My Night In the Giants Stadium Press Box

Friday, October 29, 2010 |

Giants Stadium may be gone, but I still can’t shake its memory. The more familiar I get with its shiny new replacement, the more I feel its presence. Giants Stadium hosted more NFL games than any stadium ever has, and in attending something in the neighborhood of 200 of them it became my treehouse. For 27 years, it was a place where my old man and I could go to get away from whatever else was happening in our lives and lose ourselves in the frenzied company of 80,000 mostly anonymous friends. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about Giants Stadium lately, and especially today, because it marks an anniversary of sorts. One year ago today I got my first and last glimpse at the Giants Stadium press box.

There was a time in my life when my greatest desire was to sit in that press box, covering the football team I loved. It was a dream that, as a teenager, I dreamed nightly. As the sports editor and, later, editor-in-chief of my high school's newspaper, I mimicked the reporters and columnists that covered the Giants for Newsday and The New York Times, the two papers that were delivered to our Long Island home every day. I studied their ledes, their styles, hoping they'd rub off on me. It was only a matter of time, I figured, until I'd be covering the Giants myself, "Scoop" Weinstein rubbing elbows in the press box with Dave Anderson and Bob Glauber.

Before I ever stepped foot on campus at The University of Michigan, I'd already sent all of my clippings to the sports editor at The Michigan Daily, a sharp young fellow who has since gone on to become a columnist of some renown at the Detroit Free Press and Sports Illustrated. When I finally met him in person, he thanked me for my frequent mailings by promptly dispatching me to cover a women's cross country event. Later that year, while I was pledging a fraternity and very nearly failing out of school, he allowed me to report on women's softball. These were hardly the beats I’d envisioned covering in my fantasies, but it hardly mattered. By that point, all I was truly interested in was drinking beer and playing Madden until my thumbs were sore. I was hardly ready to cover Michigan football, basketball or hockey, and it showed. By my sophomore year, I wasn't covering anything at all.

My life took a number of twists and turns after that, but eventually I found my way back to sportswriting. Through this blog and my work as a book editor, I even became acquainted with a few guys working the Giants beat. To a man, they all told me not to envy them, stressing that the life of a newspaper beat reporter is a lonely, generally unstable existence. Still, while at the stadium on Sundays I'd often find myself looking over my left shoulder and up at the press box, wishing I was up there with them.

Last fall, opportunity knocked when the fledgling United Football League announced, much to my surprise, that it had scheduled a game at Giants Stadium. Though I'd never actually applied for a credential, I knew the Giants would never issue me one, as is their general policy with bloggers. But the UFL? Who was the UFL to deny anyone anything? So I sent a letter to the UFL's director of publicity on some phony letterhead I created in five minutes using MS Paint, requesting a media credential for the epic showdown between the New York Sentinels and the California Redwoods scheduled for the evening of Thursday, October 29th. A week or so later, after a friendly follow-up email, a credential was granted.

The game, I'd later learn, would be broadcast on Versus, announced by Dave Sims and Doug Flutie. Former NFL star Simeon Rice was suiting up for New York, as were a few other recognizable names including wide receiver Koren Robinson (the ninth overall pick in the 2001 NFL Draft) and quarterback Quinn Gray, formerly of the Jacksonville Jaguars. John David Washington, son of Denzel, would represent the Redwoods. It was to be a star-studded affair all around.

Because I do not own a car and at that time did not possess a valid driver's license (a story for another time), I took a New Jersey Transit train to Secaucus Junction, where I caught a shuttle bus bound for the Meadowlands. Though the bus had a sign bearing the words "Giants Stadium" taped to its windshield, I began to question whether or not I had boarded the right one after only six other passengers climbed on board. When, roughly thirty minutes later, the seven of us arrived at the stadium, the parking lot was essentially empty. Never before had I see it so deserted before a game, and we often arrive at Giants games five hours prior to kickoff. It was, for lack of a better word, eerie.

