia a few years ago – I would have preferred to be completely off the mark.  In an e-mail chain that I am part of with some Tottenham supporters, the others on the group were talking about the possibility of us picking up four points from the games against Arsenal and Manchester United – this was how the conversation went from there:

Me: Four points?! Everyone knows we are away to Arsenal and home to Man Utd right? One point would be a surprise to me. Definitely lose this Sunday. 

Reply: “Is it 2008?”

Me: “Is it 1961?! Spurs have lulled you into a false sense of security. After next weekend we will only be 4 points above the scum and on the brink of a collapse. This weekend is when Sherrod takes the spiked vial from Bubbs” (I have compared the life of a Spurs fan to the experience of watching The Wire and, once again, that analogy has been all too accurate.)

Replies:  “Have faith John. I’ve shed my past Spurs skin and I’m now a believer. We’ll stuff those clowns down the road, then go in the Man Utd game full of confidence.”

“We’ll never have a better opportunity to beat them on Sunday.”

“Personally, I’ll be sorely disappointed with anything less than a 3-goal winning margin in our favour.” (To be fair, this one was sent in jest, but still)

Me: When Walcott slots in their fourth on Sunday – just realise it is ALL your fault

In my weekly Premiership predictions, I was 30 games under .500 going in to this weekend – did I have to be so correct for this game of all games?

How did Tottenham lull their fans into such a sense of optimism for this game against a rival that has consistently bested them for the last two plus decades? I wrote earlier in the week that it was hope that really destroys fans, rather than the expectation of defeat.  They even got to me – when Adebayor slotted home the penalty to make it 2-0, I thought – maybe we can hang on and actually win this.  Two goals in two minutes quickly dismissed those thoughts and I knew at half-time we were doomed.

Now, Spurs stand at a crossroads, they have just allowed their biggest rivals to resuscitate their campaign, while we are fearing a collapse and that we may struggle to maintain our lofty position in the league.  Next week’s game against Manchester United takes on an added significance – another defeat could completely take the wheels off Tottenham’s season – and it is a match we will have to go in to without Scott Parker, after his sending off against Arsenal.  March brings tricky away fixtures against Everton and Chelsea, but after that the run-in is kind.  Should they pick up much needed points in those matches, Spurs should qualify for the Champions League next season – should we suffer more losses, it could be another Europa League campaign next year.

This game really showed up the weaknesses of the next England boss, Harry Redknapp.  While he is without doubt an excellent motivator of his players, the Tottenham manager had no idea what to do when things turned against his team.  Bale ended up on the right flank, despite the fact that he uses his right foot less than often than he manages to stay upright (the criticism I had of him in my midseason review – that he goes down and feigns injury far too often – remains a constant frustration).  Redknapp brought on Van der Vaart and Sandro at half-time – two players who have missed that last few weeks through injury – and, unsurprisingly, both looked off the pace of the game.  When Spurs were 2-0 up, without having played well but benefitting from a deflection and a penalty decision going their way, Harry had them sit far too deep in defence, encouraging Arsenal to attack them, rather than Tottenham continuing to put their shaky back four under pressure.

Arsene Wenger will have a new lease of life at Arsenal now, a win over their most hated rivals in such a stunning fashion will ensure that both the players and fans trust in him for at least a little while longer.  Slightly further north, supporters who have got used to watching their team throw away leads in individual games, will be wondering if the seven point cushion they currently enjoy over Chelsea and Arsenal will disappear as quickly as a 3-0 half-time lead over a Manchester club has done in the past.

This week in: English Football – The North London Derby

Some Spurs fans are waiting for the fall...

Spurs travel to the Emirates this Sunday for the North London derby and, for the first time in decades, they will be considered favourites in an away game against Arsenal.  To call this a rivalry over the last twenty-five years would be akin to using that term for Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote – it has been completely one-sided and any time Tottenham think they are going to catch up with the Gunners, an Acme Anvil will fall out of the sky onto their heads…or they will eat some dodgy lasagna.  Yet somehow, fellow Spurs supporters seem to have belief that this weekend will be different – that because we have performed better to this point, and sit 10 points above Arsenal in the league table, we should expect to go there and win.  With a home game against Manchester United the following week, other fans have been citing the possibility of Tottenham picking up four points from these two fixtures.  To truly believe that, you would have to discount the previous two decades of results and performances by Spurs – not to mention ignore the fact that last weekend they travelled to Stevenage and were unable to beat the team from League One.

