Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted on Sept.
Are we having fun yet? In a word: Yup.
"Yeah, it's fun,'' Eli Manning said Sunday after a shootout for the ages at MetLife Stadium that ended, as these things often do, with Manning on the right side of a 41-34 victory over the shell-shocked Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"It's not the situation you always want to be in,'' Manning said, "but it can be fun.''
He spoke with the slightly less laconic delivery that differentiates his post-victory news conferences from his post-loss sessions, and he even left reporters with a joke as he walked off the podium and into the coming sunset.
Asked how he felt about compiling one of the 10 highest single-game passing-yardage totals in NFL history, he said, "If you count all my interception yards, I'd probably be No. 1.''
Good line. And, indeed, Manning threw for 510 yards and three touchdowns, and Tampa Bay returned his three interceptions for 100 yards and a TD. (Norm Van Brocklin's 554 passing yards is the NFL record.)
But Manning's uncharacteristic crack got to the truth of what happened in the Meadowlands this day, with the defending champs on the brink of a shocking 0-2 start at home.
Coach Tom Coughlin said "a lesser group of men would have had trouble'' coming back from a horrendous start and a 27-13 deficit. But more to the point, a lesser quarterback might have curled up in a corner of the locker room at halftime and refused to come back for more.
OK, slight exaggeration.
Let's just say most quarterbacks are neither physically nor psychologically capable of shrugging off a first half in which three interceptions produced 21 points for the opposition, then engineering a 25-point fourth quarter.
"The good thing about him is that he has a short memory,'' defensive end Justin Tuck said.
A summary of Eli's work on three scoring drives in the final 7:41: 2-for-2 for 88 yards and a TD; 3-for-4 for 67 yards and a TD; 2-for-2 for 74 yards (Andre Brown rushing TD).
His eventful day ended with the Buccaneers coming after him when the Giants were kneeling to run out the clock, prompting a heated exchange between the two head coaches and a rare rebuke from Manning. "I think it's a little bit of a cheap shot,'' he said.
No NFL team would put up with such treatment of its QB. But the Giants have more reason than most to treasure their man. "It won't be forgotten; I'll just say that,'' Tuck said.
Coughlin said those early turnovers were "like sticking a dagger right here [in his chest],'' then added this surprising tidbit: that Manning takes ball security "more seriously than I do.''
What makes him say that? "Because I talk to him all the time, and he expresses himself to me,'' Coughlin said.
The key, though, Coughlin noted, is "it's not going to take away from his aggressiveness.''
So what finally changed? "Stopped throwing interceptions,'' Manning said. But he did not stop throwing.
Manning is not particularly good at talking about himself, and I never have caught one of Manning's passes, so let's ask Victor Cruz to sum up:
"He's resolved; he's unflappable. He's the same guy that was in the Super Bowl. Didn't panic and was just throwing the football and we were catching it. He didn't panic; he wasn't yelling or anything like that.
"He was his normal, confident self, calling the plays, and we were just following orders.''
Sounds like fun!