My dad starting taking me to see the New York Football Giants at the old Yankees Stadium (the joint that Ruth built), when I was six or seven. '66, '67: The memories are dim but not altogether absent from the deep recesses of my mind's eye and surrounding senses.
I remember the ham and cheese heroes we stopped for with just the right amount of sliced onion and tomato, the perfect dab of deli mustard, my feet were frequently cold, there were iron girders all over the place (though not necessarily view-obstructing, at least our seats), we had Fran Tarkenton, I knew that, and a wide receiver named Homer Jones, who I remember best of all.
Jones was a big man, 6'2", 220 pounds with sprinter's speed and questionable hands. Aside from Bob "Bullet" Hayes (of the Cowboys), he was probably the fastest man in the NFL at the time and, while the particulars are vague, I do remember his frequent deep forays up the sideline, the crowd chanting Homer, Homer as Tark floated one deep downfield, the enormous eruption when H. Jones managed to hang on (in '67 he caught 49 passes for 1209 yards, 24.7 per, with 13 touchdowns) and the unbelievably deflating collective groan when one of what I remember to be plenty slipping out of of his hands.
The Giants were essentially middling back then, 7-7, 6-8; eventually they shipped Homer over to the Cleveland Browns for a kid running back named Ron Johnson and that turned out to be a one-sided deal the New Yorker's way.
It was 1970, I was ten by then and the memories are a lot crisper. Behind a solid year from Tarkenton and 1,000-yard season from Johnson, the team actually made a serious playoff run for the first time in my short term as a fanatic.
They started 0-3, but then began peeling off wins, 2, 3, 4, 5 in a row. Then the Redskins came to town, the great Sonny Jurgenson at QB, and they really tore into us, up 33-14 heading into the final quarter and a lot of people were heading for the exits.
But not me and my dad. I may have had to convince him to stay at first, but then Johnson and Fran the Scram started doing the convincing from down on the field. The Giants rallied with 21 fourth-quarter points (biggest fourth-quarter comeback in team history), and it seemed more plausible than ever that the 1970 team would make the playoffs.
Heading into the final game of the season the G's were 9-4, another win and NY was in. The team was up against a Ram 11 playing for nothing but pride but that turned out to be enough for L.A. as they dealt the Giants an awful 31-3 pasting and the playoff berth that felt like such a lock all that previous week right up until kick off fell to the wayside.
The following year turned out to be a disaster: The Giants finished 4-10, Tarkenton threw 21 interceptions and somehow managed to get himself traded back to Minnesota. That worked out pretty well for him, not very well at all for the Giants.
In the meantime, the Redskins, sick of losing, brought in future Hall of Fame Coach George Allen and he righted that ship at once by bringing in a slew of still productive veterans. I remember years of getting chewed up in particular by hard running halfback Larry Brown.
That seemed to go on on for about 10 or 12 years until the Giants found themselves a future Hall of Fame Coach of their own, Bill Parcells, a game changer at linebacker, L.T., though it's not like the Redskins went into the tank with Joe Gibbs at the helm.
In fact, these two teams slugged it out for about a decade, the NFC East ruled with the Giants, 'Skins and Jimmy Johnson's Cowboys winning eight Super Bowls between them in the 80's and 90's.
These days the Redskins have been down for awhile, almost a running farce for most of the past decade, while the Giants have won themselves another Super Bowl ring (in 2007) and generally have been competitive since drafting Eli Manning.
Today the two teams will play for the 157th time, at 7-4, battling for any kind of playoff spot. This game boils down to a must win affair for the Giants. They're banged up, but playing at home, and there will be no excuses against an older Redskin contingent essentially running on fumes at this point of the season.
That's how Giants fans will be looking at it. Undoubtedly Redskins rooters will see it as an opportunity to upend their long time rival, the hated New York Giants and perhaps expect big things out of their QB, former Philadelphia Eagle, Giant killer Donovan McNabb.
Maybe it's not quite the marquee matchup it's been in the past, but it's still the Giants-Redskins and you never know when things can boil over when these two hit the field.
That's it for now, DR
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