I made my way through the lot and to the press gate, where my credential was waiting for me. It allowed for both press box and locker room access, but not field. I rode the elevator up to the press level which, constructed in 1996, was the newest structure in Giants Stadium. After waving my credential at an indifferent member of stadium security I was welcomed to a better-than-decent catered buffet, which included dessert and as many cans of soda as I could drink. The spread included baked ziti, roasted chicken, scalloped potatoes and salad. The press box dining room, however, much like the bus and parking lot had been, was sparsely populated. I could have gone back for a tenth helping and nobody would have said a word. Heck, I probably could have taken a whole chafing dish over to my table.

The local sporting press, I can only assume, was more interested in covering the minor event being held 15 miles east that night at Yankee Stadium—Game 2 of the World Series. AJ Burnett was facing off against the Phillies’ Pedro Martinez. Because the Phillies had taken Game 1 in the Bronx behind a masterful, complete game pitching performance by Cliff Lee the night before, many felt that this was a “must win” game for the Yankees, and I guess “must win” World Series games attract more media attention than Thursday night UFL games do, even when they feature Simeon Rice. I know this because the Yankee game was being shown in the press box, and more reporters were watching the television than the game on the field. Who could blame them? The product on display was, to be kind, of dubious quality.

Looking out through the massive glass encasement of the press box, I quickly ascertained that the rest of the tri-state area was glued to their TV sets at home, because nobody was in the stands, either. I mean nobody. At the time, I tweeted that I estimated no more than 500 people were in the building, including the players, coaches, event staff and the assembled media. The league announced attendance of 10,318, which was ludicrous. I had seen more fans gathered in the old gym at Hofstra, where the defunct USBL's Long Island Surf used to play. I’m fairly certain I’ve also seen more people waiting on line for Shake Shack at CitiField, or climbing out of a car at the circus.

For what it was worth (and it wasn’t worth much to many), the Redwoods won the game, 20-13. Gray was awful, Rice and Robinson non-factors. I don't even think Washington played. For the Sentinels, it was their third loss in a winless inaugural season that would turn out to be their only season. Shortly after the six-game season ended they packed up, moved to Hartford, and renamed themselves the Colonials.

For the Redwoods, it was their second win in what for them would be a two-win season. Both wins came against the Sentinels.

For me, the game was immaterial, though. I spent the better part of the first half tinkering with a blog post that had nothing whatsoever to do with the game and everything to do with the death of Giants Stadium. Up in the press box, I took the opportunity to experience the stadium from a perspective I’d never been afforded, and which nobody would ever be afforded again after December. I wanted to see what I’d been missing all those years, and to live, for one fleeting moment, the life I’d once dreamed of. And after doing so, I left the stadium exhilarated.

Because I couldn’t risk missing the shuttle back to the city, I did not venture down to the locker room after the game. Instead I packed up my laptop, said goodbye to the kindly reporters I had met and exchanged business cards with, took one last look around, and headed out across the vast expanse of black asphalt towards the bus.

As is the custom, there was no cheering in the press box that night, though a few scribes delighted in the results of the baseball game, a 3-1 Yankee victory. Unfortunately for the UFL, there was also no cheering of any kind anywhere in the vicinity of Giants Stadium, either. This begged the question: If a pass falls incomplete, repeatedly, in an empty stadium, does it make a sound?

The answer, to the consternation of Versus, is no, but for me it’s had a reverberation. One year to the day later Giants Stadium is gone, the Sentinels are in Hartford, and the Yankees are watching the World Series on television (unless, of course, they’re Cablevision customers). But me, I’m writing this blog, writing two columns a week for, covering the team I love, and inching closer to that dream deferred.

Watch those elbows, Glauber.

Exclusive Interview with Author Bernard Corbett

Friday, October 15, 2010 |

I recently devoured, over the course of a few nights, the nearly 400 pages that make up The Most Memorable Games in Giants History, a new book by Jim Baker and Bernard Corbett. Employing an oral history format, the authors allow the players, coaches, executives, writers and broadcasters who helped make these games memorable to tell the stories in their own words. It's an informative and entertaining look at Giants history that belongs on the bookshelf of any dedicated Giants fan.

Corbett, perhaps best-known as the radio play-by-play voice of Harvard University football and Boston University hockey, recently took some time out to answer a few questions about the creation of the book and the manner in which he and his co-author arrived at their selections.

