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'America's Game' celebrates Giants again

New York Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes kisses the

New York Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes kisses the Vince Lombardi Trophy after his team's 21-17 win over New England Patriots during Super Bowl XLVI. (Feb. 5, 2012) Credit: AP

NFL Films tries to avoid duplicating interview subjects in its deservedly acclaimed "America's Game'' series, and it tries to limit subjects to three per episode.

But the producers made exceptions to both policies to tell the story of the 2011 Giants, premiering at 9 o'clock Tuesday nighton the NFL Network.

Why not? There's a lot to tell.

So Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning reprise their 2007 roles, joining "Mean'' Joe Greene and Bill Curry as the only men to appear more than once. And they join Justin Tuck and Victor Cruz in only the fifth of 46 shows to interview four people.

"We felt there was no good way we could do a good job without those four characters,'' producer Steve Lucatuorto said. For a time, he was "on the fence'' about Coughlin, but "we looked at it and said there was no way we could do it without him.''

Good thing, because Coughlin somehow comes across as both stern and likable in the tight close-ups that are a trademark of the series. As long as you stick to his schedule, of course.

Lucatuorto said the interview began this way: "You've got two hours. Begin.'' And how long did the session last? "I was right on time,'' the producer said.

Manning and Cruz spoke for about that long, but Tuck lingered for three hours. "Time flew,'' Lucatuorto said. "He didn't care.''

With all due respect to the questions and answers, the truth is that as much as Giants fans will enjoy the show, it does not quite measure up to the "America's Game'' on the 2007 team, one of the best in the series.

That entry benefited from the presence of Michael Strahan, whom Lucatuorto said joins Warren Sapp in "the Hall of Fame of 'America's Game' interviews.'' It also included more fresh material, most memorably practice footage of soon-to-be Super Bowl hero David Tyree dropping passes in practice two days before the game.

The relative lack of revelations this time partly is a function of the evolution of coverage and social media during the past four years.

"It's definitely a challenge,'' said Lucatuorto, a four-time Emmy winner. "I made sure before we started to ask them if anything pops in your head, even if you think it's insignificant and might not be interesting, I want to hear about it.''

For example: an anecdote from Manning about his poker chip from the "all-in'' rallying cry that the quarterback didn't think was a big deal. "I sort of had to drag that out of him,'' Lucatuorto said.

Perhaps the best moment is Cruz's tale of Manning inviting him to a throwing session during the lockout, and why they ended up practicing on a sidewalk.

The first 40 episodes caught up with previous Super Bowl winners, often decades after the fact, which made for a different dynamic than more recent shows, which are rolled out one year at a time.

"It's not like you're doing the '72 Dolphins; those guys tend to be more nostalgic,'' Lucatuorto said, adding that if he were to speak to the same four Giants in 20 years, their answers would differ in tone and content.

For now, Coughlin, Manning, Tuck and Cruz are more concerned with another run into midwinter that would give three or four other Giants a turn before the NFL Films cameras next offseason.

Sound bites

Speaking of Strahan, he is expected to be named Tuesday as Kelly Ripa's co-host for "Live! With Kelly.'' Like many others, I recognized him as a budding media star as early as the mid-1990s. But I did not see anything like this coming! Should be interesting, especially watching him toggle between his Fox NFL studio duties in L.A. and his, um, less-football-oriented audience in New York . . . Congratulations to Boomer Esiason and Craig Carton on their fifth anniversary together Tuesday and to WFAN operations manager Mark Chernoff, whose decision to pair them allowed the station to move beyond the potentially ruinous Don Imus saga relatively quickly . . . As of Monday, asking prices for Giants home games on averaged $318.52, third-highest in the NFL behind the Saints and Patriots and up nearly 17 percent from 2011. The Jets averaged $194.03, 12th in the league and down a little more than 17 percent from last year.

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