Spike Lee film looks back at David Tyree's 'Greatest Catch Ever'
Rodney Harrison had the perfect vantage point for one of the greatest catches in Super Bowl history. Photo Credit: AP
Seven years after the last reception of his NFL career, David Tyree long since has come to terms with the fact it is the thing for which the world will most remember him.
But initially he resisted.
"When you're playing you never want to get stuck in a moment as an athlete," Tyree said before the Tribeca Film Festival premiere of Spike Lee's "The Greatest Catch Ever," a half-hour film about his game-saving play for the Giants in Super Bowl XLII. It will be shown on ESPN2 at 9:30 p.m. Monday.
"I was anxious to just do that, to be thankful for the moment and be willing to move past it. That's what a memorial is, it's something you establish to remember a great moment in time and then you have to move on. If you're stuck in the moment, you're not progressing."
Eventually, though, after Tyree was through as a player after the 2009 season with the Ravens, he embraced his place in sports history without hesitation.
"Once my career was over I realized it was something to be celebrated," he said. "I was privileged to be a part of one of the greatest moments in sports history. I try not to make it about me and I try to have fun."
He knows there are far worse things to be recognized for. "I can either be remembered for making the catch or not making the catch."
Tyree, 35, is back with the Giants these days, as director of player development, but the premiere was a chance to look back with old teammates Chris Snee and Plaxico Burress, whom Lee interviewed for the film.
Also appearing in the film are Eli Manning, Tom Coughlin and then-Patriot Rodney Harrison, who failed to break up Manning's desperate pass to Tyree, in which he pinned the ball against his helmet to secure it and set up the game-winning touchdown pass to Burress in a 17-14 victory.
Tyree jumped at the chance to work with Lee, whom he has admired since the late 1980s. "That was one of those media requests that was really easy to take up," he said.
The film covers mostly familiar ground, at least for avid Giants fans, and oddly does not include any actual video of Super Bowl XLII or any other game or practice.
So, for example, while the "America's Game" the NFL produced about the Giants' Super Bowl victory included practice footage of Tyree's notoriously awful Friday practice that week, Lee's film only has people talk about it.
Lee said he was wary of the hassle and cost of securing video rights from NFL Films based on past experience.
"I don't want to deal with them," he said. "NFL Films? Not worth it. We didn't have time enough or money enough. It still works with stills."
But there are compelling moments from the talking heads, including a relaxed, playful Coughlin and an emotional, introspective Harrison.
The best part might be Burress and Tyree discussing what became of the famous football they both caught on that winning drive.
It also ties Tyree's catch to those by Mario Manningham late in Super Bowl XLVI and by Odell Beckham Jr. against the Cowboys last November.
Tyree has said Beckham's catch against the Cowboys was the best he has "witnessed," arguing he did not actually see his own catch because he was busy making the play.
As someone who grew up in New Jersey as a 49ers fan, he also is uncomfortable that his catch "hijacked" the term "The Catch" from Dwight Clark's playoff reception against the Cowboys in 1982.
Still, given the magnitude of the situation, Tyree does not argue when people call his the best ever.
"I'm a little biased," he said. "I won't say that it is. But I will say I let other people speak for me. [The late NFL Films president] Steve Sabol said it was the greatest play in Super Bowl history.
"So Steve Sabol, being that he'd seen every Super Bowl would blatantly come up and hands-down make that statement after watching Super Bowl XLII, I'm going to stick with his testimony."
Tyree said during a Q&A after the screening that he appreciated hearing Harrison sound so humble in his interview with Lee. He suggested that he was irked hearing earlier interviews with Harrison in which he noted the luck involved in Tyree's play.
"I believe everything has purpose in this life, so to chalk it up to luck is like a low ball," Tyree said. "To diminish it as low ball, like finding five dollars on the street, no, we're not going to go that route. But it was refreshing, I was happy. I can imagine his pain. I don't know it, but I can imagine it."
Snee, a guard who played for both recent Giants Super Bowl winners, said it is natural that people still talk about Tyree's catch and would want to see a film about it.
"The magnitude of the game, the opponent, it's something you can't script, the way we won it, it doesn't surprise me," he said.
Snee said he still cringes when he watches the play because he appears not to be blocking anyone as the Patriots put severe pressure on Manning. But he said that wasn't his fault. His man was Junior Seau, who dropped into coverage.
By the time he turned to help his linemates, it was too late.
"I always joke with [center Shaun] O'Hara that he got beat so fast I couldn't help him," Snee said. "Even my kids are old enough that they bust my chops about it. I wish I had knocked someone down or stoned someone at the line of scrimmage . . . But it was already too late. If I block it's a hold or a block in the back."
Snee, who is Coughlin's son-in-law, retired before last season and looks like a different man after losing 70 offensive lineman pounds to get down to about 6-3, 240.
"I feel good," he said. "My arm is still a mess, but my lower body feels great. I can run, I have energy and I feel my age , which is good."
Snee said he is pleased to see Coughlin back in charge for at least one more season, especially given what appear to be the makings of an improved team.
But he said the ninth overall draft pick later this month is crucial.
"This ninth pick, he has to be a difference-maker," he said. "Whether it's a lineman or a skill guy, it's got to be someone who can play right away. There's no projects with the ninth overall pick."
Burress, a former Giant and Jet who last played in 2012 as a Steeler, said these days he feels good physically, does TV work (for SNY) and sells luxury socks.
"I'm enjoying kicking back," he said "If it weren't for David Tyree I wouldn't be standing here before you. We wouldn't be world champions. He makes a play that nobody else in the world can make at that point in time.
"I mean, when it happened, the timing of it, everything about it, you'll never see a better play in NFL history. To be honest it crosses my mind at least once every day, when somebody walks up to me on the street, or you're with your kids in a mall or hanging out eating and somebody brings it to your attention.
"It was something I've never seen before and you'll probably never see again, but especially at the stage when it happened."
Lee, an avowed hater of all Boston-area sports teams, lamented that his film lost some of its impact when the Patriots won the Super Bowl in February. He still has not forgiven Seahawks coach Pete Carroll for his fatal playcalling decision on the final Seattle drive.
"If anybody in the league can get a half-yard, it's 'Beast Mode,'" he said of Marshawn Lynch. "I don't understand it."
Lee said he was motivated to make the film when he heard the Patriots' Tom Brady call a catch by Rob Gronkowski last season the best ever.
"Brady said it was the greatest catch he ever saw," Lee said. "I said, no, no, no, and I made this film. That's it."