Here's the interview below, edited slightly for clarity and length:

*   *   *

MW:  Let's get the obvious question out of the way first. How does a died-in-the-wool Boston guy like you become a lifelong, die hard New York Giants fan? The book's dedication indicates that it has a lot to do with your father.

BC: Once upon a timein the late fifties when the NFL first became a Sunday afternoon American cultural staple—the Giants (pre AFL) were featured every week throughout New England, the Canadian maritimes, etc. My father and really everyone else that was a pro football fan in a place like Boston at the time was a Giants fan. The team maintained a strong following in New England /Massachusetts/Boston throughout the 1960’s through the AFL’s early days. The Patriots were very slow developing a following of their own. When I first started watching the NFL (circa 1967/Fran Tarkenton) I sat down on Sundays and watched the Giants religiously every week with my father, who stayed loyal to the Big Blue ‘til his passing in 1998. I’m 49 by the way.

MW: Two things impressed me most about this book. First and foremost is its breadth. The book covers games spread across 82 seasons and includes interviews with Giants players whose years of service span seven decades. That obviously took a great deal of research and a significant investment of your time. How did you go about gathering the necessary information on the memorable games that took place well before your time? What were the books that you found yourself continually referring to?

BC: I personally have a very deep collection of Giants-related books. I’m not saying I’ve got all of ‘em, but it’s close. Richard Whittingham’s very colorful history, which includes many entertaining sidebars and anecdotes about the team, was a primary source. For the 1946 story, Sports Illustrated's The Football Book was invaluable. Also, as has been the case through my entire career, there was no substitute for the microfilm department of the Boston Public Library, where I had access to countless newspaper accounts.

MW:  The second thing that really impressed me is how you got so many of the old players to talk to you. As someone who has attempted to secure interviews with some of the men featured in this book, I can personally attest to how difficult that can be. That in itself deserves kudos, but they also gave you such great material. Which were the interviews that really stood out for you as the most enjoyable and/or informative? And what was it like, as a fan, to interview some of your heroes?

BC: I have to say that reflecting back on some 125 interviews, 75 of which were with former Giants, there wasn’t one that I said, “oh my, what a waste of time.” Every interview had value. I credit that to the players, to the subjects in general and to my dedication to “doing the homework” and being prepared. The players know right away if they’re talking to somebody that has the knowledge, frame of reference, and passion for the subject. I take pride in developing all of the above before I set up the tape recorder.

There were so many that I enjoyed, but a couple standout by era: George Franck (1946 game, what a memory!); Pat Summerall (a broadcast idol, not just a football Giant); Doug Van Horn (What a great storyteller); Jim Burt (same as previous); Jeff Hostetler ( a real gentleman); Michael Strahan (he’s “Michael Strahan” 24/7) and Justin Tuck (incredible maturity for the youngest Giant, at 26 years old, interviewed for the book). That’s just off the top. I don’t want to slight anyone, as thankfully they all had their moments.

As a fan it was a dream come true, I won’t lie to you. I must admit the Summerall one really gave me goosebumps. I have been a play-by-play broadcaster for some 25 years (hockey/football/a little baseball) at the college level and truly idolize Pat. He was the “voice of the NFL” and so classy, succinct, understated–a true professional. While I interviewed him, I half expected him to do the disclaimer for “60 Minutes” being seen at its regular time except on the West Coast.

 MW: I applaud you for not including the so-called "Greatest Game Ever Played" and for including four losses in the book. It was astute of you to recognize that this franchise is defined just as much by its historic defeats as it is by its great victories, and all true Giants fans know that heartbreaking losses can linger in the memory just as long, if not longer, than exhilarating wins. We've covered that here before. I am also well aware that you couldn't include everything, or else run the risk of an 800-page book. That said, there appear to me to be some rather glaring omissions in the book that, if you don't mind, I feel compelled to ask you about.

While some are mentioned in passing, the book doesn't include significant coverage of any games from the 1986 or 2007 championship seasons other than the Super Bowls. That means no 4th & 17 in the Metrodome, no Mark Bavaro dragging Ronnie Lott 20 yards on Monday Night Football, no 1986 conference championship (17-0), no 2007 conference championship at frigid Lambeau. Those games are all, without question, among the most memorable of the past 25 years. Inexplicably, the book also includes zero games from the 1956 championship season and zero games played in the 10-year period between Jan. 1991 and Jan 2001.

