Opening Day: September 12, 2021

by John Delach

This should have been the first game of my 60th Anniversary of being a New York Football Giants season ticket holder. But the 2020 season was played without fans in the stands due to the COVID-19 pandemic raising  the question: Did the 2020 season count toward my continuity as a season ticket holder? Your guess is as good as mine.

The last time I attended a Giants game in Met Life Stadium was on December 15, 2019. I sat with son, Michael, and his two boys, my oldest grandsons, Drew and Matt, on a special afternoon, Eli Manning’s last home game as a Giant. Manning did not disappoint us that day leading the team from a half-time deficit of 7-10 against the Miami Dolphins at half-time to a final score of 36 to 20. Tom Rock, of Newsday noted: Head coach, Pat Shurmur, pulled Eli out of the game with 1 minute and 50 seconds left in the Fourth Quarter…showcasing Eli to the media, his teammates and the faithful who gave him a standing ovation while chanting, ‘Eli Manning, Eli Manning, Eli Manning…”

We remained in the stadium after the game ended to celebrate his career as the Giants best quarterback of all time. I flagged a passing photographer who took a great shot of three generations of Delach men huddled together with the field in the background.

When COVID-19 hit, the Giants pushed back the deadline for renewing season tickets until July when they announced that all ticket renewals had seen suspended for the 2020 season.            

The 2021 season included some radical changes. The Giants joined the rush to electronic or E-tickets  Definitely, a problem for an older fan like me, but, with Michael’s help, I will adapt to this brave new world.

Despite the COVID 19 Delta variant wreaking havoc among the un-vaccinated, the powers that be declared that Met Life Stadium will be open for business as usual without restrictions including proof of vaccination or negative testing. Tailgates are welcome.

And away we go!

Joe M. picked me up just before our scheduled ETD of 11 AM for our game against the Denver Broncos that would begin at 4:25 PM. Yes, your reaction that this was an early start is correct but, one of the biggest reasons for attending games in person is participating with our mates in a lively extended tailgate featuring both original and mundane food, plenty of beer and other liquid refreshments and outstanding comradery. We arrived at 12:15 PM, broke down the tailgate by 3:30 and headed toward Met Life Stadium by 3:45.

What happened next and for the rest of the day can best be explained by the old joke: “Aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?”

The Giants went paperless this season so every ticket holder had to display their e-ticket on their cell phone so the bar code could be authenticated by a stadium employee with a reader. Just one problem with this system, before reaching the agent who read the bar code, we had to pass security. That meant removing all metal from our pockets including cell phones, sending them through separately, retrieving our phones, and displaying the e-ticket. Naturally, this created a bottleneck delaying us from reaching our seats until after the game had already started.

The game, the game; please don’t mention the game. Big Blue’s offense self-destructed as they failed to score several times while on the doorstep of the goal line. The defense couldn’t cope with the Broncos offense. Ironically, Pat Shurmur, the Giants former head coach, directed the Broncos assault. When Bronco’s running back, Melvin Gordon III ripped off a 70-yard touchdown run making the score 27-7, the “faithful” fled the stadium in droves. We too exited Met Life to begin the ride home.

Joe followed WAZE that directed us to the GWB via Route 46 but sensed heavy traffic ahead and diverted us onto local streets as we neared Fort Lee. It was here that we encountered a nightmare of traffic instead of a safe passage. We were only two blocks away from an entrance to the bridge when we reached an intersection completely and terminally frozen in gridlock. Forty-five minutes later, Joe was able to maneuver through the chaos.

Our relief was short-lived as the entrance we intended to use was blocked off by police cones. Denied the ability to turn left to reach the bridge, we were forced to continue east until a police barricade led us into a right turn away from the bridge. Joe asked the cop on duty, “How do we get to the bridge?”

“Make the next two rights.” He replied. We did, which only led us to another holding pen where we waited for 15 to 20 minutes before the dam opened giving us a path to the toll booths and the bridge. Too tired and frustrated to care, we didn’t comment to each other on how relatively easy it was to navigate the Bronx, cross over to Long Island and to complete the trip to Port Washington. We didn’t want to jinx ourselves until we were nearly home.

Our trip home, on a fair day, takes two hours. That Sunday took us almost double that time. We set out at 11 AM and didn’t arrive home until after 10 PM. It would appear that a re-evaluation of my further game attendance may be an issue.

Still, I expected to attend the game on September 26th  against the Atlanta Falcons when the Giants planned to retire Eli Manning’s jersey number and add his name to their Ring of Honor.

Unfortunately, I already had a premonition that something was wrong with my body. A blood test revealed I was anemic due to internal bleeding that led to a hospital stay and my inability to make that game.

I hope my 2001 home season doesn’t end after a single game, but it will take time for me to heal.  It may be in doubt, and if it is, so it goes.