Bob Glauber has been Newsday's national football columnist since 1992. He was Newsday's football writer covering the Jets
Beyond all the hype and all the glitz and all the spectacle that the event has come to signify, this all comes down to something much simpler than the grandiose buildup that precedes it.
This is all about the dream.
"It's what you think about coming up as a kid, through high school, through college, on a big stage like this," Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks said. "Anyone that plays football, this is the game you dream about. When you get that chance, that's what it's all about."
That chance has arrived for Nicks and the Giants. It's a team that might never have imagined this moment during all the turbulent times of a year filled with injuries and roster questions, the surprise first-half surge and the subsequent four-game losing streak, and then the late-season surge that made them think that maybe, just maybe, this day was possible.
And here it is: Giants-Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI at Lucas Oil Stadium. A chance for Nicks and every other player on the field to make their dream come true. This is what they play for, and the moment is to be cherished.
"If you play this game long enough, you realize how precious each season is and how precious these opportunities are," Giants quarterback Eli Manning said. "You don't know if you're going to get another chance."
Manning knows better than most. He came to Indianapolis with a chance to surpass big brother Peyton with a second Super Bowl championship. And he came here not knowing if the Colts' star quarterback, who has a neck problem, will ever get another chance to play. It's not just Peyton, though. Eli is reminded every year of just how fleeting these times can be.
"Having had numerous teammates getting injured and all of a sudden their careers get cut short," he said, "you understand that when you feel you have a good team, good players, and you can go win a championship, you can't let those slip away because you don't know if you're going to get another opportunity."
The Giants now have that chance. A chance for Manning to add to his legacy with a repeat of his Super Bowl XLII MVP performance. A chance for coach Tom Coughlin to match Bill Parcells with a second Super Bowl title and do it against one of the game's great coaches in Bill Belichick. A chance for a Giants defense to back up all that brash talk of the preceding week with a transcendent effort against future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady.
"You do have a great sense of enjoying the moment, or seizing the moment," Coughlin said. "It's the continuation of that kind of thing. Let's do it and go along with it."
The Giants' improbable journey to get here has taken them on a path remarkably similar to the one that led them to their last Super Bowl win. Just as they did in 2007, they sneaked into the playoffs near the very end, then went on a roll. The fourth-seeded Giants knocked off the defending champion and top-seeded Packers in Green Bay, then beat the second-seeded and very physical 49ers in San Francisco in the NFC Championship Game. An unlikely path, for sure, but the Giants got hot at the right time, and they look like a team that is ready to meet its destiny and become only the third team to win four Super Bowls.
"It's been an extremely tough road for us, and we've fought with every inch of our bodies to get to this point," outspoken safety Antrel Rolle said. "We embrace it, and we're going to do everything we can to make sure we come out victorious."
If they play the way they did in the last five games, they will get that victory tonight. The Giants just have that air about themselves, the confidence born of success from their late-season resurgence and their relentless efforts in the playoffs. They've been talking almost as good a game as they've been playing lately, the clearest indication of their confidence level. They insist it has not been transformed into cockiness.
"We always focus our team on confident enough to get there and confident enough to get back," Coughlin said.
They are back with a chance to cement their place in history. Coughlin is ready to seize the moment.
"There were times when it looked like it wasn't going to happen for us this year, and it did again," he said. "You have to have a great appreciation for this. It's tough to be in this position and get to this point."
But they are here, and they are ready. The dream comes true for one team Sunday night. The Giants hope it's them.