For “Do the Right Thing” director – and famed New York sports fan – Spike Lee, "The Greatest Catch Ever Made" was personal. When New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski made an impressive one-handed grab in the fourth quarter of a November 2014 game against the Denver Broncos, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said it was the best catch he had ever seen. That did not sit well with Lee, who thought he had seen one better.
Lee responded with a documentary telling the story of David Tyree’s iconic helmet catch in the 2008 Super Bowl to help the New York Giants defeat the then-undefeated New England Patriots in one of the NFL’s most legendary upsets. The film – “The Greatest Catch Ever Made” – debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival Sunday in advance of an upcoming release on ESPN later this year.
Here are 5 things we learned from “The Greatest Catch Ever Made” premiere and the subsequent Tribeca Talks panel – featuring Spike Lee and former Giants players David Tyree, Plaxico Burress and Chris Snee:
1. Burress Has Tyree’s Ball
After David Tyree made his dazzling, historic catch, the actual football was put back into play because the catch had not resulted in a touchdown. A few plays later, wide receiver Plaxico Burress hauled in the game-winning touchdown pass with the same ball. Customarily in the NFL, players get to keep their touchdown balls. So, despite Tyree’s catch being much more iconic than Burress’ relatively easy touchdown, Burress has the ball at his house. In the panel discussion, Burress said there was nothing Tyree could give him to convince him to give up the ball.
2. Tyree’s Bad Practice
The Friday before the Super Bowl – during the Giants’ last practice before the game – Tyree had one of the worst practices of his career. He dropped six balls over the course of the day, earning digs from his teammates.
“Usually bad practices mean I drop two balls, not six,” said Tyree at the Tribeca Talks panel. “I’ve definitely had some better days.”
3. Tyree’s Minister Predicted His Catch
In the film, Tyree talks about how he had befriended a Florida minister who gave him spiritual guidance before the Super Bowl. He claims she made three predictions the night before big game – that the ball would stick to his hands, that he would make the game’s big play, and that the world would no longer remember him as a special teams player. In retrospect, the spiritual pep talk feels more like a prophecy.
4. Spike Lee Hates The Patriots
During the Tribeca Talks panel, Spike Lee often brought up his distaste for Boston’s sports teams. “I’m a New Yorker and I hate every team from Boston,” said Lee.
He even claimed the Patriots’ recent 2015 Super Bowl win hurt the film.“[The Patriots] should not have another Super Bowl,” said Lee in reference to the controversial last play of the game. “Why did [Seattle Seahawks coach] Pete Carroll throw that ball?”
5. Antonio Pierce’s Uniform
Plaxico Burress said that after the Giants’ Super Bowl win, linebacker Antonio Pierce never changed out of his game uniform and rode the bus back to the hotel with the team wearing his jersey and pads. “He didn’t take a shower or anything,” said Burress. “He smelled terrible.”