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SportsColumnistsNeil Best

Giants' saga becomes an adventure

Eli Manning waves to fans as he runs

Eli Manning waves to fans as he runs off the field after beating the Washington Redskins. (Dec. 5, 2010) Credit: David Pokress

MINNEAPOLIS - No, really.

That is where I am writing this from - Minneapolis, the city the Giants never got to and the Vikings eventually left - even though by the time you read it, I hope to be in Detroit, blizzards permitting.

Unlike Saturday, when I visited Cleveland for 20 minutes before being sent back home.

Throw in the Giants' side trip to Kansas City, and between Big Blue and little me, we managed to cover four-fifths of the AL Central in a single weekend.

Not that any of us is complaining, and the Giants seem to have embraced the experience with good humor.

It's been an adventure, and it has unfolded in the service of what once again has proved to be far more than the national pastime. It's the national passion.

The saga of the Giants' attempt to play their 13th regular-season game - against a losing team with both a stadium and a quarterback in tatters - has riveted the nation, or at least parts of it.

Some of the fun/drama has been that everyone has been able to follow it in real time this time.

Pat Hanlon, the Giants' irrepressible VP of communications, turned the road trip into a Twitter tour de force, keeping fans informed (and entertained) along with football writers scattered across America.

There also is a serious side to all this. First, let's give thanks there were not tens of thousands of people in the stands when the Vikings' dome collapsed. But people have suffered, at least in terms of disappointment.

Remember, the NFL is the immovable object of sports leagues, with a tightly wound schedule and intricate TV contracts that do not leave much flexibility for Mother Nature's whims.

This isn't baseball, in which an extra game can be sneaked in here or tacked on there, and most disruptions short of an earthquake during the World Series can be finessed.

Many ticket-holding Giants fans have seen a much-anticipated road trip go up in a cloud of blowing snow. Now Vikings fans can commiserate, as their team hits the road for a "home'' game.

No one will shed a tear for the league, the teams or the television networks that cover them, but they, too, have had a rough Week 14 in business terms.

Fox originally was scheduled to televise the game to 49 percent of America with its No. 1 team of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman.

Now it will be allowed to show the game only in the New York and Albany areas and four markets in Minnesota, a mere 9 percent of the country.

Aikman and Buck were bound last night for Detroit, a site chosen in part because Fox already had its equipment there from yesterday's Packers-Lions game.

DirecTV's Sunday Ticket customers can see the game, but the rest of the nation is out of luck.

Why not show it more widely? Because the NFL understandably must protect ESPN, which pays $1.1 billion a year to show "Monday Night Football.''

It's bad enough for the network that it will lose the nation's biggest TV market Monday when it shows the Ravens-Texans game; it was not about to concede cities beyond Minneapolis and New York.

To minimize the overlap, the Giants will kick off more than an hour earlier than the ESPN game.

The NFL didn't have much choice here. In 2008, it was able to reschedule an early-season Ravens-Texans game postponed by a hurricane because there was time to jigger the bye schedules.

No such luck at this late date, so the league will go the neutral-site route, as it did in 2003 when the Dolphins and Chargers played in Tempe, Ariz., because of wildfires in San Diego.

Once this seemingly endless road trip finally is over for the Giants, their travel staff can focus on preparing for the next one.

On Christmas weekend.

In Green Bay.

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