Exclusive Bluenatic Investigative Report: Whose Signature is That?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008 |

Long before the days of Fatheads and customized laptop skins, enthusiastic young partisans of professional football franchises had no choice but to collect trading cards, cut photographs out of glossy sports magazines, and hang posters of their favorite players on their bedroom walls to show their allegiance to "the cause."

For myself and countless other young fans, there were no more prized posters than the white-bordered works of art released by Sports Illustrated in the late 70s and early 80s.  And though I had several of them adorning the walls of my sports shrine of a bedroom (Giorgio Chinaglia, Dwight Gooden, Billy Smith), it was the poster of New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms to the left that held (and still holds) the top spot in my sports-addicted heart of hearts.

In 1982 my old man, by that time already a long-suffering Giants season ticket holder, took me to my first game at Giants Stadium. I was seven years old at the time and I don’t remember all that much about that day beyond a feeling that the Astroturf field laid out before me was the greenest thing I had ever seen, and being rather awed by the whole dramatic spectacle. I also remember my father repeatedly telling me to "watch number 56," yet not being able to take my eyes off of number 53.

Shortly after that game, my father purchased for me the poster of quarterback Phil Simms seen here. It instantly got thumb-tacked to my bedroom wall and remained there until the day, some ten years later, that I left for college. 

After that, the poster graced the walls of an otherwise unremarkable dormitory room at the University of Michigan, several rooms in the dilapidated fraternity house I called home for two years, a bedroom in an Ann Arbor apartment located above a popular pizza joint, and finally, for eight years, the bedroom of the Manhattan apartment I moved into shortly after graduation. It wasn't until 2006, when I moved with my now wife into a small, East Village one bedroom, that I finally rolled it up and retired it to my parents' basement out on Long Island.

If you're keeping score at home, that's 25 years of Phil.

Now that the Giants are back in the big game, and are once again led by an "aw shucks," country boy quarterback, I've been thinking a lot about Phil Simms lately. And when I think of Phil Simms and his unbelievable performance in Super Bowl XXI, I can't help but think about this poster as well.

The first thing you'll notice when examining the poster is the Giants old uniforms, with the too-deep V-neck, longish, striped sleeves, and white pants. You may even also notice that Phil is wearing cleats manufactured by Pony, a brand you don't see on the feet of pro athletes much these days, and that there is some sort of sartorially splendid gentleman (military, perhaps? Security?) taking in the game from the sideline. But a closer examination reveals two startling facts: 

1) Phil's first name is misspelled.
2) His signature is forged (and misspelled).

When you're the quarterback of the New York Giants and the former 7th overall pick in the NFL Draft, it's reasonable to expect people, especially people employed by the country's leading sports magazine, to spell your name correctly. But there it is, clear as day. Phil with two Ls. Phill.
And then there's the issue of the "autograph," which I always considered a great value add to these Sports Illustrated posters. I use quotation marks around the word autograph because this is clearly not Phil Simms' signature. The first dead giveaway is that whoever signed the poster spelled Phil with two Ls, which Phil himself never does. But perhaps more egregious is how the autograph bears no resemblance whatsoever to the one Phil has been using on footballs, mini-helmets, jerseys, trading cards and lithographs for years and which I've cropped out of this unforgettable magazine cover and posted here to the left.

For further evidence of the consistency of this autograph, I present to you Exhibit A and Exhibit B. Let's not even discuss the absurd flourish the forger added to the second S in Simms.

The funniest thing about this, from my perspective, is that I didn't even notice the forged signature until 1991, when my father and I attended a day of training camp at Fairleigh Dickinson University and Phil, along with several other players, signed a football we'd brought with us. When Phil handed the ball back to me I thought it looked odd, but I didn't really know what the score was until I got home and compared the signatures. 
At first, my inclination was to believe that most of the posters of this era contained forged signatures, and that Phil had not been unfairly discriminated against. Years later, however, when a friend managed to sneak me into a press conference and I had the great fortune to meet former Cosmos/Lazio star Giorgio Chinaglia (a story for another time), this belief was shattered. I brought my S.I. poster with me and had him sign it that day, right alongside the original, printed signature. And guess what? The autographs matched more or less perfectly. 


So now the only question is, who was responsible for the Simms forgery and what, after nearly thirty years, can be done about it now?

The answer, unfortunately, is unlikely to come from a representative of Sports Illustrated, though I have made a formal written inquiry. I seriously doubt I'll get a letter back. But if I ever happen to see Phil on the street or elsewhere, and I don't mentally revert back to the seven year old boy who used to pray to his poster around Hanukkah time (Intellivision games, pleeeeease!), I'll be sure to ask him myself. I'm fairly certain he'll think I'm a lunatic, but that's just the risk I'm gonna have to take.