That's not even to mention the following 3 epic losses, all occurring in the postseason:

1) The Trey Junkin Game
2) The Flipper Anderson Game
3) The Chris Calloway/Jake Reed Game

So, my question is, how can you devote 18 pages to a 1970 regular-season win over Washington and a 1966 blowout loss to that same Washington team in lieu of these games? What determined your criteria for inclusion?

BC: Time and space were serious constraints. There’s certainly enough material for a volume II. We felt it was impossible to not include the Super Bowls that ended 1986/2007. That also allowed us to reference the games that you list in the course of our interviews in order to provide the back story regarding how the Giants got to the promised land in those memorable seasons.

As far as 1956, the Giants overwhelmingly dominant performance in the title game (47-7) made it tough to include when faced with other choices from that era for that iconic group of players. Not including anything from 1991-2001 was once again a “numbers game”. It doesn’t mean that, say, the Dallas game from 1993 or the Chris Calloway/Jake Reed game (two more heartbreakers) weren’t memorable or deserving. We only had so much space to work with!

As far as including the 1970 game, that was a watershed year for the Giants, the “almost year" during the “wilderness years” (1967-81). The 6th straight win tied a team record. It also gave us an opportunity to reference the Tarkenton Era. The 1966 game? It still stands as the record of the most points scored by one team in an NFL regular season game (72) and established the scoring mark for the two teams combined (113). unbelievable stuff. It defined the ineptitude of the “wilderness years” in an epic fashion.

MW: What, in your opinion, is the #1 most memorable game in Giants history?

BC: I think you can make a strong case for several, but here’s two about a half a century apart:

The 1958 Summerall field goal game had it all. A “do-or die” scenario for the Giants, a legendary band of Big Blue brothers and Paul Brown’s Cleveland club with arguably the NFL’s greatest player. Throw in the snow covered field and blizzard-like conditions and you’ve got “frozen tundra” before “Frozen Tundra”.

And of course it’s tough to argue with Super Bowl 42. The New York Times headline said it all, “A Perfect Ending…For The Giants”.

MW: Do you think the 2010 Giants can compete for a division title? How about a Super Bowl?

BC: I felt at the beginning of the season that the Giants were a solid playoff/division contender—a team that should win 10 games, which should be enough to make the playoffs. Now about a third of the way along in 2010, the whole conference is up for grabs. If the Giants can continue to progress/find their identity/keep their health, who knows? This could be a special year. More material for volume II. 


Note: I recently began writing a biweekly column about the Giants for Check out my latest piece, a preview of Sunday's Giants/Lions game, here.

Giants Atrocious, Nephew Precocious

Monday, September 27, 2010 |

It would be very easy for me to go negative here, to dwell on what an absolute horrorshow the Giants loss to the Titans was. I could work myself into a lather over the eleven penalties the Giants committed, six of them of the fifteen-yard personal variety. I could waste 2,000 words fixating angrily on the two turnovers near the goal line, the generally atrocious run blocking, the missed field goal, the chop-block safety. I could use this space to blast the Giants for playing perhaps their most undisciplined game of the Tom Coughlin era one week after being humiliated on national television, for losing--rather decisively--a game in which they outgained their opponent by 200 yards, mostly because they couldn't keep their heads. It's a post that could almost write itself. 

But I am choosing, instead, to look past the Giants infuriating performance this afternoon and to keep things, at least for this week, in perspective. Because as frustrating as the game itself might have been for me, I got to spend it with my eight-year-old nephew, The Old Man, and my brother-in-law. I got to participate in a tri-generational Nerf toss in the parking lot and to eat a sleazy bacon cheeseburger I cooked myself. I got to tour the Giants Legacy Club before the game and to teach my nephew, an inquisitive, cheerful kid growing up a Giants fan in Redskins country, a little bit about Giants history. As an added bonus, I got to see one of my all-time favorite Giants in the flesh as we were walking into the stadium. I took it as a sign.

