EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Country music star Kenny Chesney strode along an extended stage at MetLife Stadium, holding aloft a Giants helmet in one hand, a Jets helmet in the other. Overwhelmingly, the loudest cheers came when he extended the blue Giants head gear.
Chesney knowingly mentioned, in reference to his 2011 hit song, that the “Boys of Fall” are coming back. And pretty much everywhere except on that night at the Meadowlands, the Super Bowl champions are being overshadowed as we close in on another season.
Eclipsed by Tebowmania. By Rex Ryan and his entertaining proclamations. By a cornerback declaring he is the second-best receiver on the roster.
By the feuding and fighting during practice by Gang Green, which didn’t even make the playoffs last season.
The Giants couldn’t care less.
“This is just the way we like it,” team owner John Mara said as he watched his team prepare for Saturday night’s annual “Battle of New York,” which hasn’t been played in New York in decades. “We are not trying to be on the front page, the back page, the lead story right now.
“That other stuff we see, I do find it amusing; they do have personalities on that team. But more than a commentary on the Jets or any of us in football, it’s a commentary more on the media, isn’t it?
“But we don’t worry about what the headlines will be the next day.”
The Jets do, from owner Woody Johnson on down. Winning the back pages of the newspapers seems to be priority No. 1 for them.
The headlines rarely have belonged to the Giants (No. 3 in the AP Pro32) almost since March. They enjoyed the spoils of winners, are trying not to be spoiled by winning, and have flown so far under the radar this summer that it doesn’t seem like they left the ground.
While their co-owners of the two-year-old stadium can be found hourly, if not more often, on ESPN — some folks joke about an upcoming new channel, TSPN (T for Tim Tebow, of course) — as well as all over the tabloids, the Giants quietly go about business. They’re more concerned about avoiding any Super Bowl hangover than about being cast in the next sequel to “The Hangover.”
If the Jets (No. 17 in the AP Pro32) are the NFL’s version of Hollywood, the Giants are, well, Big Blue-collar New Jersey, far more Springsteen than Snooki.
“After we won (in 2007), we were playing better the next season than the team that won the Super Bowl,” general manager Jerry Reese said. “But it didn’t work out at the end of the season, so I don’t think you can say that (was a Super Bowl hangover). We just didn’t play well in the first round of the playoffs after winning our division.
“We had veterans on that team who now have won two Super Bowls. They know what it takes to avoid a ‘Super Bowl hangover’ that some say a championship team gets when it wins. But for us, it’s keep your head down and plow forward. We do the things we’ve always done.”
One thing these teams have almost always done is face off in a preseason game. For this year’s friendly, you can count on more attention being paid to how much Tebow will play as a quarterback, in the wildcat or as a punt protector than to what two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning will do.
Manning might get more mentions for hosting “Saturday Night Live” in May than for those trophies; he certainly would if he was the Jets’ starting QB with Tebow breathing down his neck.
Perhaps the only off-field area where the Giants remotely challenge the Jets for the spotlight is in developing slogans. As everyone else is conjuring nicknames or promoting the preposterous for the Jets, the Giants do at least play that game a little bit.
They come up with mottos.
This year, it’s “Build the Bridge,” following such catch phrases as “Finish,” and “Talk is Cheap, Play the Game.”
Wild stuff for this bunch.
It makes Mara smile.
“We have good leadership at all levels,” he said. “We have solid veterans who have been through this before but still have a hunger to win again and again.”
“We’re in the now. We focus on being relevant again this season; nobody cares that we won the Super Bowl last year.”
Well, a whole bunch of fans at the Chesney-Tim McGraw concert sure cared.
AP Sports Writers Tom Canavan in Albany, N.Y., and Dennis Waszak Jr., in Cortland, N.Y., contributed to this report.