Tuesday, December 16, 2014

"3 Gens of Giant Fans" by Dad

     This 2gensportsden piece is actually about three gens – a sort of fitting wrap up as the boys and I complete this blog’s first year. We are all rabid fans of the New York Giants, as is my brother, which is a hard thing to be this year. The sad fact, though, is that long term fandom of any single team can be a hard thing. There are way more bad years than good, unless you have the great good fortune to be a Yankee fan born around 1990. And even this lucky fan may now be in for a period of paying some serious dues.
      But our Giant fixation (and giant it is) begins with my dad, the boys’ grandfather, who died a few years ago after decades of dedicated rooting. How dedicated? In the mid sixties, when I was very young, we lived in Westchester County, where we would be subject to broadcast blackouts of any Giant game not sold out. This was after the late 50s run of glory years – when the Tittle, Gifford, Shofner Giants played the famous 1958 NFL championship game against the Johnny Unitas Colts and helped launch the modern NFL. This was instead a wave of dreadful Giant teams who left many seats unsold and many games blacked out. But blacked out only on the New York CBS affiliate. Real fans knew that the game would be carried on the Connecticut CBS affiliate. So what did my dad and his buddies, the other dads on the block, do?
     The obvious answer might have been simply to buy a bloc of those unsold tickets. But they were young, those seats weren’t inexpensive, and they had a Plan B. On those blacked out Sundays, they would reserve a room at the Hi-Ho Motel in Fairfield, CT, just off the Merritt Parkway. You can still see it today, and it reminds me of my dad every time I pass it. On those Sundays, five guys would pack one of their woody station wagons with beer, of course, plus enough sandwiches and chips to feed what I enviously judged to be my whole Cub Scout troop. And they’d be off for the day, leaving their sons under the watchful eyes of our ditched and resentful moms. In all fairness, this was as bad as those boys got.
     Fast forward a few years, and now we were actually living in Connecticut. No more black outs – my dad, my brother and I could watch every game. And we did. In our new house’s family room, on a sectional couch on which the three of us could sprawl around the house’s only color TV, with my brother and I fetching firewood, we watched the Tarkenton Giants. He was good, they were bad, and those afternoons were gold. I do believe these were among my dad’s happiest times, watching his Giants with his two sons.  And I know the feeling, having now spent many, many Sundays back in Connecticut as the dad of two sons who have inherited the Giant fandom gene.
     One more game to recall.
     The NFC Championship game in January of ’08. My brother and I and our families had flown down to Fort Lauderdale to throw an 80th birthday party for our dad. That huge game’s Sunday night found us all at my Aunt Rosemary’s for football and an Armenian feast. There can’t be a better aunt, or many better cooks, than Rosemary. So there we all were for this game of games -- the Giants versus the Packers – my dad, his two sons, and two grandsons. Three gens. (There were also two granddaughters there, whom Dad loved dearly, but alas for the purposes of this story, not Giant fans.) It was a great game, won by the Giants 23-20 in overtime. It sent the Giants to the Super Bowl, where they would beat the Patriots and ruin the Pats’ undefeated season. And it was the last time I ever saw my dad that happy, and I’m not sure I ever saw him happier. He died three years later.
     For the last few years, both my brother and older son (byline Bojo) have been living in Vermont, and my younger son (byline CBoh) has been up at UConn. All living, ironically, in Patriots Nation. Our shared Giant experience has been game-long texting in lieu of watching together. But we are ferocious texters, and the tradition lives on.