There were two stories that seemed to shape the landscape of the New York Sports scene on Sunday night.
First, Eli Manning and the Giants overcame some ghosts from the past and put together perhaps their strongest performance of the season in a 24-14 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Wildcard game.
Second was Roger Clemens' interview with Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes, in which he repeatedly denied the accusations by Brian McNamee that he used steroids.
One story focuses on a sympathetic character. The other involves a complete and total jerk.
And if you listened to WFAN last night, you weren't sure which one was which.
It's baffling to me why Giants fans continue to kill Eli Manning. I know that he's not exactly the picture of consistency at QB, and he's pretty much been set up to fail under ridiculously high expectations as the #1 draft pick in 2004. Over the 4 seasons, he's alternately looked brilliant and at the same time clueless. But he seems to have a knack for playing well when it matters most, as evidenced by the famous comeback against Denver in '05, and the last two games he's played, against New England and yesterday in Tampa. Although his numbers weren't eye-popping, they were excellent across the board. He basically managed a perfect game, didn't make any mistakes, and when the Giants were behind early and struggling, he remained calm and stuck to his game plan, smartly conducting two touchdown drives in the second quarter, and then a magnificent 8 minute drive over the 3rd and 4th quarters resulting in the game clinching touchdown.
So why are Giants fans continuing to kill this guy, talking about how he's not good enough to win a Super Bowl or ever be a franchise Quarterback? He basically just led the Giants to their most significant victory since they went to the Super Bowl in 2000, and put them into a matchup next weekend against their most hated rival, the Dallas Cowboys, where they probably look better than any other road team playing next weekend in the Divisional Playoffs. Giants fans, I think it's time to stop complaining and appreciate what you've got. Yes, he can be frustrating to watch, and he could very easily crumple next weekend in Dallas, but considering the state of NFL Quarterbacks (and the 49ers in particular have suffered greatly at the QB position this season), Eli Manning isn't so bad by comparison.
One caller summed it up rather well: If I were a professional athlete, I'd never want to come to New York. You can't please anyone.
However, none of this was quite as galling as hearing at least a few people call in and somehow make some sense out of the now-infamous Roger Clemens' interview.
I didn't watch 60 Minutes. However, WFAN played the interview shortly after 9pm (and a link to the interview is included above). I didn't have a chance to see it, but I heard that Clemens looked uncomfortable. The interview itself seemed rather mild. Mike Wallace has certainly lost a bit off his fastball over time (ha ha), and seemed to ask some challenging questions and not follow up on them. Not surprisingly, Clemens continues to deny having used steroids, and seems to shift most of the blame on his trainer, Brian McNamee. But why would McNamee lie about Clemens? Clemens assumes this is so he could avoid jail time, but then, what does that have to do with Clemens himself? I'm sure Clemens would like us to think that they're going after him like they went after Bonds. Of course, Clemens tried to make himself out to be the victim; that's what he'd like all of us to believe. His tearjerker of a story about pitching hurt in the World Series just made us all feel terrible for him. He says he's being found guilty without a trial, although the 11 pages of evidence in the Mitchell report are pretty damning against him. I'm not sure that too many people are buying the act. The ones that are are probably the same people who think Eli Manning is the worst person ever.
It pretty much boils down to this: Roger Clemens, who the hell are you trying to fool? You are a liar. And I can't wait until the day you are exposed as the fraud and the phony that you are.