“Root, Root, Root for the Home Team”

by John Delach

Someone once asked me: “I understand that you have had a season ticket to the New York Football Giants going on 60 years. What kind of an experience has that been like?’

“I’ve witnessed five runs to the super bowl, four of which the Giants won. But overall, I’d have to say that attending games for 60 years has given me the opportunity to see an awful lot of  lousy football.”

I recently heard a long-suffering New York Knicks’ season subscriber reply to a question of how they will do this season: “We’re two-years from being two-years away from being a contender.”

The last time the NFL’s Detroit Lions won a title was 1957. Ike was president, TV was broadcast in black and white on a maximum of 13 channels. All telephones were leased from Bell and you had to dial them. They had alphabetical prefaces like: WH-2-5000. Operators had to assist with long distance calls to most of the other 48 states. The Dodgers played in Brooklyn and the Giants played in Manhattan .

Two lumberjacks from (take your pick) St Clair, Minnesota / Buffalo, New York died and went to hell. After being there a week, Satan stopped by to check on them. To his displeasure, he found them still wearing their winter snow gear. “Aren’t you two suffering in this heat?”

“Not at all, after so many cold and brutal winters, this is still plenty cold for us.”

Satan cranked up the heat several times only to find them slightly warmer. He finally cranked it up all the way, and to his dismay, he found them in shorts and golf shirts. “Hey, Satan, this is more like it, but when will it be summer?”

Thoroughly angry and upset Satan had his engineers lower the temperature to an insanely cold level. When he entered the room, he found the two of them still in shorts and golf shirts drinking beer, dancing and high fiving each other. “Why are you two acting like fools? Why aren’t you miserable?”

“Why? Because the Bills / Vikings won the super bowl.” 

The New York Titans are the ancestors of today’s NY Jets. The original owner was Harry Wismer, a well-known New York sports announcer who amassed a decent fortune through marriage. Harry bought the rights to American Football League’s New York franchise for the AFL’s 1960 inaugural season. He named his team: Titans because Titans were bigger than Giants.

Things didn’t go well for Harry. His team premiered at a time when the rival Football Giants owned New York. Harry tried every trick he could think of to pump up publicity including inflating the game attendance. He announced the paid attendance for one game to be 10,000, a figure that prompted, Dick Young, then a sports scribe with the Daily News to write: “Ten Thousand, huh? If there were 10,000 fans at the game yesterday, 5,000 were cleverly disguised as empty seats.”

Harry’s dreams and his wife’s money dried up during the 1962 season when the Titans ran out of cash in November. The players began a job action over back pay until Lamar Hunt, the Texas oil man and owner of the Dallas Texans guaranteed the players’ salaries.

In 1963, David A. (Sonny) Werblin, led a syndicate of wealthy New Jersey businessmen known as the Monmouth Park Connection. Horse owners all, Monmouth was their home track. Sonny recruited his pals to be limited partners who included the likes of Phil Iselin, Townsend Martin, Don Lillis and Leon Hess.

The few fans who signed on with the Jets in 1963 were forced to endure a final year of play at the doomed Polo Grounds. The Jets moved to Shea Stadium the following year saw the impossible happen in 1969 when Broadway Joe Namath led them to an era changing victory over the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III.

The bad news is the Jets have never returned to the big game. Super Bowl III is now 50 plus years ago. Few of their fan base was alive when this happened. Yet they wait and they hope.  

I’ve been thinking about my worst experience being a Giants fan. My best is easy, being with my son in person in Glendale, Arizona when Big Blue did their version of the impossible dream, defeating the 19-0 New England Patriots, 17-14 in Super Bowl XLII.

There are several defeats that I attended that could qualify as the worst. The obvious loss was the Fumble that allowed the Eagles to win a game they were about to lose with seconds on the clock. But the one that stays with me the most was the 19-13 overtime loss to the Rams in the 1989 NFC Division Playoff Game.

The game went into overtime. The Rams reached the Giants 30-yard line. From there, quarterback, Jim Everett threw a pass down the right sideline that reached his fastest receiver, Flipper Anderson, at the two-yard line. Anderson, had a step on Giants corner back, Mark Collins, who was defending him. Everett’s pass hit flipper in stride for the winning touchdown!

Anderson knew the game was over so, instead of stopping, he ran through the end zone and into the tunnel leading to the locker room still carrying the game winning pass. The rest of us, the fans, the coaches, players, security, writers and photographs stood there in absolute silence. It seemed that our collective brains couldn’t comprehend what had just happened.

Slowly, the occupants on the field and in the stands began to file out of Giants Stadium in complete silence.

A cartoonist could have drawn a full football stadium with an imaginary bubble hanging over the scene that read: “Holy shit, what just happened!”