It was ordained that I would be a New York Giants fan. Before I could walk, my father had me sitting on the couch with him rooting for his beloved New York Giants. My earliest memory was the 1962 Giant and Packer championship game. It was a frigid day, and the game was “blacked out” within a 50-mile radius of Yankee Stadium. But this failed to deter my dad.
I watched from the window of our New Jersey home as he hauled the ladder from the garage and navigated his way across the icy roof to point the antenna towards Philadelphia so we could see the game. He succeeded, well at least partially, as we could make out the images well enough on the snowy screen to see what was going on.
It was during the early 1960s that I took those first tentative steps towards a lifetime commitment as a New York Giants fan. In 1963, the Giants made it to the NFL championship game and up to that point I knew nothing other than championship games. Little did I know that following the 1963 season, it would be eighteen years before the Giants would return to the playoffs.
Being a lifetime fan, certain Giant games have been tethered to the some of the seminal events in American history. I was in fifth grade when a teacher walked into our elementary school, whispered in the ear of another teacher and without explanation, school was dismissed for the day. Out on the playground, we all learned that President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated. Walking home, I tried to wrap my young mind around this tectonic event. Back in those days, we had tickets to Giant games, then playing in the original Yankee Stadium. That Sunday, the Giants were playing the St. Louis Cardinals and what I remember is waiting all day Saturday to see if the game would be cancelled. Pete Rozelle acquiesced, and in the misbegotten wisdom of the NFL, the game was to be played. I remember two things from that Sunday. The first was the Giants lost 24-17 and the second was during the game someone with a transistor radio yelling to those within earshot that Lee Harvey Oswald had been shot and killed.
The years 1964 to 1977 coincided with my teenage and young adult years; the absolute worst years to have your favorite team go south. There was the merciless ripping by all the kids in the neighborhood who were Packers, Cowboys, and Steelers fans. There were the inevitable Monday mornings at school and later at work, where you heard it from all your work colleagues.
But mostly, there was that sick feeling every Sunday night enduring another loss, with the weekend culminating with the ticking of the 60 Minutes stopwatch which sounded to my ears like a countdown to an execution. To this day, I still get a vaguely sick feeling when I hear the clicking of that stopwatch.
Fast forward to November 1978, and to the Waterloo of Giants fandom as any Giants fan will tell you. Known simply as “The Fumble.” it was November 19, 1978, and I was one of those unfortunate souls who was at that game. Three weeks prior to the game, my wallet was stolen and to give one an idea how bad the Giants were in those days, the week leading up to the game, my wallet was returned in the mail, minus all my money and driver’s license. There was one thing, however, left in that wallet, the ticket to the Giants and Eagles game.
As most Giant fans can recall even under anesthesia, the Giants had the ball and all QB Joe Pisarcik had to was drop to one knee to run out the clock. As we were leaving to beat the crowd, confident of a rare Giants victory, we heard a collective groan from the crowd, turning back just in time to see Pisarcikhand the ball off Larry Csonka’s hip, scooped up by Herm Edwards who ran it untouched 26-yards into the end zone and forever changing the course of Giants history. When the dust settled, one of the worst stretches in Giants history had reached its apex.
But from the ashes of misfortune, the long draught was about to end, as it was that game that led to an intervention by Pete Rozelle who mediated a battle between the Mara family, resulting in George Young becoming the New York Giants general manager. Young subsequently hired Ray Perkins and then drafted an unknown quarterback from Morehead State named Phil Simms and things began to look up. But it was a Jersey guy; Bill Parcells who took the Giants to the promised land. Parcells was a Jersey guy to his core and those of us who grew up in New Jersey ate up every soundbite and press conference. Parcells was media gold as his interactions at the local Upper Saddle River deli where he stopped to get coffee each morning was covered on the evening news. He was one of us so when he took the Giants to the top of pro football supremacy in 1987, a lifetime dream was realized on that sun-soaked field in Pasadena, California.
Parcells followed this up with a second Super Bowl victory in 1990 a game marred by the countries first glimpse into what was to come as fans attending the game were treated as security risks, planes flying overhead and regular news updates breaking into the telecast of the game.
As the millennium arrived the Giants reached their third Super Bowl and Giant fans experienced the disappointment of being on the losing end of a Super Bowl for the first and only time. As the 2001 season approached, hope sprang eternal. I was scheduled to attend a meeting on Sept. 11th on the 60th floor of the north tower of the World Trade Center. The meeting was cancelled the Friday before and I left work on Sept. 10th relieved because I now could stay up late and watch the Giants-Broncos game on Monday Night Football. Bleary eyed, the next morning I went into the office like millions of New Yorkers and watched with the rest of the world the events of Sept. 11th only realizing later that morning how close I had come to being a part of the events of that day.
After the seminal events of Sept. 11, 2001, there were two more Super Bowl victories in 2007 and 2011, sadly victories that my dad was no longer around to savor. As of late, the Giants have gone through another dry spell but with age comes wisdom and a Giants loss no longer ruins my weekend ... as much. But Giants fans are at the same time a hopeful and cynical fanbase and like many Giants fans, I was certain that Ben McAdoo, Pat Shurmur and Joe Judge were the answers to Giants fans prayers, I now believe with the same almost religious fervor that Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll are well into the process of righting the ship. Hope always springs eternal, but there is something about Brian Daboll that is different but at the same time vaguely familiar.
It was just a small thing but something during Daboll’s initial press conference made me laugh but also reminded me of the last coach entirely suited to coach football and deal with the sometime mercurial New Jersey/New York press and its fans. A reporter with an unmistakable thick Brooklyn accent asked Daboll a question and before answering, Daboll stopped, looked at the guy and said, “You must be from South Carolina? “The reporter initially did not get it, but I was laughing just as I did with so many quips of another Giants head coach of another era, thinking to myself, what a typical Parcellesque exchange.
The 2022 season proved at least to me that the Giants are back on the right track. The ride may at times be a bit bumpy, but I get the feeling the Giants are going to get back to winning and competing for Super Bowls and like the old Parcells pressers and videos, it is going to be a lot of fun to be a Giants fan again. The season cannot come soon enough.
Art Stein is a retired senior financial analyst. He has written for the Albany Times Union, and for SB Nation, covering Rutgers University football. His writings have also been published in numerous other publications.