I am not so optimistic about Tottenham’s chances, neither for this weekend or the following week’s match against United.  For too long, Spurs have looked good and then collapsed – it seems inevitable that it will happen again this year.  With their 10 point advantage over Arsenal, they have a great opportunity to finish above them for the first time since the 1994/5 season, having never done so since Arsene Wenger became the Gunners’ manager.  Tottenham have also not done the double (beat them home and away) over their neighbours since 1992/3 – and even then, the match at Highbury was against a makeshift team, as the home side were looking ahead to the FA Cup final the following week.   Continue reading

Regulations and Corporations

All of the candidates for the Republican Presidential nomination have had two key messages when it comes to the economy: 1) that if we do not reduce the taxes on the highest earners, no job will ever be created again (I’m paraphrasing); 2) that any Government regulation on corporations jeopardises the free market and stagnates the economy.  The mantra that the GOP have been repeating until people believe it, is that any laws passed that limit companies from acting completely as they wish, inhibits entrepreneurship and restricts the liberties of corporations – who they, and the Supreme Court, believe are people.

The financial meltdown of 2008 came from the implementation of this philosophy – it started with the Clinton Administration in the 1990s and accelerated during the Bush years – regulations were stripped away on the financial industry piece by piece.  This allowed for banks to become bigger, over-leverage themselves and trade in high-risk derivatives with relatively small amounts of collateral.  The desire for more of these products to sell resulted in Wall Street firms pressurising mortgage lenders to give loans to as many people as possible – so that those could be put into a basket and traded as sub-prime debts to investors – resulting in brokers lowering the salary and deposit requirements for those looking to buy a house.  The instruments were comprised of many individual mortgages with a high probability of default, so the derivatives should have been considered risky. However, they were given AAA grades by the Ratings Agencies – organisations that are funded by the banks so it is in their best interest to give a better score to a product, to attract more business for themselves.  When the artificially inflated housing bubble burst, so with it went the economy, pension funds and millions of jobs, in the financial industry and beyond.

Yet the Republican candidates would have you believe that we do not need more regulations, that any restrictions come at the cost of free enterprise and are against the American spirit.  They have labelled President Obama as a Euro-socialist who is obsessed with Government interfering with private businesses, though the truth is little has been done to reign in Wall Street.  The Dodd-Frank bill, much maligned by the Right-Wing, has been toothless and only around 10% of the provisions in the law have been implemented, more than 18 months after it was passed.  Regulations that exist do not prevent companies from making a profit, they stop them from having complete autonomy.  Unions exist in order to protect the workers from being taken advantage of by their employers – yet they too have come under attack from the G.O.P. in the last few years.  Laws in Wisconsin and Ohio have tried (thankfully unsuccessfully thus far) to prohibit collective bargaining and the ability of the unions to collect dues from their members, while their ability to impact conditions have been greatly reduced in the last thirty years. Continue reading

This week in: English Football – The FA Cup 5th Round

Suarez is all shook up

Last weekend in the Premiership, Manchester United gained a 2-1 win over Liverpool thanks to two goals in three minutes by Wayne Rooney at the start of the second half.  The match was contentious throughout – starting with Luis Suarez refusal to shake Patrice Evra’s hand, continuing with an altercation in the tunnel at half-time, and ending with Kenny Dalglish’s interview afterwards, in which he claimed that any criticism of the Uruguayan was “bang out of order”.  The following day, both Suarez and Dalglish apologised for those incidents, but the tribalism and animosity between the two clubs will only increase until behaviour in the games change.  Evra was guilty of over-celebrating the win, jumping up and down right in front of Suarez, but the difference was that his boss, Sir Alex Ferguson, was willing to condemn the player for his actions afterwards.

