There is an old folk song sung partially in Hebrew partially in English entitled "Lo Yisa Goy". I first discovered it earlier this summer while working for a JCC day camp. It is a very beautiful song and I find it is a wonderful metaphor for life.
I was brainstorming topics to write about and this songs just kept playing through my head. The more I listened and thought about the lyrics and thought about New York I realized this song is practically written for the 2009 New York Giants.
The English words in the song say, "Don't walk in-front of me, I may not follow. Don't walk behind me I may not lead. Just walk beside me and be my friend, and together we will walk in the path of HaShem".
Now let me be clear, HaShem is a word in Hebrew that is used when referencing G-d. I do not believe that Manning is taking Tuck and Jacobs by the hand and walking into a religiously affiliated (as to not offend anyone) place to pray instead of practice. But the rest of the lyrics have significant value to understanding to recent success of the team.
In 2004 the Giants drafted Eli and the real shift began. They knew they were getting a silent leader and that is exactly what they wanted and needed. In-fact Eli has recently been on record talking about the new practice facility and how the team was gelling.
The example he used was in reference to the team being able to hang-out and eat meals together. It says a lot about a team's character, those who eat together win together. (Ok so that's not how the saying goes, I'm adapting it).
The team first virus then spread to the defensive line. Strahan, Umenyiora, Tuck, Kiwanuka, Robbins, Cofield, Alford, what do they all have in common? They all saw significant playing time over the past few years.
Yes, injuries and a one year line-backing assignment helped, but overall they graciously have split time with each other. They accepted a team first mentality allowing the line to get recognized and for the individuals to be lumped into a group.
The next unit to catch the bug was absolutely the offensive line. Those five guys have been playing with each other non-stop for a few years now. I won't even name them because what's the point?
Alone, they are just average players but together they make up one of the most solid offensive lines in the league. How is this possible? Unity. They are comfortable playing with each other and know how to play-off each others strengths and weaknesses. They pick up each others slack and perform in perfect harmony.
Next to be infected was the running backs. This is an obvious one, two 1000 yard rushers last season. Even when Jacobs was injured a few times Ward stepped up and so did Bradshaw.
Now with Ward gone Bradshaw, Ware, and Brown will all need to step up big time. The running backs have had such success because they are able to share the work load. They accept that one guy is better for different game situations then another, and they share their carries beautifully. They work together like a well oiled giant steam powered locomotive running ramped over opposing defenses.
It took until about the 2007 season, and the risk of losing a job, for Coughlin to get on board with his quarterback and other units. It has been well documented that in 2007 much of the Giants success can be attributed to the loosening of the coaches iron grip.
As he loosened up and showed his caring side for the players personal lives the team responded by rallying around their now softer commander in chief. With Coughlin creating a more peaceful environment it allowed the team to gel and finally accomplish their ultimate goal.
Next up will have to be the wide receivers. With the big proven names gone it's time for the others to step up and work together in order to be successful. Jerry Reese had the opportunity to go after Edwards, Boldin, and even Marshall; he stuck with his guys because he knows what bringing those players in would mean. Those players primarily play for themselves, dismantling the teams camaraderie would practically be a crime.
The way the wide receivers are now are is perfect for the type of team that management has worked so hard to build. Each wide receiver brings a different skill set to the table, speed with Hixon, Moss and Manningham, Crisp routes from Nicks and Smith, and height from Barden.
They will all be called upon at different points this season as their specific situation arises. One of them can't do it alone, but with the correct substitutions the unit can do it together.
So, how were the Giants able to create such a unified team you may ask?
Well, over the past years it has been teamwork not talent that has taken the team over the hump and on to the promised land. The song portrays similar values. Starting in 2007 (when the Giants won it all) the team experienced a major shift in directions. They were becoming a team first, for lack of a better word, team.
The departure of Tiki Barber had a profound impact on the locker-room and overall demeanor of the team. And from that point on progress towards unity did not slow down.
Next to go was Shockey, the out spoken, coach bashing, get mine, tight end. He was shipped off and replaced by humble soft spoken Kevin Boss.
Amani was never an outspoken player first guy but combined with Plaxico and all of a sudden the wide receivers became primarily a two man show. Now they are both gone, and as I said earlier the unit will need to step up together in order to be successful.
With all the player first players cleared out the Giants were able to complete construction on a team first team.
The Giants coaching staff has put together a very deep team allowing for the players to lean on each other when times get tough. If one guy has an off day there's two other guys who can pick up his work load. It is in any case perfect harmony.
The Giants team embodies "Lo Yisa Goy", as they do not have true leader on the team yet they are not all followers. They walk side by side, perfectly in-step as they march on to victory; and by my predictions another championship.
"Lo Yisa Goy" actually translates into a statement about stopping war and not taking up arms against other nations. The idea is to work together with other nations to better the world.
On a smaller scale the Giants have inadvertently embraced this message and by not attacking each other they are able to focus on working together to build a better team.
I believe the 2009 team will be successful because of this harmony. We have seen the team only improve when load mouths have left town and I expect no different from this season.
With team first units established, a team happy to be together as a whole, and all locker-room loud mouths cleared out, expect great things from this years team. The sky is the limit as they work together.
"Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results." -Andrew Carnegie
I think Andrew must have had a crystal ball and been looking ahead to the Giants when he said this because it seems to fit perfectly. The Giants are not a team of stars but they are obtaining amazing results.
As they prepare for the 2009 season it is imperative that they maintain a team mentality as it will serve them well come playoff time. If the Giants are able to continue down this path of unity there should be no reason they don't win another championship, if not this year, then in the next few years.
Note: I chose to listen to "Lo Yisa Goy" during the entire composition of this article. It is quickly becoming one of my favorite songs. There are many versions of it on Itunes and I highly recommend giving it a listen. Also, the image is from the 2007 NFC Championship game (against Green Bay). I chose it because it is fitting, coaches and players celebrating together as one.