Taking One for the Team

In the five days since my New York Giants defeated the New England Patriots in dramatic fashion in Super Bowl LXVI, the drama hasn’t stopped — it’s just moved outside the lines: receiver Wes Welker’s distraught and courageous postgame interview after dropping the game-sealing pass in the fourth quarter; tight end Rob Gronkowski’s much-publicized afterparty dancing only hours after the devastating loss; supermodel Gisele Bundchen’s understandably frustrated reaction to the taunting of Giants’ fans; running back Brandon Jacobs’ ill-advised blowback and subsequent apology. If that weren’t enough, some among the Boston media and masses have been calling out coaches and players as though running roughshod over the rest of the NFL for the past decade were a miserable failure. It’s gotten bad enough that prominent ESPN sportswriter Rick Reilly spent a feature article calling for a little balance and sanity.

Overlooked in the postgame hype and hoopla is a pre-game blame game that should’ve happened but admirably did not. Low-level receiver Tiquan Underwood was cut by the Patriots on the eve of the biggest single game in sports in order to make room for practice squad defensive lineman Alex Silvestro to join the team for this final game of the season. Underwood’s immediate public response was remarkably humble and relentlessly loyal. Through tweets and interviews, Underwood expressed his full support for his team and the Patriots’ organization.

His response on Twitter:

“Good luck to the New England organization, the coaches, and all my teammates. #PatsNation.”

His response to an interview request:

“I don’t want to be a distraction to the game or the New England Patriots.”

His text message response to ESPN’s Ed Werder:

“I will say this, the New England Patriots are a GREAT organization. I wish them nothing but the best today. This season has been dedicated to Myra Kraft (MHK) Mr Kraft’s wife [Robert Kraft, owner of the Patriots, recently lost his wife of 47 years, and the team played the season in her memory]. With that being said I hope they pull out the victory in honor of her and because the coaches and players have worked so hard this season for the opportunity to play in Super Bowl 46. Go Pats!!! #PatsNation”

At twenty-four years old, on the eve of the biggest single game in professional sports, with reporters and journalists looking to stir up big stories for big network ratings, in a profession publicly defined by highlight reels and sought-after stardom and attention-grabbing touchdown celebrations, Underwood not only held his tongue and declined the spotlight but spoke in glowing terms about his team, his coaches, and his organization. In the midst of what must have been a dark and devastating hour, Tiquan Underwood expressed a nobility that should get far more press than it did.

On Sunday, the New York Giants defeated the dynasty of the decade in dramatic fashion for the second time in five years. We are the champions. On Tuesday, Big Blue received their keys to the city from Mayor Michael Blomberg after their ticker-tape parade through the Big Apple’s Canyon of Heroes. Hail to the victors. But sometime on Saturday, in the frenetic build-up to the biggest show on earth, a young man mastered his own heart. That’s the ultimate victory.

Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty,
and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city
(Proverbs 16:32).


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