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February 5, 2008

Would The Catch By Any Other Name Be As Sweet?

When David Tyree brought down Eli Manning's pass with 75 seconds left in Super Bowl XLII, everyone and their mother (well, at least mine) recognized it as one of the most important plays in Super Bowl history. But when the game ended, the controversy began. Not because it wasn't a catch—every super-slow-motion replay showed that Tyree's helmet-aided, back-breaking, Harrison-humiliating grab was indeed a reception. But because no one could decide what to call it.

Eli-to-Tyree

Eli-to-Tyree ®

Now some might wonder, "Why does a play need a name? Won't people remember it anyway?" Those people clearly do not watch enough ESPN, and fail to realize that every historic play needs a shorthand nickname so it can be easily recalled in a matter of seconds as Woody Paige and Skip Bayless debate "the greatest play of all time" with an unconscionable degree of authority. (Side note: If Bayless maintains that the Giants were wrong to play their starters against the Patriots in Week 17, is there some way to have him banned from appearing on all sports-related programming?)

It is hard to tie the play down to a single name, since there are so many factors that contribute to its greatness. There is the scramble by Eli Manning, avoiding what looked like a certain sack, and the circus-like catch by Tyree on the other end. Then consider the context, a game-winning drive in what was possibly the most exciting Super Bowl game ever played. Consider the teams: the 18-0 Patriots juggernaut against the scrappy Giants. Boston vs. New York. Consider the players involved. In one moment, Eli Manning forever shed his tag as "Peyton's Afterbirth," and Tyree can no longer be identified as the redundant "special teams specialist," code for a receiver with terrible hands. (According to his teammate Amani Toomer, Tyree was dropping everything in practice just two days earlier.)

The difficulties in distilling the play down to a two-word phrase has only spurred the naming games, many of which self-consciously downplay their own suggestions. Gelf has sorted through some of the suggestions, and then boldly suggests one of our own—with no equivocation.

On Max Kellerman's radio show the morning after the game, he asked callers to suggest some possibilities. Variations on "Greatest Play Ever" indicate that New Yorkers may be a little too close to the play to come up with an objectively creative nickname.

Perhaps a place with a less direct attachment to the game might have some interesting ideas. Canadian blog Orland Kurtenblog, which is admittedly "mostly about the Vancouver Canucks," ran a naming contest of its own. After the blog passed along the ideas "The Great El-scape," "The Helmet of God," and "The Glendale Grab," readers chimed in with their own puns, which I can only assume play much better in Canada. Some notable suggestions were "The Houdini," "The Thinking Man's Catch," "Tyriffic," and the befuddling "The Spin-Head Catch." I think the last one might be an Exorcist reference, but I'm not sure.

There are some names that have been suggested multiple times from various sources. Tim Cowlishaw of The Dallas Morning News, The Chicago Sun-Times's Mike Mulligan, and a Deadspin commenter have dubbed it "Eli's Escape," but that leaves out the most remarkable part of the play. Variations of "The Catch II" or "The Catch version 2.0" are all over the internet. While it describes the play, it lacks originality and doesn't give any credit to Eli.

Others who might have answered the call have gone silent. Bill Simmons, the closest thing to an authority on this kind of thing, outsourced the job, calling it simply "The miracle play to be named later." Chris "Who shot Aaron" Berman seems to have run out of obscure classic-rock references to turn into monikers.

And so it's up to Gelf to settle this. While we've considered the options above, none were good enough. The actual name of the play that Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride called is "Phantom"—a pretty cool name in its own right and better than any of the other suggestions we've heard, though it's no Annexation of Puerto Rico. It has a legitimacy that no other nickname could claim, and makes a fine runner-up.

But when 30 years have elapsed, and the Paiges and Baylesses of the future are discussing whether Heath Manning threw the greatest pass of all time to Barack Burress in Superbowl LXXII, one of them will utter a single phrase that will evoke the moment when perfection was placed out of reach. A simple, elegant phrase, with a slight alliteration and something of a syllabic palindrome. A phrase that tells you everything you need to know about the play and nothing you don't. He will say, "Eli-to-Tyree."







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Comments

- Sports
- posted on Feb 06, 08
ROBERT JACKSON

The Pittsbugh Steelers and Franco Harris have "The Immaculate Reception" and The New York Giants have "The Immaculate Connection" between Eli Manning and David Tyree.

- Sports
- posted on Feb 06, 08
justin wooten

The play should be called SHAKE AND TAKE.

- Sports
- posted on Feb 07, 08
Sloth

The Giant Miracle

- Sports
- posted on Feb 11, 08
Slippery "E" to Tyree

Eli's nick name (easy E)

- Sports
- posted on Feb 12, 08
Kathe Nelson

I love "Eli to Tyree"-you got it!!!

- Sports
- posted on Feb 17, 08
justin wooten

Eli to Tyree is very good but i like: Amazing Grace


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