That isn't to say that I'm okay with what transpired down on the field today. I'm not, and no Giants fan should be. It also isn't any sort of indication that I'm mellowing, or that I won't blow a gasket next week if the Giants lay another egg on Sunday Night. All it means is that for one day the outcome of the football game, as disappointing as it was, was secondary to me to the gameday experience. 

Games will be won and games will be lost. Some weeks we will exit the stadium exhilirated and other weeks we will leave dejected. But I learned today that in the presence of the right company, there are no bad days at (New) Giants Stadium.  

Please, No Autographs

Sunday, September 12, 2010 |

If you were tuned in to the Giants victory over the Carolina Panthers on Fox Sunday afternoon, you no doubt noticed The Old Man's and my star turn near the end of the first half. On a day in which the Giants officially opened their new $1.7 billion home, Hakeem Nicks snagged three touchdown passes and four F-16s flew over the stadium during the national anthem, the capturing of our hirsute images by an astute Fox cameraman was clearly a highlight among highlights.

Now that The Old Man and I are bonafide TV stars, we both wanted to let you know that we are not letting this sudden yet obviously sustainable brush with fame go to our heads. While offers have been pouring in (I have been approached for endorsement by the good folks at Norelco and The Old Man by Cialis) and our phones are ringing off the hook, we've decided to politely decline these potentially lucrative flatteries as not to draw undue attention to ourselves on gameday.

If you happen to see us at the tailgate or on the concourse near section 133 in the coming weeks, feel free to say hello. Contrary to tabloid reports and The Old Man's outward demeanor, we do enjoy meeting and interacting with our fans whenever possible. But please, no photo and/or autograph requests. While your appreciation of our celebrated television work is encouraging, the demands on our time that such requests require prohibit us from attending to our true business at New Giants Stadium, namely the overconsumption of meat products and the berating of unwitting side judges at the tops of our lungs. We thank you for your understanding. 

For charitable inquiries, please submit your requests in writing by emailing and allow 6-8 weeks for a response. Unveils New Fantasy Game, Serves Delicious Sliders

Friday, August 27, 2010 |

I'm not quite sure why the folks at invited the media—me, specifically—to their fifth annual "Media Sales Fantasy Football Draft" Thursday night at the swanky Edison Ballroom here in Manhattan. There was nothing particularly newsworthy about the event, or interesting, really. It was, in effect, little more than a private party thrown for the league's media buyers (companies with distinctively 21st century names like Targetcast and Mediavest) in which they turned an otherwise ordinary 16-team fantasy football draft into an elaborate spectacle, complete with dazzling video presentations, unlimited beer and wine, and four different varieties of slider, including seared tuna.   

The event was emceed by Scott Hanson, the affable if somewhat irritating host of Redzone TV on the NFL Network, a channel my cable provider, Time Warner Cable, stubbornly refuses to carry. It also featured special appearances by former Jet great Curtis Martin and master thespian/Subway pitchman Michael Strahan, neither of whom was made available to the media. I couldn't get within ten feet of either of them.

It was the kind of event I imagine established media guys like Neil Best get invited to all the time but have the good sense not to attend, the kind of self-serving corporate circle-jerk the major professional sports leagues have mastered. I guess what the NFL wanted us to write about is their new fantasy football game, which unlike their well-entrenched competitors will offer exclusive, in-game video highlights this season. 

A kind NFL staffer labored through a personal demonstration of the new fantasy interface for me on the balcony overlooking the ballroom, where the media appeared to be sequestered, and I can't say I noticed anything particularly remarkable (or unremarkable) about it. It's a clean design which seems easy to navigate, but I think it's going to take a while before starts cutting into CBS Sportsline's and ESPN's sizeable market share in any significant way. The live video is a nice touch but it's probably not enough, especially considering how it's not yet available for mobile devices.

I guess the most interesting thing about the event was seeing just how serious the NFL has gotten about their investment in fantasy football after years of distancing itself from it over concerns about its connection to gambling. With an estimated 27.7 million Americans playing fantasy footballas many as play golfthere was just too much money on the table for them to pass up.'s fantasy game is free, but the advertisements that appear on its pages (and on NFL Network fantasy-oriented shows) certainly won't be. And now that the league is unapologetically partnering with state lotteries on scratch-off games, they certainly seem less concerned about associating their brand with gambling than they were in the past.

