Monday, February 4, 2008

MY BLUE HEAVEN

As a rule, I don’t like to blog about events and beats I do not cover, but Super Bowl Sunday 2008 was indeed extremely special to me in a number of ways.
By now you know I’m a Giants fan, not the bandwagon-jumper who went along for an anti-Patriots ride, but as true blue a Giants fan as there can be.
My love of the Giants and traditional autumn Sunday afternoons with the family dates back to the earliest days of my life. I cannot say I remember the day Alan Ameche of the Baltimore Colts bulled across the goal-line from the 1-yard line for the touchdown that sank the Giants in overtime, 23-17, in the 1958 NFL Championship game, but I sure enough know where I was.
Sundays were always spent at my father’s parents apartment in New Haven near Edgewood Park. Grandpa Julius was an avid Giants fan, and we’d always huddle around his black-and-white television to get a glimpse of the game while Grandma Ida and Mom would work their wonders in the kitchen.
Dad always told me about listening intently to the Giants-Brooklyn Dodgers game of Dec. 6, 1942 on the radio with Grandpa when the broadcast was interrupted with the news that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor. Dad said he knew right then and there that he would soon be off to fight in World War II, which he did nobly through the end of the European theater.
I was 6-years-old in 1958 and the memory just doesn’t extend that far back but I absolutely recall the Giants teams of the early 1960s that mesmerized us week to week, lost title games to Green Bay (37-0 in 1961 and 16-7 in the 1962) and then to the Bears (14-10 in 1963).
How I revered middle linebacker Sam Huff, quarterback Y.A. Tittle and end Del Shofner; back Frank Gifford, tight end Kyle Rote and Connecticut’s own Andy Robustelli in the D line. Pat Summerall was kicking field goals for those teams long before he ever called a kickoff with John Madden, or kicked his alcohol problem.
The 1962 championship game was a particularly traumatic time. I was forced to go to a friend’s bowling/birthday party at the old Whitney Grove Lanes in New Haven while my Giants were losing a tough one. I remember throwing the ball down the alley, not caring what I knocked down and running over to the TV set in the bar.
What followed were 24 years of utter frustration from the “Good-bye, Allie (Sherman)” years of the mid-to-late 60s followed by the excruciating tenure of Alex Webster through 1973 and the horrible terms of Bill Arnsparger and John McVay that tortured Dad and I through the rest of the 1970s.
The Giants were laughingstocks. It seemed they would never get to the Super Bowl until Ray Perkins initiated the reversal that Bill Parcells ran with in the 1986 and 1990 seasons.
Without going any deeper into the history, let’s just say that any mention of “Giants fan” was always modified by “long-suffering.” On to Super Bowl XLII.
My son Jason was an innocent infant not yet four months old when the Giants beat Denver in Super Bowl XXI, but family tradition influenced his rooting interests, too. He’s not so innocent now but he and his old dad spent hours decorating the living room for Sunday.
There was the old Giants pennant with the sketch of a quarterback wearing Tittle’s number 14. Headlines from the now defunct Giants NewsWeekly shouted out the Super Bowl wins over the Broncos and the Buffalo Bills in the “wide right” blessing from 1991.
A cap and two tee-shirts heralded the present Giants for crashing through three favored playoff foes on the road to even make it to the altar of the glimmering Patriots. Jason even had a string of Christmas lights capped with little Giants helmets and a Christmas stocking with the familiar NY. The atmosphere was magic.
We believed. We knew they could do it. When they did, there were Jason and I embracing like we hadn’t since he hit his first Little League homer. I couldn’t hold back the tears. I’m even having trouble now. I stuck my head out the door and bellowed, “Patriots? Patriots who?” A few too many liqueurs? Maybe.
Jason danced in the street. I watched replay after replay of the game’s big plays and sopped up every word of the glorious interviews.
I was particularly moved by the owners’ commentary. John Mara called the victory the greatest in franchise history. Steve Tisch and his family reveled in the splendor. John’s father Wellington, the beloved Giants owner, died in 2005. Steve’s father Bob died in 2005. My loving father Herbert Lipshez died in 2005.
So when you see me wearing the spoils of my dearest moment in sports in the form of a cap or shirt, I hope you won’t think it childish for a 55-year-old guy.
It represents what the Giants have meant to my family. That’s what they mean to me. That’s what they’ll hopefully mean to Jason’s son (or daughter) when that blessed time comes to make it five generations.
My family and friends watched as I inched up to the edge of the couch for Eli’s magnificent moment. Was that Dad and Grandpa Julius who kept their fingers fixed on the ball that David Tyree miraculously caught? Did they help Patriots cornerback Ellis Hobbs to get his feet tangled, allowing Plaxico to make the easy catch? You can’t tell me they didn’t.
The assembly stared at me with complete shock when they saw how intense I was as if to say, “Hey, it’s just a football game.” But this was more than a football game, baby. The tears I shed should stamp my ticket for Big Blue Heaven.

No comments: