Reports of the Bluenatic's demise have been greatly exaggerated

Sunday, March 2, 2008 |


It's been twenty-seven days since the Giants won the Super Bowl, and I'm still not exactly sure how to put my feelings about it into words. I was just fifteen years old the last time they (or the Mets, Islanders, or Knicks) took home the hardware, which means that this unlikely title was my first as an "adult" fan.

Even though I'm now thirty two, married, and a Senior Editor at the office, the hat of the responsible adult is not one I'm all that comfortable wearing. While I'd like to believe that I've seen and learned enough about the world to pull off wearing a felt homburg, I know better than to trade in my baseball cap for one. It's difficult to accept the idea that I'm not a kid anymore, because in many ways I still feel like one. But back in September I faced a personal challenge that helped me put things into their proper perspective.

The day before the Giants opener at Dallas this year, I learned that Mosty, one of my oldest and closest friends (and fellow Bluenatic), and his lovely wife, Erin, had welcomed their first child, Evan, into the world. Naturally I was thrilled for them, but that joy quickly turned into panic when I was told that the brit milah (or bris) was scheduled for 11 a.m. the following Sunday, two hours before the Giants home opener against Green Bay.

Halacha (Jewish law) dictates that the brit milah be held exactly eight days from a male child's birth, so Mosty had no choice in the scheduling matter. And while I knew and understood that fact, I went through the full range of emotions (denial, anger, bargaining) before I was finally able to accept it. My first reaction was to declare that I wasn't going to miss the home opener for anything. I had been waiting eight months for this game and it was possibly my last chance to see Brett Favre play live, so I reasoned that Mosty, who had been attending the games with me, my old man, and my buddy Matty for the past ten years or so, would just have to understand that my Bluenacy trumped all. But when Matty (himself a friend of twenty-five years) called to tell me that he was attending the bris instead of the game, I began to question my priorities.

My Giants fanaticism has become such an identity-defining characteristic of mine that if you were to take a random poll of my friends and associates, and asked them to tell you three things about me, the likelihood is that 100% of them would mention my unhealthy obsession with Big Blue. For many years I've worn this as a badge of honor, thinking that the extreme emotional investment I've made in the Giants and their fortunes somehow qualified me as a truer fan than the Johnny-come-latelies my old man and I saw inhabiting the seats around us in section 127 with more frequency each year. And, as was the case with my father twenty-one years ago, I felt that my unwavering loyalty to the team would be paid back in spades once they recaptured the Lombardi Trophy.

I mentioned in a previous post that I've only missed a handful of games since I first started attending them in 1982, but rarely have I been put in a situation where I've had to choose between the Giants and my real life. In 2001, when my niece and nephew were born, the old man and I both missed a bad loss to Oakland in order to attend my nephew's bris. It was family, I reasoned, so it was okay. Plus, it rained like hell that day and the Giants played like shit, so I didn't really feel like I had missed anything.

This was different. In the days leading up to the bris, I felt myself caught between doing the right thing and doing the thing that I really wanted to do. The right thing--the adult thing--of course, was to attend the bris, as that's what any rational human being would do. But when it comes to the Giants I fully admit that I am not a rational human being. So even though Mosty has been one of my best friends since High School, I was torn. I really didn't know what to do.

After considerable soul searching, I called my old man on Wednesday and let him know that he'd have to get rid of three tickets for the home opener. A true Bluenatic himself, he gave me a ton of shit about my decision, but I held my ground and he was forced to accept it. Then, on Sunday morning, my wife and I piled into my friend Brett's car and headed out to Queens for the bris. When we got there, some of the people in attendance were surprised to see me, especially Mosty and his dad, who both expressed to me how much it meant to them that I had come.

So I sat and schmoozed and ate a bagel and lox and said and did all the right things. My wife and I brought gifts (one from us, one from my parents), and for a few hours I actually felt natural in the skin of a responsible adult. We got home in time to watch the second half of what was a decisive Packers victory, but as strange as it was to watch a home game from my couch, in the end I didn't feel the same anger or disappointment that usually accompanies Giant losses. Instead of being filled with bitterness and regret, I felt great that I hadn't missed one of the most important events in Mosty's life, and that I had been there to share that moment with him and his family.

And then the craziest thing happened. After flirting with mediocrity and maddeningly inconsistent play for most of the second half of the season, the Giants secured a Playoff spot on the season's penultimate weekend and then, defying all of the experts and pundits, went on the road and beat Tampa Bay, Dallas, Green Bay, and the undefeated New England Patriots to earn their first World Championship since the 1990 season. They beat four Pro Bowl quarterbacks over those four games (Garcia, Romo, Favre, & Brady), essentially shut down arguably the game's two best wide receivers (Owens & Moss), and outcoached arguably the greatest coach in the game today (Belichick). No small feat, friends.

And in my postgame euphoria, when I was literally moved to tears, my thoughts settled on baby Evan and that day back in September when I decided that my relationship with one of my real-life best friends was more important than my relationship with the revolving cast of fifty-three strangers in blue helmets I'd dedicated so much of my time and emotional energy to over the past twenty-five years. And while I know better to think that anything I do or say has any real bearing on what happens out on the football field, I felt as if this championship, perhaps the unlikeliest and sweetest joy I've ever experienced in my life as a sports fan, was my reward for doing the right thing. In a way it validated, if only symbolically, that it was okay to accept the responsibilities of adulthood, and proved that it was possible to be an adult and a Bluenatic at the same time.

Do they make homburgs in Giant blue?

1 comments:

Mobius said...

gevalt!

you should've done what homer simpson does -- get a radio earpiece and tune to the game while you're attending to your responsibilities.