With $80-$100 billion dollars being illegally bet on NFL games every year, the NFL can't help but get in on the action. Who can blame them? More so than any other sport, spread betting has long been a big part of their game's appeal. The league would never explicitly endorse it as long as it remains illegal, of course (though they remain grateful for the television audience and advertising revenue it generates), but they'd be fools not to try to cash in on the public's gambling obsession in some other, more legitimate way.

As for last night, all I can say is that it did get me excited for the upcoming football season, which is now less than two weeks away. And it was also nice to get an early look at an active fantasy draft board, with my own draft coming up early next week. After a disastrous 2009 campaign I now hold the #3 and #26 (and #31) picks, and last night did give me some ideas for guys to target.

Too bad my draft will be held online, sans seared tuna sliders and celebrity cameos.

Here are the results of the Media Sales Draft's first round:

1. Chris Johnson, RB, TEN
2. Adrian Peterson, RB, MIN
3. Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, JAX
4. Ray Rice, RB, BAL
5. Drew Brees, QB, NO
6. Frank Gore, RB, SF
7. Aaron Rodgers, QB, GB
8. Andre Johnson, WR, HOU
9. Peyton Manning, QB, IND
10. Tom Brady, QB, NE
11. Michael Turner, RB, ATL
12. Randy Moss, WR, NE
13. Brandon Marshall, WR, MIA
14. Calvin Johnson, WR, DET
15. Miles Austin, WR, DAL
16. Rashard Mendenhall, RB, PIT

The View from Our New Seats

Monday, August 23, 2010 |

This photo confirms that our seats do, in fact, exist.

As you can see, section 133, Row 4 is remarkably close to the field. This shitty camera phone shot is not zoomed.

Do I need to change my masthead now? In my heart, I'll be sitting in Section 127 of the old stadium forever.

Are We Winning? That Depends On Who You Mean By "We".

Tuesday, May 18, 2010 |

Are We Winning?, Will Leitch's endearing homage to baseball, his father and the St. Louis Cardinals (in that order), is a breezy, surprisingly snark-free read that avoids, somewhat miraculously, veering too far off into sentimentality. I have to say that I enjoyed it about as much as I can enjoy a book about a team I once loathed and which doesn't have a table of contents. 

While the book does get awfully personal, the Cardinals and Leitch's dad could reasonably serve as stand-ins for any team and father. There's a commonality that runs across fanbases and the father-son dynamic that Leitch is able to successfully tap into, affording his work a broader perspective. It's easy to see yourself in his experience, even if you don't own seven Rick Ankiel jerseys, and for that reason Are We Winning? makes for an outstanding Fathers Day gift for the baseball loving dad with a basic understanding of Sabermetrics.

That is not to say the book isn't without its faults. Disappointingly for this book editor, it contains more errors than the average Little League game. The majority of these errors are minor, however, and none of them lead to disaster. Like a crafty pitcher, Leitch manages to limit the damage and save himself from the "big inning" with writing that's equivalent to a strikeout and a ground ball double play. It gets the job done with remarkable efficiency, humor, insight and, perhaps most of all, genuine sincerity. But the errors are there. Dozens of them.

I also could have done without the scorebook chapter, which I found unnecessary and indulgent the way it was presented, and there were some instances of offputting repetition as well. But the few missteps Leitch takes throughout the book are more than made up for by his Steve Bartman and Brooklyn rooftop chapters, both of which are excellent, heartfelt, and the best indications of Leitch's unique talents as a writer and storyteller. If overall the book isn't as much of a home run as it is a hard-hit double in the gap, I concede that I might have gotten more out of it if I had Midwestern roots and cared deeply for Leitch's Redbirds. But I got plenty out of it regardless, far more than I got out of his previous book, which I found far less amusing than it seemed to find itself.