The win moved Manchester United back to the top of table, but their stay there lasted little more than 24 hours, as City’s 1-0 victory away at Aston Villa returned them to first place in the Premiership.  Just below them, there had been a fear amongst Spurs fans that all the speculation linking Harry Redknapp with the vacant England manager’s job might distract the team in their preparations for their match with Newcastle.  While it does seems likely that Redknapp will be asked by the FA to handle the Euros –  an offer he will readily accept and say they can be deposited in unmarked bills in his dog’s bank account in Monaco – his focus was clearly on Tottenham at the weekend, as they took apart Alan Pardew’s side in a 5-0 thrashing.  Emmanuel Adebayor was particularly impressive up front, providing assists for the first four goals before scoring one himself, and Louis Saha netted twice in his home debut for the club.

Chelsea suffered another defeat, this time away at Everton, and with all of the clubs around them losing, it gave Arsenal the opportunity to move back into the Champions League places with an away win at Sunderland.  Wenger’s side grabbed all three points thanks to a late winner from Thierry Henry, playing in his final Premiership game before his return to the New York Red Bulls.  However, any momentum they could have gained from the victory was lost on Wednesday, as Arsenal crashed to a 4-0 defeat to AC Milan in the San Siro in the first leg of their Champions League tie.  This weekend sees them return to Sunderland for an FA Cup fixture, before next Sunday’s North London derby against Tottenham – victories in both of those games are crucial for the Gunners if they have any hope of salvaging anything from this season.

Wolves lost 5-1 at home to West Brom, a defeat that was the final game for Mick McCarthy as manager of Wanderers, as he was sacked the following day.  Bottom-of-the-table Wigan won for the first time in 10 Premiership matches, defeating Bolton 2-1 at the Reebok Stadium; while Blackburn’s 3-2 victory over QPR moved Steve Kean’s side out of the relegation zone – albeit only on goal difference.  Norwich gained an impressive away win over Swansea – only the second time the Welsh side had lost on their own patch all season – and Fulham picked up a vital three points against Stoke at Craven Cottage.

This weekend sees a break in Premier League action, as the FA Cup reaches its fifth-round – with 16 clubs, of which only half are in the top flight, still in contention to win the trophy.  The only all Premiership tie is that repeat of last weekend’s league game at the Stadium of Light, as Sunderland host Arsenal once again.  Chelsea, who have their Champions League tie against Napoli coming up on Tuesday, take on Birmingham at Stamford Bridge; Everton host Blackpool; Bolton travel to Millwall; and Norwich and Leicester square off at Carrow Road.  In Sunday’s fixtures: League Two’s rich boys, Crawley, entertain Premiership Stoke; Tottenham make the short journey to Stevenage; and Brighton get an away day at Anfield as they face Liverpool.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Chelsea vs Birmingham

Everton vs Blackpool

Millwall vs Bolton

Norwich vs Leicester

Sunderland vs Arsenal

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Crawley vs Stoke

Stevenage vs Tottenham

Liverpool vs Brighton

 

Premiership Preview and Predictions

Last weekend in the Premiership, the headline game saw Manchester United claw their way back from three goals down away at Chelsea to force

Wayne Rooney converts his second penalty of the game against Chelsea

a 3-3 draw and a share of the points.  Having fallen behind after a Jonny Evans own goal in the first half, United could not have started the second period in a worse fashion.  24 seconds after the restart, Juan Mata scored with a sumptuous volley from a Torres cross, and five minutes later David Luiz made it 3-0 to Chelsea, with a deflected header from a corner.  However, two penalties in the space of 11 minutes – both converted by Wayne Rooney – gave Sir Alex Ferguson’s men a lifeline.  Javier Hernandez completed the comeback with a headed equaliser in the 84th minute, although the visitors had to rely on three great saves in the final few minutes from their keeper, David de Gea, to secure the draw.  The result was a blow to Chelsea, who now have just a single point advantage over Newcastle in the race for fourth, while it gave United a boost to their title chances – not so much due to the point earned, but because of their unwillingness to accept defeat.

