George R.R. Martin loves three things: Seeing his work made into HBO shows like Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon, not finishing The Winds of Winter, and the National Football League. Specifically, he is a die-hard fan of New York’s teams, the Jets and the Giants. You could say he has a thing for lost causes.
Thinking about Martin and football one day, as I am wont to do (and as is he; the writer will frequently bring up football and A Song of Ice and Fire in the same blog post), I started to wonder: What if they are more related than we previously thought?
At the time this is being written, the NFL playoffs are underway, and the New York Giants have made more than an appearance, winning last week’s wild card game against the Minnesota Vikings and moving on to face the top-ranked Philadelphia Eagles (go birds) in the divisional round.
New York football playoff wins don’t happen that often. You know what else doesn’t happen that often? The publication of a new A Song of Ice and Fire book. And my data suggests that might not be a coincidence.
[Ed. note: All stats are from Pro Football Reference, both for the Giants and the Jets.]
Per a 2014 interview with Rolling Stone, Martin began writing what would become A Game of Thrones in 1991 — a year that started with the Giants winning the Super Bowl against the Buffalo Bills. It would be five more years before the book was ready for publication, during which the Giants made a brief two-game appearance in the January 1994 playoffs and the Jets also made a rare playoffs appearance in the wild card round in ’91, so there was a lot of wind in Martin’s sails.
A Clash of Kings was published in the U.S. in 1999, a year that also saw the Jets make the playoffs (a running theme in the NFL for decades has been the Jets being god-awful, even worse than the Giants, so this was a Big Deal). November 2000, when A Storm of Swords was published in the U.S., doesn’t seem that remarkable for New York football, but the Giants were well on their way to a pretty great playoff run that season, going all the way to the Super Bowl against the Baltimore Ravens in January 2001. (They lost that time, which is kind of fitting for A Storm of Swords’ general themes.)
This is the point where Martin begins to earn his reputation for never putting out new ASOIAF books in a timely manner. A Feast for Crows wouldn’t see the light of day until fall 2005, a four-year stretch where New York’s NFL playoff record was a bit fallow, rarely rising above the initial wild card round — but the Jets did scrape past that only to lose in the division round against the Pittsburgh Steelers in, you guessed it, January 2005.
Things get a little weird from here: The Giants win the Super Bowl again in 2008 but A Dance With Dragons does not arrive until 2011 — a truly remarkable year for New York football. The Jets, for the second year in a row, had their best playoff showing since 1998, and the Giants began their march to winning the Super Bowl in early 2012 — a 12-month period of ecstasy for New York football, and ASOIAF fans.
As fuel for writing, it makes sense that an incredible football year would accompany getting a complicated book out the door — Martin, in the foreword to A Dance With Dragons, called the book “a bitch and a half” to get done.
That brings us to the present, and the possibility that the intervening 12-year gap between Dragons and the forthcoming The Winds of Winter isn’t entirely Martin’s fault. Both of New York’s football teams have, to use a technical term, sucked shit over the last decade. But there’s finally hope again. The Giants are in the playoffs, and they’ve already won one game.
But it’s not like the New York Giants have an easy time ahead of them. There are three more rounds left in the playoffs, including this Saturday’s showdown against a very good Eagles team (favored by over a touchdown in their matchup against the Giants). If they manage that, the next game will be against either the San Francisco 49ers or the Dallas Cowboys, both teams with better records and higher odds of making it to the Super Bowl. Then finally would be the Big Game itself, in which the Giants would be the underdog no matter which of the remaining teams (the Bengals, Bills, Jaguars, or Chiefs) they faced.
Hope springs eternal for ASOIAF and Giants fans alike. Just getting past the wild card round last week is huge, so by my reckoning Martin may be inspired enough to announce a publication date for his long-overdue novel soon. If they win the Super Bowl? We might even see The Winds of Winter this year.
Those interested in watching along can watch the Giants play the Eagles on Jan. 21 at 8:15 p.m. EST on Fox, and, should the Giants make it that far, the Super Bowl on Feb. 12, starting at 6:30 p.m. EST on Fox.