First, let me get this out of the way. I am not a Yankees fan. That’s right. I’m a New York Giants fan, but not a Yankees fan. It doesn’t really have anything to do with the Yankees as much as I’m not really a baseball fan.
When it comes to the other New York teams such as the Knicks and the Rangers, I can’t stand either one of them.
So why do I like the Giants? First, in my opinion they are a New Jersey team. And I don’t just mean geographically. The Giants are the opposite of what those other New York franchises are. When things go wrong, they don’t go out and buy players every single year. They aren’t expected to win every year.
My other reason for loving the Giants is definitely heritage. The movie Fever Pitch (ironically a Boston film) begins with a young, lonely boy whose parents are divorced and whose Uncle takes him to a Red Sox game, where he basically becomes hooked.
It was almost the exact same thing for me, except it was my grandfather who started taking me to Giants Stadium. Whoever says watching a game on TV is the same as being in person either has never been to a game, or has been to a rotten stadium. The sights, the sounds, even the smells that come from the Meadowlands are a reason itself just to go.
And sometimes those were the only reasons. Under coach Dan Reeves, the Giants seemed to get worse every year. Then came Jim Fassel, and the Giants would be good one year, mediocre the next.
Still, I witnessed some memorable games during that time. I remember watching the Giants clinch their first division title since 1990 against the Redskins, ironically quarterbacked by Jeff Hostetler, the man under center that season for the Giants.
I remember being thrilled when I saw the Broncos were on the schedule in 1998 and knew I had to see John Elway. What I didn’t know was that when the game came along, the Broncos would be 13-0 and gunning to top the Dolphins perfect season of 1972 (hmmm, an undefeated team facing the Giants, sounds familiar).
The next week Denver would play in Miami and it was assumed they would beat the Giants and reach 14-0, setting up the ultimate matchup of the Dolphins defending their history at home. Instead, such a scenario never happened.
The Giants had been mediocre at best in 1998 coming off a division title the year before. At 5-8, they seemed like they were just playing out their season. For the second straight year their starting quarterback faltered (Dave Brown the year before, and now his replacement Danny Kannel gave way to Kent Graham).
I remember watching that game and being surprised how close it was.
The Giants actually found themselves winning 13-9 and had kept Denver out of the end zone. Then, Terrell Davis scored a touchdown, and us in the crowd has to witness the visiting Broncos fans to the Mile High Salute to each other. But it wasn’t over yet.
Kent Graham threw a long touchdown bomb to Amani Toomer in the back of the end zone. I can still recall Broncos fans breaking the no smoking rule in the stadium as the seconds ticked away.
There would be other memorable games, such as the G-men clinching the east in their 2000 Super Bowl season against Pittsburgh. I remember seeing my first overtime game in which the Giants beat the Cowboys, led by Ryan Leaf at quarterback. And I was there for the first home game after 9/11 against the New Orleans Saints.
When choosing colleges, part of my decision went into staying local enough so I could still attend the games. I chose Fairleigh Dickinson in Madison, where the Giants used to hold training camps. The memories would continue.
The Giants final moment of glory under the Fassel regime was the last game of the season against the Eagles in which the Giants needed to win to get a wild card spot. The G-men won it in overtime, and I never saw so many heterosexual men hugging.
Then came Tom Coughlin, and I had the distinction at being at Eli Manning’s first game against Atlanta. He performed well, but the Giants did lose Eli’s debut.
In 2006, opening night, I got to witness a rarity…Eli vs. Peyton in person! My grandfather was offered $1,000 for each ticket, and I’m glad he passed.
I don’t want this article to go on any longer than it already has, so I’ll skip the experience of watching the Giants win Super Bowl XLII. However, I will say that even though I didn’t go, I’m glad I was able to watch it and experience it with my grandfather especially since I was too young to appreciate or even understand football when they won their first two.
This season will be the final one in Giants’ Stadium and I still can’t figure out why. It’s only been standing for just over thirty years and still has great facilities. I’ve witnessed the change from Astroturf to different uniforms and even changes on parking. But no matter what changed about the stadium, the experience stayed the same.
I will miss Giants’ Stadium and its memories.
P.S. Anyone know how I could arrange to buy my seat?