After all these years, I don't think I have much of a choice. Worse comes to worst, though, there's always the Phil Fathead. Nice.

Why I Won't be Attending Your Super Bowl Party

Monday, January 28, 2008 |

I've been invited to like 16 different Super Bowl parties in the last week and have respectfully declined every invitation, even those of my best and closest friends. And none of them seems to understand my explanation why.

It's not that I don't like these people, because I do. They're good, well-intentioned folks, all of them. And we go back a long way.

I'm also not one of those crazily superstitious dudes who has to watch the game sitting indian-style in his underwear and a ski mask at a precise 34 degree angle from the television while eating only green m&ms lefthanded. That's not me, either.

It's just that for a game of this magnitude, I've got to be in complete control of my environment. And that means I can't be around people. Even old friends.

Like most lunatics, when watching the Giants in the Super Bowl I am to be considered a danger to myself as well as to others, and cannot be trusted around small children or their well-meaning parents and their homemade, nine layer bean dips.

I am liable to drink heavily, shout obscenities, throw things, pace, spit, fume, swing my fists wildly, head butt inanimate objects, vomit, soil myself, bark like a dog, kick a dog, howl at the moon, wrestle an angel, or murder a pizza delivery boy, all before the end of the National Anthem.

And if I'm at a Super Bowl party, I know I can't behave that way. Not in "mixed company," anyway.

As you are all well aware, many of the attendees at Super Bowl parties don't really care all that much about the outcome of the football game. They'll be perfectly content to sit and talk casually throughout the game about things that have no bearing on what's going on down on the field, comment during game action about commercials and the halftime show, walk (or stand) in front of the TV at inopportune times, be female, or commit any combination of these unforgivable sins. Some might even (*gasp*) attempt to engage me in conversation.

And let's not even mention the "hosts" of these absurd shindigs, who are usually so excited to show off their new flat screens and TIVOs that they decide it's not really necessary to show the game in "real time," instead rewinding periodically so that "Sally" or "cousin Irv" can rewatch some inane ad for Pepsi or Ford trucks or whoever the fuck is spending 2 million dollars for the 30 seconds of TV time I'm using to catch my breath, mop my brow, and attempt to stop dry heaving, if only for a moment. Irv was busy checking on the mini-quiches he brought, see, and missed seeing that computer generated hippopotamus share a Pepsi with that computer generated giraffe. So never mind that it's third and seven from the New England 34 yard line. We can always "catch up with the game later, right, crowd? I mean, what's the big deal?"

Then there are the poseur fans at the party to contend with. The "fans" who don't know Eli Manning from Eli Whitney but, in the spirit of the festivities decide to hold court, spewing their uninformed opinion about all things New York Giants. "The Giants are better off without Shockey," one "fan" says as my ears begin to bleed. "And did you know that Brandon Jacobs is 350 pounds?" Adding insult to insult, This person likely also arrived wearing a jersey, but you'd better believe it had never been worn until that day and may have even been purchased in the last 48 hours, if not on the way to the party. Oh well, you think to yourself. At least he'll have something to wipe up his blood with.

Oh, and there will be blood, sports fans. In the anxious, agitated state I will be in during this game, can't you see how incredibly dangerous it would be for me to be in the same room as a "fan" like this? I mean, I'm likely to snap and cut the motherfucker's throat with a jagged Dorito. But only during the commercial break, of course.

Look, people. I'm invested in this shit. Heavily. Way more than I probably should be. I admit that. But it's just the way it is. I live and die with every snap from center. With the exception of my college years spent in the Midwest and away from East Rutherford, I have only missed four home games since 1982. So yeah, I kinda care more than the average fan does about the outcome of this game. And I remember all too well what happened back in February of 2001, when I allowed my buddy Matt to talk me into attending his Super Bowl gathering out in Queens and had to suffer not only the indignity of a 34-7 final score, but pretty much all of the shenanigans and bullshit I've described above. From my best friends, no less.

So forgive me if you invited me to your Super Bowl party this year and I declined the invite. Other than the fact that it's 100% personal, it's nothing personal.

Enjoy the mini quiches.

Welcome to Bluenatic

Tuesday, January 1, 2008 |

Welcome to Bluenatic, a new fan blog dedicated to all things New York Giants (and Mets, and Islanders, and University of Michigan athletics.)

One thing that will become perfectly and immediately clear to readers of this blog is that I have a Giant problem. Literally. And blogging is cheaper than therapy.