Manchester United did find themselves two points behind their rivals, City, after the weekend’s fixtures, as Mancini’s men secured a routine 3-0 home win over Martin Jol’s Fulham.  Arsenal, who had been held goalless by Bolton in their previous outing, took their frustration out on Blackburn at the Emirates as they hammered Rovers 7-1, leaving Steve Kean’s side three points from safety in the relegation zone.  Harry Redknapp was absent for Tottenham’s trip to Liverpool on Monday night because of his trial – he was found not guilty two days later – but he will not have missed being there too much, as a lifeless encounter ended 0-0.  QPR paraded two new strikers in their line-up for the game with Wolves – Djibril Cisse and Bobby Zamora both joined in the final days of the January transfer window, but the pair had contrasting fortunes: Zamora gave Rangers the lead, but Cisse was sent off and it ended up costing them the game as Wolves won for the first time in 12 league matches.   Continue reading

This week in: English Football – Fabio Resigns, Who will be the next manager of…Spurs?

Fabio Capello resigned as England manager on Wednesday as he was upset over the Board of the Football Association stripping John Terry of the captaincy,  against the Italian’s wishes.  Capello felt he had been disrespected and his position to make decisions on his team had been undermined, thus had no choice but to leave his post, a mere four months before the European Championships begin.  He believed it was unfair to remove the captain’s armband from Terry without the defender having been found guilty, since the Chelsea player will not stand trial until July, and Capello believed that he should be treated as innocent until proven otherwise, as is the rule of law.  However, the Board’s decision is not completely without precedence: when Jonathan Woodgate and Lee Bowyer were awaiting court cases on the charges of affray and Actual Bodily Harm (ABH) respectively, it was ruled that, until judgement was passed down, neither was eligible for selection for the national team.  Had this rule been codified, there would have been no question of whether or not Terry would continue as captain, since he would not have been able to be in the squad until after his trial.  Given the seriousness of the charges – racially abusing Anton Ferdinand, a fellow professional and the brother of Terry’s England colleague, Rio –  it would have been worse for the Chelsea man to be allowed to represent his country as captain at the Euros, with a potential guilty verdict coming just weeks after the tournament.  He deserves to be assumed innocent until proven guilty, but that does not afford Terry the right to lead out his country – a multicultural nation with an ethnically diverse squad – with those charges as yet unanswered.

Hands up who's going to be the next England manager...

As for Capello’s replacement, it seems inevitable that Harry Redknapp will be taking over as the next England manager.  The one obstacle to his ascension to the role, his own trial for tax evasion, ended with a not guilty verdict – the very same day that Capello resigned.  Redknapp himself has publicly stated before that it would be very hard for him to turn down the opportunity to manage his country – which means that Tottenham Hotspur are likely to be looking for a new boss in the very near future.  I have never been his biggest fan – he is definitely more of a motivator than a tactician – but Redknapp did lift Spurs from bottom of the table when he took over, to their current position of third, as well as their first appearance in the European Cup since 1962.

There has been a swell of opinion from various players and media outlets stating that only an Englishman should be considered for the job.  In the time since Capello’s exit was announced, much has been made of the fact that the Italian never learned English and that this had been a barrier to his communicating with the side.  This issue did not seem to raise its head during the qualification process for Euro 2012, when England remained unbeaten during their campaign and finished top of their group.  Michael Owen tweeted that everyone involved in the England setup should English, from the manager to the tea-lady.  By the way that’s Welsh-born, former England striker, Michael Owen.  What would people count as English? If Arsene Wenger decided he wanted to become manager, and was naturalised – as he is able to do, having lived and worked in the country for so long – would people accept him?  Britain is historically a nation of immigrants and many of the current stars in other sports – such as half of the England cricket team and middle-distance runner, Mo Farah – represent the nation, but were born elsewhere.  If the claim is that the national team should be managed only by someone who is eligible to play for that country, I can understand the reasoning – but that is not the rules of the game and other countries do not stick to that principle.  What England needs is someone who understands the English game and can communicate with the players and handle the big personalities.  If that was the primary concern, the FA should be pursuing Sir Alex Ferguson, the most successful manager in the English league over the last 20 years.

Continue reading

More This Week In English Football

There was a full slate of midweek fixtures in the Premier League, following last weekend’s FA Cup fixtures.  Manchester United moved back level on points with neighbours City, as the Reds beat Stoke 2-0 at home, while the leaders slumped to a 1-0 loss away to Everton.  After Tuesday’s defeat, Manchester City’s manager, Roberto Mancini, admitted that he had not thoroughly prepared for the match, as he had expected his side to ease to victory.  This confession was particularly bizarre, given that his team had extra time to prepare to face Everton, as they had already been knocked out of the cup in the previous round, leaving them with an open weekend prior to the match.  City now have a run of four league games they will expect to win (home against Fulham, Blackburn and Bolton, away to Villa), so they may be able to re-establish their lead over United at the top of the table.  The return of Yaya Toure from the African Cup of Nations will also be a huge boost for Mancini’s side, but if they are unable to pick up points in tricky away fixtures over the next few months, they will struggle to beat United to the league title.

