Has it set in yet, folks? Have you truly had enough time to soak in the undeniable fact that your New York Giants are the champions of Super Bowl XLVI? If the answer to either question is yes, I have another one for you - are you ready to do away with all of this pesky pomp and circumstance, all of the glory basking that thirty-one other teams and fandoms would give their left arm for right now?
By now, we are all well versed in the who's, how's and outcome of Super Bowl XLVI. I, personally, could (not to mention am inspired to) write one-hundred different articles on the fairy tale season and outcome of this New York Giants team. However, this is not one of them. This particular article is about the homecoming of heroes and the fans that love them.
Perhaps I am a little slow in getting this piece out there. Unfortunately, I found myself feeling more than just a little bit under the weather come Super Bowl Sunday. Whatever it was/is lingers still. Regardless, I was not about to let anything keep me from taking part in the monumental days that have just squeaked by. And yes fans, there was more than one day.
Day 1: Welcome Home!
Monday, February 6, 2012 - MetLife Stadium was relatively quiet, aside from a small staff and the employees in the Flagship Store. It was as it should be. Yet, just a few hundred yards away was the Timex Performance Center, where the New York Giants hold their practices. Things were brimming with activity, excitement and vehement anticipation at the Timex Performance Center because on this very day, the Super Bowl XLVI Champions would be coming home.
A cavalcade of news vans lined the curb, opposite the entrance to the staff/player's parking lot. Name a television station, they were there. Also in attendance were the New Jersey State Troopers. What party is complete without them? On either side of the the large, barred gate of the player's lot, was a significantly large sea of blue jerseys.
The occasional air horn would let out, rejuvenating the crowd's enthusiasm as they waited in joyful hope. The collective choir would chant for the cameras as they recorded their pan shots to accompany their individual news pieces which would be aired later that evening. Smartphone enthusiasts would break out their links to the internet, keeping a close eye on the Twitter accounts of those Giants players and staff who were avid users, waiting to catch an update of when they would be arriving. As Tom Petty said, "The waiting is the hardest parts."
Finally, at around 2pm ET, the Tweets started to roll in - "Giants just landed back In NY/NJ. Let's the celebration begin. Can't wait to share this with the best fans in the world. World Champions!!" That one came from the man with the iron leg, Steve Weatherford. The fans' excitement swelled.
It wasn't too long after that when it became parent that the Giants were close by. A slew of helicopters began to appear in the sky above, hovering at times, following the group of charter buses along the NJ Turnpike from Newark Airport to the Timex Center.
It wouldn't have been very hard to deduce when the first bus was in site. The cheers from the crowd were more than indicative as the first bus turned the corner and came into view. The mob erupted with cheers, air horns and noisemakers of every shape and size. Even though the windows of the buses were tinted, one could still make out that the players on board had their phones out, recording every second of their big welcome home.
Three over-sized buses made their way into the parking lot, with the gate being shut behind them. not a split-second later, the gates were swarmed - everyone hoping to get a glimpse of their favorites players. One by one they exited the bus. Justin Tuck was the first to get off. He made his way over to the gate and with great effecting for his Giants fans, began to high five everyone that were fortunate enough to swarm up on the gate of the parking lot entry. Players exited the bus and entered their vehicles, some driving up to the gate to wave to the fans. It soon became apparent that this would not turn out to be an autograph session. Instead, fans resigned themselves to the fact that they did their best to welcome home the guys who brought them home the hardware.
Day 2 - Part I: The Canyon Of Heroes
Tuesday, February 7, 2012 - Trying to maneuver to Broadway was quite a task. The streets were filled with those shuffling off to work intermingled with a trail of people decked out in their finest team colors. It was safe to say that on this day, for those who were in lower Manhattan and not attending the parade, there were no warm, fuzzy feelings for Giants fans. Swarms of Giants fans took to the streets, making it next to impossible for work goers to get to where they needed to be with even the slightest degree of urgency.
The parade route went from Bowling Green to City Hall. The masses started piling in as early as 5AM and continued until the NYPD cut fans off from entering up the side streets. There was no shortage of people, on either side of Broadway. Unable to contain their enthusiasm, the crowd would randomly start chanting, "Let's Go Giants." One brave soul, daring enough to adorn a certain other team's green jersey, received boos the likes he will never forget.
The world's largest game of toilet paper catch broke between both sides of Broadway. The traffic was still moving down Broadway up until a half hour before the parade actually started. This made for some interesting times. Some came riding down with their Big Blue flags swaying in the breeze, evoking chants and cheers from the adoring crowd. Others, for whatever reason, came chugging down, after having been bombed with wet balls of toilet paper. There were even some tourist buses that came down, fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of the madness. There is one thing for sure, New Yorker's know how to keep themselves busy and entertained.
The construction workers from buildings being gutted and/or erected took time to put up "Go Giants" banners, causing the crowd to erupt in favorable frenzies. Office workers in the tall buildings that line the Canyon Of Heroes would intermittently throw out confetti, to get a rise out of the crowd. The weather was as perfect as one could hope for in a New York City winter. The breeze was virtually nil. It was great to see New Yorkers coming together with such a prideful purpose.
After hours of "TP Toss" the first float was in sight. As it drew nearer, we could see that Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks lead the way. Naturally, the crowd broke out into the ever popular, "Cruuuuz" chant.
It was difficult to make everyone out on each, individual float. The ticker tape, aka confetti/shredded paper, didn't make tinges any easier. But on the second one was definitely Giants alumnus, Carl Banks. There were marching bands in between floats, those big, red tourist buses packed with Giants staff and family - not to mention bag pipers. It was a parade fit for a king!
