On the Road with Michael

Baseball was once our national pastime. From the beginning of the Twentieth Century until the mid-1960s baseball ruled supreme. Boxing, horse racing and college football trailed badly. Professional football was relegated to a niche corner like hockey, pro basketball, pro wrestling or roller derby.

Television changed the landscape beginning in 1956 when the New York Football Giants crushed the Chicago Bears before a national audience. Two years later, the Baltimore Colts sudden death victory over the same Football Giants rocketed the National Football League onto center stage and captured our collective consciousness. The professional game was a natural for TV and, like a light switch being thrown, pro-football became our collective sports obsession starting in the late 1960’s with the creation of Super Bowl, America’s predominate entertainment event.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not a hater. I love baseball too. I grew up going to Brooklyn Dodgers games in Ebbits Fields. I watched the newly minted Mets in the Polo Grounds in 1962 and 1963 and attended their opening day at Shea Stadium in 1964. Since I retired in 2000, I’ve made many baseball trips; been to Wrigley, Fenway, Dodgers’ Stadium, Camden Yards, PNC Park, the Jake, Chase Field, Minute Maid Park, the Toronto Sky dome and Target Field among others. I have baseball credibility.

What annoys me most is baseball scribes and authors like Rich Lowry and George Wills and spokesmen like Jonathon Swartz who espouse a fake news script that baseball and baseball alone is the one sport that develops a special bond between fathers and sons.

Balderdash! I strongly object!

I have made many trips with my son, Michael, beginning in 1990 when we traveled to Chicago to watch our Super Bowl XXV winners play the Bears on opening day. Michael, still in college, flew in from Boston, I from New York and we met at O’Hare. Our hosts were Gary Gatewood, Jim Hagelow and Reuben Minor, three natural-born Bears fans all bigger than me but not as big as my son.

We had a great tailgate gate and a hell of a time at Soldiers Field that day even though Big Blue came up short in a closely fought contest. Win or lose, our bond had been born. We made two brilliant trips down to Florida to participate in what we refer to Miami I and Miami II. Both were insane and deserve their own telling but truly bonding experiences.

Contrary to common belief about the attitudes of folks living in the Golden State, Californian football fans are anything but laid back. We had an awful experience in San Diego, and, long story short, we were ejected from the stadium for the only time in most of our lives.

Needless to say, we were apprehensive going to Candlestick Park for a 49er’s game. Not to worry, just before kick-off, a posse of Hispanic five-by-five fans sporting spanking new Giants gear parked themselves directly in front of us.  After high fiving us, I turned to Michael and said, “Looks like we’re covered today.”

We’ve attended away games against the Bills, Bengals, Buccaneers, Cardinals, Chiefs, Cowboys, Mariners, Packers, Patriots, Saints and Texans. This coming weekend we are off to Detroit to see the Lions.    

Super Bowl XLII was and will always be the game of my life. What could surpass traveling to Tucson, Arizona with your son and a merry group of eight other Giant fans, trekking to Glendale in chartered SUVs, illegally tailgating then going into a stadium to watch your pride and joy come from behind on an impossible play to beat a team that was 18-0?

Following Eli Manning’s incredible Houdini like escape, his pass and David Tyree’s impossible catch, Manning regained the lead 17-14 with his lob pass to a wide-open Plaxico Burress with 34 seconds left on the clock. Here is how I described what happened next:

The Patriots had one last chance with 34-seconds and three time-outs left. When rookie tackle, Jay Alford nailed Brady on second down, I had the hope that the Patriots wouldn’t reach field goal range, but I held my breath when Brady tried to hit Moss on a pass he must have thrown 75-yards that Corey Webster knocked away at the last second. Ten seconds left on the clock and I was holding my breath. When Brady’s next pass went incomplete, I lost track of the downs and Michael had to remind me that the Giants now had the ball for the one second remaining on the clock.

When Michael lifted me in the air, I knew the Giants had won. The fellow with the cigar stood in stunned silence. Michael yelled to him, “You know where you can put that cigar now.”

 We didn’t stay long and began the crawl out of the parking lot. The mood was overwhelmingly joyful. We had just seen the greatest football game of our lives. Then Michael noticed a young woman wearing a Brady Jersey walk by. He leaned out the widow and said, “Don’t worry, Tom, 18-1 ain’t bad.”

“Fuck off.” came her reply.

Brilliant, Michael had nailed her.

And that’s what I call bonding!