Somewhere around the end of the Fourth Quarter of the New York Giants and Carolina Panthers game, my oldest friend called me. We’ve known each other since we were 14, so that’s 33 years…or about 5 in dog years, which makes it sound much more palatable as both of us are getting up there. “Dude”, he said, “I think they’re gonna pull this one off.” As we chatted on the phone a few more minutes, the Carolina winning field goal sailed wide left and we were into Overtime. “You know man”, said I, “I think they just might.” Our optimistic outlook is somewhat unusual for the creature known as a NY Giants Fan; but when the Giants Fan has an optimistic attitude, look out…call your bookie and bet the house on the game, because the Giants WILL win. While our positive outlook was not in itself unusual, the circumstances behind the phone call were. You see, my friend had just gotten out of the operating room, and was watching the game from his hospital bed pumped up on pain killers. The day prior, he had shattered his leg in two places while slipping on a patch of ice at a self-serve car wash, which I assume my friend will eventually own as well as the owner’s first born and left testicle. But this was for top seed in the National Football Conference, home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Nothing was going to stop this man from seeing that game, nothing like a leg that was completely shattered and will take months to heal. Nothing so trivial as that…only death itself could have kept my buddy from watching the game, even if he had to crawl to the Nurse’s Station to do it.
Such is the dedication of the creature known as a NY Giants Fan.
I was mildly surprised at the phone call, but certainly not shocked. I know damned well I would be doing the same thing. We are two of a kind, as is his brother and my brother, and all of our kids. We are all huge, tremendous, blue-bleeding, sometimes f-bomb dropping (me and my daughter, most certainly) NY Giants Fans. Every Sunday, the world stops. Weddings have been postponed; funerals have been known to have started late because the dearly departed would not have wanted to have their farewell to this world to interfere with Big Blue. The fanaticism is passed from generation to generation. Just as my father sat my down at a very young age in front of a black and white television in Brooklyn, NY; so did I sit my oldest daughter down in front of a nice 32″ color television in Long Branch, New Jersey some 36 years later. Just as my father taught me the ins and the outs of the game in such detail and such was his knowledge of the game that he would call a play and it would happen, the same thing I find myself doing now with my daughter. My Dad used to make a comment on something that happened on the field during a play that happened away from the main action, and my brother and I would sit there and be amazed when the announcer would say the same thing 10 seconds later. Now I do the same thing and at such regularity that my daughter said to me once, “Dad, has anyone ever told you you can really creep people out sometimes?” I assured her that when she is watching a NY Giants game with her kids, that she will be doing the same thing. Creepiness is also an inherited trait, I told her as well.
One of the most memorable examples of dedication to the NY Giants I have ever seen occurred in January of 1987, when the Giants faced the San Fransisco 49ers at Giants Stadium in the NFC Divisional Playoff Game; a game which would decide one of the final two teams to go to the NFC Championship Game the following week. My father got two tickets to the game and gave them to my brother and I to attend. Armed with a bunch of food, a cooler full of beer, and a couple of Thermoses full or Irish coffee, we made the one hour trek to the Stadium from our home in Staten Island. We tailgated a bit, and then got inside the Stadium…one of the coldest places on the face of the earth in late December and January. I distinctly remember my breath freezing in my moustache and the rest of my beard on that day; and to make matters worse, we were in the upper deck where the wind howls and swirls. But this was a playoff game, a game against one of our most hated rivals led by their larger than life Quarterback Joe Montana. The Niners always seemed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, and many times at the Giants’ expense. This was OUR Stadium, OUR weather, and the sun was shining on this frigid January Sunday…a Sunday that would eventually see the NY Giants win the game by a very memorable score of 49-3.
It wasn’t so much the drubbing that we gave those guys that was that example of fan dedication. Sure, thousand of us lost our voices and froze our asses off on that day; but one man has always remained forever etched into my memory. During the half, I went to the concession stand to get us a couple of beers. The score was 28-3, and the mood in the Stadium was absolute jubilation. As I’m going up to the stand, I see a man getting wheeled out on a stretcher. He is dressed from head to toe in NY Giants garb, and as they are wheeling him through the corridor, he manages to take one of his hands that were resting on his chest and make a “Number One” sign as they shutter him off toward an ambulance. We all broke out in spontaneous applause, and as he continued down the corridor that applause continued, and I assume it would until he reached the ambulance. The poor guy probably had a heart attack, especially knowing that Jim Burt put such a hit on Joe Montana (we HEARD it in the upper deck) and knocked him out of the game with a concussion. I just hope the guy lived long enough to see the end of that game, and the Super Bowl that followed, the first of the three that the NY Giants have won in the modern era. Last year’s Super Bowl victory was most especially a sweet one, because it was completely unexpected. Who would have possibly thought that the NY Giants, the same team that was written off for dead with its coach fired and its Quarterback officially declared a “bust” by Week 4 would win (improbably) all of their games on the road and defeat the undefeated New England Patriots? Who would have thought that that same “bust” of a QB would engineer one of the greatest drives and most spectacular passes under pressure (after escaping 5 defenders) would become MVP? Who would have thought that that same coach that used to piss off every player in the locker room would now be the guy with a lucrative contract extension, and a guy whose players would run through plate glass windows for? The victory was sweet.
This year, the team has done well; and after two weeks of lackluster playing found itself again last night. While the outcomes of the upcoming games are far from certain, one thing that is a definite: the road to the Super Bowl goes straight through the Land of The Giants.
“If winning isn’t everything, why do they keep score?” – Vince Lombardi