Football Magnified

by John Delach

Nineteen Sixty-One one of those remarkable milestones in my life, especially the summer between the end of high school and the beginning of college. That summer, I travelled coast to coast and back by train to visit my father in Riverside, California and most importantly, the summer I discovered the team I came to love, the Football Giants. Love at first radio broadcast!

I attended my first live game at Yankee Stadium on Sunday, October 22 versus the Los Angeles Rams. It was a perfect fall day, what I call, football weather. My friend, Jimmy Pace and I made the all familiar subway journey from Ridgewood, Queens to Yankee Stadium, but for the first time, not for a baseball game.

We didn’t have tickets expecting to buy them at the stadium’s kiosks located outside the various entrances. Randomly, we headed to the gate behind home plate and joined other fans seeking game day tickets. As we advanced, we noticed a disturbing development; other sellers were closing their kiosks and shooing potential buyers away. They had run out of tickets. Fortunately, our seller remained open as we reached his window.

“I can give you two box seats behind the Yankees dugout. That’s all I have left. They are $5 dollars each.”

“We’ll take them.”

Our tickets would have been incredible for baseball, but the way the football field at Yankee Stadium was laid out, we were located directly behind the end zone at the closed end of the ballpark. The good news was we’d be up close and personal when the teams were at our end of the field, but when they were at the other end, they might as well be playing in Los Angeles.

However, I happened to have in my possession, a pair of 7X50 Omega binoculars given to me by my father during my California visit that summer. (Actually, they were a bribe by my old man. In return I agreed to ship my Lionel electric trains out West for my half-brothers and sister now that I had outgrown them.)

The images I witnessed looking through those magnificent lenses was beyond all I could have imagined. My glasses gave me incredible close ups for plays at our end and terrific views of formations and plays beyond the opposite 35-yard line.

By the end of the game I was hooked, both on Giants football and using binoculars to witness the contest. I became season ticket holder in 1962.

Back then, none of the NFL teams showed players’ names on the back of their uniforms, but The New York Times published the active roster for both the Giants and their opponents each Sunday during football season. The size was perfect to cut out and tape onto the barrel of my binoculars and I grew to enjoy this cheat sheet. After each play, I could look down to see the name of the opposition player who number matched who I watched in the last play. I’d say out loud to my seat mates: “Karas made the last tackle.”

Over time, I moved on to 7×35 binoculars that enhanced my field of vision at the expense of seeing those tight views of great football plays. The trade-off was worth it because the number of plays I missed with the 7×50 tight views far exceeded the ones I caught.

I was always protective of my glasses and if someone asked to borrow them, I insisted they wear the strap around their neck before I agreed to their request,

Once again, time marched on morphing me into the realm of dinosaurs. I continue to view the game through a pair of Nikon 7×35 glasses when I find it appropriate. I choose this path despite the overwhelming presence of multiple monster color video monitors that allow patrons to witness every play after the fact multiple times including different angles, close-ups and slow motion.

Of course, I watch this additive siren, but, when the Giants, break their huddle and get into formation, I take off my eye glasses, put them into my left hand for safe keeping and raise my binoculars to my eyes for the next play.

No game today is the new normal for 2020 as the stands will be empty for all of Giants home and away games. Next year will be my 59th as a season ticket holder. My hope is being able to return then or in 2022, with binoculars in hand with my mates to the roar of the crowd and the game on the field.