In the race for the remaining two Champions League spots, Chelsea and Arsenal both dropped points as they drew away at Swansea and Bolton respectively.  While Andre Villas-Boas’ side came from behind to earn a last-minute draw in Wales, the Gunners wasted many chances to win at the Reebok Stadium and could well have ended up losing, had David Ngog taken one of his two good opportunities for Bolton.  Third placed Tottenham – who had drawn with Wolves and lost to City in their last two games – returned to winning ways with a 3-1 home victory over bottom-of-the-table Wigan.  Although they are only five points off the leaders, the next two months will be crucial for Spurs and their chances of staying above their rivals to claim an automatic Champions League place for next season.  Their forthcoming matches are thus: Liverpool away; Newcastle; Arsenal away; Manchester United; Everton away; Stoke; Chelsea away – a tough run of fixtures that means that Tottenham should be looking to consolidate their position in the table, rather than harbouring any realistic thoughts of a title challenge.  Their North London rivals, Arsenal, dropped down to seventh in the league this week, as wins for Newcastle (away at Blackburn) and Liverpool (at Wolves) moved both teams above Arsene Wenger’s men.  Although Spurs fans may not openly admit it, our one true aim this season is to cancel St. Totteringham’s Day – the point at the season in which their archrivals celebrate that Tottenham can no longer finish above them in the league.  Arsenal fans have been able to celebrate this every year in the Premiership except one (in 1994/5) but as they currently sit 12 points below the Lilywhites with 15 games to play, we are only 34 points (gained for Tottenham or dropped by the Gunners) from guaranteeing the white half of North London ends up on top this season. Continue reading

This week in: American Football – Superbowl XLVI

The first Superbowl I watched in the United States – rather than in the UK, five hours ahead – was in February, 2008 – when the Giants upset the Patriots perfect season to win Superbowl XLII.  Back then, it was easy to decide who to root for – New England was 18-0 for the regular season plus the playoffs, had been running up the score on opponents all year, and were double-digit favourites to complete their perfect campaign.  Going along with their huge underdog tag, the Giants also had the fact they were my new local team (sort of – New Jersey is still two rivers away) and, as a Yankees fan, it felt right to pick New York over Boston.  I went to a Superbowl party at a friend’s place in Hoboken – one huge upset, a helmet catch and a few too many beers later, we were high-fiving drivers as we headed back down Washington Street towards the PATH.  In the NFC Championship game, the Giants had defeated Green Bay – the team I have rooted for since I first started watching the NFL in the early 90s – and even though that was something of a shock result, it had come via a Brett Favre interception – which was not an outcome Packers fans were surprised about.

This time around, it is not quite so easy to hope for New York to win again.  The Patriots are nowhere near as unlikable this time around, mainly because they actually seem vulnerable, and this time are only 3 point favourites.  In contrast, the Giants have had all the hype surrounding them – they were widely expected to go into Green Bay and beat the 15-1 Packers – and somehow it happened.  Eli Manning, who half the time seems so scared of getting hit, throws off his back foot and makes himself vulnerable to interceptions, has been playing well enough for people to start debating whether or not he should be considered an elite Quarterback.  If he wins on Sunday, in the home stadium of his older brother, Eli will have two Superbowl rings – one more than Peyton – and will have to be considered among the games best.  Nevertheless, when it comes down to it, local pride and the rivalry with Boston means that I will have to be hope for New York to win this game.  Or, more accurately, the Patriots to lose.

As for how the game will actually go – I think New England are being underestimated at the moment, as the consensus appears to be that the Giants should be considered the favourites.  On turf, I think Tom Brady will run the Giants’ defense ragged and he will be able to score at will, enough that the Patriots own weak secondary will not cost them the game.

Prediction

Last time, 1-1, Playoffs 6-4

Patriots -3 over Giants