If I have one major criticism of the book, it's the goofy logic that went into the creation of the following paragraph:
Football is once a week. You can pay little to no attention to football, and it's still always there for you on Sundays and Monday nights. It requires no effort, no investment, no obsession. Anyone can sound like they know football, and anyone can appreciate its violence. But it asks little of you. You can like football, a lot, and no one will really notice. It does not require you to love it. It does not require much at all. There are people who love football, who obsess over it, who follow it the way millions of others follow baseball. They are the minority. Football does not breed diehards.
I guess if my hometown football team split for the desert when I was 12 years old, not to be replaced until I had left that town and was away at college, I might have similar feelings about NFL allegiances. But Leitch's argument that football's once-a-week schedule requires less of a commitment from its fans is, to be polite, ludicrous. 

Sure, baseball teams play 6 or 7 games a week, every week of a six-month season. Following a team requires a daily commitment. But if a baseball team suffers a soul-crushing loss on a Friday night, the team and its fanbase is afforded an immediate shot at redemption the following afternoon. There's therefore little time to dwell excessively on losses, no matter how heartbreaking, because there are games to play, and games require focus. Plus, there are 162 of them. While they each count equally in the standings, it is not reasonable to expect even the most diehard baseball fan to devote the same level of intensity to each contest. Instead, baseball fans tend to yield to the natural ebb and flow of the season, ratcheting up the intensity for key series and, in the event of a pennant race, the stretch run.

But football fans? In football, the 16-game schedule dictates that each and every contest is of the utmost importance. Football fans live and die with every snap, knowing that one big play or catastrophic injury can and often does turn a season. The gameday experience is defined by its relentless intensity. And after a game, once the intensity ostensibly subsides, fans then have six days to analyze what happened from every conceivable angle, to second guess the coaches, to crucify the player who missed the key block or who blew his coverage assignment. We've got six days to read the beat reporters, the shit-stirring columnists, the knee-jerk bloggers and message board posters, to listen to the TV and radio pundits spit their unique brand of venom. It's enough to drive a fan mad. 

Perhaps I'm in "the minority," but I do this after every game. The coverage is endless, and I read everything. I read reporters and columnists from papers I'd never otherwise have occasion to peruse (The Journal News? The Star Ledger?) just to see if they caught something the other beat guys missed. I read hundreds of blog and message board posts. Hell, I even subscribe to The Giants Insider, a weekly tabloid of dubious quality, because there simply isn't enough information about the New York Giants out there to satisfy me before the next game.

And that, I'd argue, requires more of an investment, more of an effort than being a baseball fan does (and I am a baseball fan). It requires more because it forces us to study, to be informed in advance of the next contest. It requires more because the individual games mean more, and because the games take more out of us. A bad Giants loss can take me several days to recover from. A season-ending loss can take months. Years, even. As a season ticket holder who gladly braves rain, snow, and single-digit wind chills (do baseball fans do that?), I think it's safe to say I'm committed (or should be committed). If Mr. Leitch disagrees, I invite him to plead his case at our next five-hour tailgate, provided he doesn't mention Yadier Molina.

He can even bring his dad.

The Monstrous Crying of the Wind

Tuesday, May 4, 2010 |

My precious daughter, Ruby, will be 10 weeks old on Thursday. She can't speak, or crawl, or even hold her head up on her own yet, but like her daddy she's already a huge Giants and Mets fan.

For evidence, just take a look in her dresser drawers, where various Giants and Mets onesies, t-shirts, hats, bibs, pairs of socks and the hoodie she's unhappily modeling in the picture to the right* can all be found. That's a lot of gear for a 10-week-old. Ruby's even got a book about the Mets that she's infrequently attentive enough to sit through, and in efforts to calm her or to put her to sleep I've sung the first verse of "Meet the Mets" to her several hundred times. What can I say? It's a catchy tune.

The Old Man and I have already successfully indoctrinated her 8-year-old cousin into our little cult of Giants fandom--no small feat when you consider that he's growing up with a Pats-fan father in the heart of Redskins country--and in doing so I learned, as any worthwhile cult leader will tell you, that the key to indoctrination is that you've got to get to them young. So with so much at stake here, I've wasted no time with Ruby. At this rate she'll be screaming at television screens by the All-Star break, breaking down film come winter.

