The Wrecking Ball Can Wait

Thursday, October 29, 2009 |

Giants Stadium, I'm wont to imagine, is dying before my eyes. Game by game, tribute by tribute, it is passing into the past.

But it isn't really dying so much as it's being euthanized. In 2009, it's the Logan 5 of stadiums, running at top speed towards forced obsolescence despite remaining, on its surface, vital and spirited. By Spring it will be a parking lot, but for now and for the remainder of the season, it's home.

At 2009 tailgates, the future rises against the sky. It’s already shiny. And huge. And triple awesome, says the PSL brochure. I’m sure it is, and on some level I’m looking forward to it, but I’m not ready to say goodbye to Giants Stadium so fast. Not when there’s still a chance—5 chances, at minimum—to wring some more magic from its old bones.

Ah, who am I kidding? Old bones? Giants Stadium is a year younger than I am. If after 33 years Giants Stadium has outlived its usefulness, does that mean it’s time to take me up Mount Ubasuteyama as well? And if so, how should that make The Old Man feel? He was nearly that age when they first opened the joint.

Each week, the legends of the franchise are returning to pay their last respects. Some of them, like Frank Gifford and Andy Robustelli, never played a down here. Others, like George Martin and Harry Carson, had already established permanent residence by the time Lawrence Taylor was busy making Giants Stadium his playground. But they all come back. Bob Tucker and John Mendenhall. Joe Morris and Rodney Hampton. Leonard Marshall and Mark Bavaro. They all want to feel the Hawk whip across their cheek one more time because each of them knows what's at stake when we lose this place.

But there are losses and there are losses. On the field, the losses the Giants have sustained the past two weeks have proven true yet again the axiom that the NFL is a week-to-week league. After three games, the local tabloids were all suggesting the possibility of a Giants vs. Jets Super Bowl. Two weeks later, after the Jets crashed to earth, the talk turned to that of a potential “Manning Bowl.” Now, after two consecutive losses, the Giants suddenly face a “must win” game at arch-rival Philadelphia. They’ve dropped like a stone in most power rankings. National columnists are questioning their lack of a quality win. What a difference a week or two makes.

These losses have also led the knee-jerk contingent among the Giants fanbase to declare that the sky is falling. It isn't, of course. But soon, the upper deck in Giants Stadium will fall. It will be followed by the mezzanine, then the lower level. When they hear the sickening creak as the building’s final beams collapse, Giants fans will learn the difference between loss and loss.  

This is the lesson we all have to learn eventually, of course, the hard lesson of "The Ball Poem." Once the stadium is gone we’ll be left with no choice but to move on, to accept its finality. It will live on in our memories only. Some glorious. Some infamous. Some personal. When we lose Giants Stadium, we’ll also be losing part of ourselves. But how does one mourn such a loss?

Last year I sat by and watched some of my blolleagues attempt to eulogize Shea Stadium in its final days, with varying degrees of success. Shea, however, was different. While it retained a certain sense of dilapidated charm in the hearts of the diehards, it was in the end a stadium on life support. A stadium that truly had outlived its usefulness. But Giants Stadium? Giants Stadium is, from my perspective, as vibrant today as it ever was. Beyond that, it’s become my treehouse, that place where I can go to get away from it all in the company of 80,000 mostly anonymous friends. My initials, along with thousands of others, adorn its still sturdy trunk. Aside from it being short a few luxury boxes, why would anyone want to tear a place like that down? A place that has brought so many people together. A place where the ghosts of Wellington Mara and Brad Van Pelt are as much of a presence as those swirling winds are. A place that stands as a physical link between generations.

Could it be the Giants 53% winning percentage in the building? 

A wise friend from the Met-blogging ranks counseled me back in the Spring to take this season as it comes to me, to let it unfold naturally. I've been trying my best to heed his advice, to follow Warren Zevon's lead and "enjoy every sandwich," but it's not easy sitting in seats that are already for sale. And it's never easy to watch a ticking clock, especially when you know it's attached to a bomb.

I'm doing what I can, though, trying to take it one game at a time like the players and coaches are so fond of saying. I feel fortunate to have this year to celebrate Giants Stadium's final season, to take my 7-year-old nephew to a game as well as my wife, who is pregnant with our first child. That child will only know the new stadium as home, which is weird for me. But like CitiField did, I'm sure it will grow on me. Perhaps my child will pen an ode like this thirty-something years from now after forming his own emotional attachment to the giant flying saucer next door. One day, that new, state-of-the-art facility rising in the parking lot will itself be perceived as obsolete and be replaced by an even greater monstrosity. This will, of course, be characterized as progress by those who stand to profit from it most. By then, a personal seat license will likely run one the cost of a house today and surely pitched to fans as a sound investment. But I imagine that my investment in the Giants then, like now, will transcend economics.

At the beginning of the season, New York magazine's Will Leitch wrote that "no one cries for the Meadowlands. Fond reminiscences of the old Giants Stadium," he continued, "are nowhere to be found." The words angered me when I first read them, before I realized that they were 100% accurate. That made me angrier. But make no mistake, Giants fans, the death of Giants Stadium is a tragedy. And an utterly avoidable one.

It may not settle in until next season, when the suits move in. And with them their wine, cheese and entitlement. The gameday experience will never be the same. So I implore you all to appreciate this facility while you still can. There’s still 5 games left to play, and If we get lucky we’ll be rewarded with another home game or two come January. The Giants would like nothing more than to give the Stadium the send-off it deserves, and so should you.

The wrecking ball can wait, friends. Trust me. There's no need to report to Carrousel 'til springtime.  

Enjoy the run.