The next Big Blue float that came up Broadway had Brandon Jacobs leading the way. Kevin Gilbride was right next to him. Ironic how Gilbride has ben jeered so much in the last few years, only to find himself plastered with confetti in the Giants' Super Bowl XLVI ticker tape parade.
Next up was Mitch Petrus, Chis Snee, Kareem McKenzie and other G-Men. Right behind them was another red, tourist bus. Only this one had, the prodigy of PR, Pat Hanlon. Pat had on his Big Blue fedora and tipped it to those who sent him a smile or gesture of recognition. Pat was in rare form.
The next float was the biggie. It was center stage for a slow, moving Broadway show. The Lombardi Trophy, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Governor Andrew Cuomo, Eli Manning, Coach Tom Coughlin, Justin Tuck and Steve Tisch were just a few of the people occupying Broadway on this one. As the floats kept coming, the crowd kept cheering, getting their phones high up in the air to capture each moment.
Osi Umenyiora, Deon Grant, Jason Pierre-Paul, Antrel Rolle, Chase Blackburn - they all came rolling up Broadway that day, en route to pick up the keys to New York City. For those fans in attendance, a poison had to be chosen. You either line up on Broadway and experience the ticker tape parade or you get down to City Hall and hope to get a spot near enough to enjoy the ceremony there. For most, the choice was clear. After the last float passed by on Broadway, the crowd disbursed. For some it was the cherry on the top of another fabled season. For others, it was just part one of the day's festivities.
Day 2 - Part II: Lombardi #4 Meets Snoopy
The celebration at MetLife Stadium was set for approximately 3 PM ET. That didn't stop fans from gathering hours beforehand. it was announced that tailgating in the parking lots got the green light and that is exactly what transpired. Season regulars broke out their Hibachi grills and all other party goods and got things started, waiting for their hometown heroes to arrive.
The footballs were flying in the lots. The jerseys were definitely adorned and pride was abundant. On the Monolith-like, LED boards outside of the stadium, were rotating pictures of various Giants players all displaying the Super Bowl XLVI Champions logo. The Giant organization had definitely put together a celebration for the ages.
As someone who has been to every Super Bowl celebration, aside from the one in 1991, at Giants Stadium (and now MetLife Stadium) I can tell you that the turnout was quite impressive. In 2008, there were many who came to Giants Stadium to partake in the festivities. However, this particular celebration turned out, easily, a crowd quadruple in size. There were people sitting in every tier, every section as far up as the stadium went.
The concession stands were open and Budweiser, official sponsor of the New York Giants, put out a limited edition bottle that had the New York Giants logo on it, congratulating them on their Super Bowl victory. The music was pumping and the graphics on the big screens was enough to bring a tear to the eye.
The place was decked out and things started to get under way. Native New Jersians, Naughty By Nature, got things kicked into full gear - revamping their songs to fit the theme of the Super Bowl champion New York Giants. "You Down Wit' NYG? Yeah, you know me!"
When the Giants held their first Super Bowl celebration on january 27, 1987, the entertainment was a bit lacking. The weather was even worse. There was snow on the ground, the field and on the seats. It was freezing. The headliner was Ben E. King. Also performing was Tiny Tim. Unfortunately for the late, great ukulele icon, the crowd was not very receptive. They used what was available to express their discord - snow. Tiny Tim was met with boos and snowballs and quickly ended his set. Naughty By Nature received a far better response.
Once the rappers from Orange, NJ finished their set, the voice of the New York Giant took front and center. Bob Papa began to rile up the crowd and welcome each Big Blue member by name. One by one they came out of their tunnel, steam shooting up in the air, fireworks shooting off. They all took their seat on the stage. Once everyone was in, Papa directed our attention to the big screens to watch a video montage of another fairy tale season.
The video highlighted some of the key plays and games that put the Giants in the position they were in. It stirred up many a cheer and chant. It cured many a dry eye. Clearly, there was a tremendous staff effort to make the Giants feel welcomed and appreciated for a season well played. The sentiment was certainly not lost.
After the video ran its course, Papa brought up a few key players and staff to say a few words, much like at the City Hall ceremony in Manhattan. The most prolific thing said came from defensive end, Justin Tuck. Tuck referred to the stadium as MetLife Stadium, to which the crowd responded with tier displeasure in the name. Tuck affirmed that it was MetLife Stadium with the following, "No, no. This is MetLife Stadium. But we all know whose house this is." For me, that meant that Rex Ryan may have won the first ever "Snoopy Bowl Trophy." But the Giants christened the stadium, after on two years of being erected, with its first Lombardi.
To close out the days events, Brandon Jacobs took hold of the Lombardi, ran around the entire stadium barrier and let the fans touch their brand new, championships trophy. if we do not see Jacobs back in a Blue jersey next season, at least his last act as a Giant will have been one that he can remember fondly for the rest of his life.
It was an incredibly emotional few days. As in the 2007 season, the Giants pulled off another underdog run to secure a Super Bowl victory that could not have been scripted any better. They became the only 9-7 team to have won the big game. Eli Manning put to rest the elite controversy and has the world of professional football media debating on whether his induction into the hall of fame is a lock or not. it also has them speaking out saying the Eli is the better Manning. Regardless of the various ongoing media hypes, the New York Giants have done what most thought impossible and that is something that Giants fans everywhere should not be so quick to abandon.
Take some time to let it all soak in. Celebrate your team's achievements, for they were astronomically overwhelming. Remember Aaron Rodgers? Remember the the 49ers defense? Remember all of those must win situations that the Giants were faced with…and overcame? Yes, fans - take some time. Digest it all. Relish in the fact that your team is the reigning Super Bowl Champions. These are the days that a team, its staff and fan base live for. Don't be too quick in breezing by the glory. It doesn't come around very often. Just ask Tom Brady.