Neil Best Newsday columnist Neil Best

Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted in 2005.

David Tyree rooted for the Giants and Ravens on Sunday, hoping to see the teams he played for reach the Super Bowl and happy not to be thrust into the media spotlight, as he knew he would be if the Patriots won.

Rodney Harrison rooted for the Giants and Patriots, not minding the inevitable attention and more concerned with unfinished business from four years ago.

After getting his wish, Harrison now has another, even bigger one: That the teammates left from the 2007 Patriots exorcise a demon. "I wanted them to get the Giants," the NBC analyst said yesterday. "I thought that would be a great Super Bowl matchup and an opportunity to put some souls to rest."

Harrison was speaking generally about the Giants' 17-14 victory in Super Bowl XLII. But he knows that forevermore he is imprinted on a critical moment that night.

Perhaps you remember.

Harrison, who was a safety for the Patriots, came over to help in coverage against Tyree on a third-and-5 during the Giants' final drive when Eli Manning scrambled and found Tyree for a 32-yard gain.

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Harrison tried to wrestle the ball away as he wrestled Tyree to the ground, but the receiver held on with help from his helmet. Four plays later, Manning passed to Plaxico Burress for the winning touchdown.

Naturally, Harrison has been asked about the play many times, and he never has shied from answering. "That's my personality," he said. "Why run away from something? . . . That's the way my mom raised me. Deal with it. Be a man. That's what real people do."

Still, Harrison believes he did what he could on the play, on which he did not have primary responsibility for Tyree.

"As much as I would like to take the brunt of the blame for that play, I don't," he said. "I realize it is a once-in-a-lifetime type of catch and that catch just doesn't happen. On that particular day, it did."

Harrison had a far more accomplished career than Tyree and won two Super Bowls as a Patriot. But the Giants loss still stings, and he believes it will drive New England come Feb. 5.

"When you look at the core of this team, the veteran players who played in that game, guys that are very bitter, that will give them fuel," he said.

"They won't come out and admit it, but you'd be crazy if you played in that Super Bowl and not feel like this was an opportunity to get revenge."

Tyree said watching Sunday as the rematch unfolded left him "speechless."

"To actually see this thing come to fruition, it's kind of spooky," said Tyree, who added as a man of deep religious faith, "you know me . . . I don't think anything happens by accident."

Tyree has a complex relationship with his famous catch. He acknowledged it has helped him earn extra money to support his six children, who are home-schooled, and to share his religious and political views. "The truth of the matter was I never was going to have a moment in my career that was going to eclipse that," he said, adding that he always has been at peace with that reality.

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Tyree is working on a second book, as well as business and philanthropic endeavors, and plans to be in Indianapolis next week, again making "Catch 42" pay off.

But he said he no longer seeks to cash in on every opportunity as he once did and no longer seeks the attention. "I'm not going to totally run from it, but I also have other things going on in life," he said.

Hence his loyalty to the Ravens, for whom he played in 2009, trumping his desire to see a Giants-Pats rematch.

"It's not about the money," he said. "It's more about for me having a moment that transcends my own personal career to be a part of Giants history, NFL history, Super Bowl history . . . I'm eternally grateful."

Harrison, for his part, is grateful for the longer arc of his career, saying, "I've always wanted to be consistent, play well for a long time, and that's how you develop greatness."

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For several seconds in 2008, Tyree got the better of him. Now, at last, the Patriots' chance to turn back the clock is at hand.