But Jason Fry's recent post to the always outstanding Faith and Fear in Flushing about his 7-year-old son's discovery of his first sports nemesis and the the larger issue of inviting young children to "stick their innocent fingers into emotional light sockets over and over again", got me thinking. Is it fair of me to foist my insane sports allegiances on my daughter before she's able to determine on her own whether or not the Giants or Mets (or both or neither) are worth such a significant investment of her time and emotional energy? By willfully exposing her to the heartbreaks and anxieties inherent in devoted fandom--by subjecting her to the wild rollercoaster rides that make up seasons--am I setting her up for a life of torment? Moreover, am I being an irresponsible parent? 

On one hand, sports are something she and I can share together, even when we can't come together on much else. The games present an opportunity for some invaluable father-daughter (and grandfather-daughter) bonding. But on the other, more extreme hand, encouraging her to give her heart to the Giants and Mets is tantamount to child abuse, or at least child endangerment. And if that seems like too harsh an assessment to you, think again. I know these teams.

If Fry's blogmate, Greg Prince, loves the Mets because he loves the Mets, then the same can be said of me and my Giants. I love the Giants because I love the Giants, but it would be disingenuous of me if I didn't also say that I love the Giants (and Mets) because of my Old Man. Like little Ruby, I, too, was born into bluenacy. Indoctrinated, if you will. While I concede that I have, through my own unique mania, taken that bluenacy to another, more obsessive level, I can't even remember a time when I wasn't a Giants fan. The Giants, like freckles and, later, eyeglasses, have always been a part of my identity. I never had a choice, really, until it was too late. The Old Man got to me when I was young.

He, however, did have a choice. Inspired as a 12-year-old by the heroics of the Giants 1956 championship team he made a conscious choice, two years later, to venture by subway from his home in the Bronx near the South end of Van Cortlandt Park to Yankee Stadium, where after showing his G.O. Card and paying fifty cents he was admitted (along with 63,191 others) to the Giants' December 14th game versus the Cleveland Browns. It was his very first (Football) Giants game, and an important one. The boys in blue needed a win that cold, snowy day to tie Cleveland atop the standings of the NFL's Eastern Division and to force a playoff. After yielding a 65-yard touchdown run to a 22-year-old Jim Brown on Cleveland's first play from scrimmage and missing two field goals (one from just 32 yards), the Giants scored 10 points in the fourth quarter, including a miraculous 49-yard Pat Summerall field goal through swirling snow with just under two minutes remaining to win the game, 13-10.  

It was an historic victory. 48 years later, it was ranked the 49th greatest day in New York sports history in a book by Stuart Miller, #3 among days concerning the Giants (behind only the '56 title game and the "Sneakers Game" of 1934). One week later the Giants shut out those same Browns (10-0) to take the Eastern Division crown, setting up their now legendary championship showdown with Johnny Unitas and the Baltimore Colts in the contest commonly referred to by sportswriters and fans as The Greatest Game Ever Played. Needless to say, my 14-year-old Old Man was hooked. For good. Six years later, after the Giants made their sixth championship game appearance in eight years, he purchased four season tickets that he has yet, to this day, to relinquish.

How quickly it all fell apart. Despite losing 5 of those 6 championship games, the Giants team that captured the Old Man's imagination played a decidedly winning brand of football. They boasted superstars on both sides of the ball--future Hall of Fame names like Gifford, Robustelli, Tittle, Tunnell, Brown and Huff--players who became, in turn, the darlings of Madison Avenue. But in 1964, the Old Man's first year as a season ticket holder, the Giants finished 2-10-2.  By 1966, the year the Giants posted their worst-ever record (1-12-1), every single one of those Hall of Fame players was gone. It would not get better for quite some time.

To his credit, or as a sign of his penchant for masochism, the Old Man stuck with them. And in the second decade of what is now referred to as the Giants' "Wilderness Years," 1975, I was born. A year later came Giants Stadium. And in the Fall of 1981--Lawrence Taylor's first NFL season--the Old Man started taking me to the games. That season, after seventeen consecutive years without a postseason appearance, the Giants finally made the playoffs. I guess you could say I was a good luck charm. I know the Old Man thought I was. What's more, in me he finally had someone with whom he could share his misery (and trivia), someone to inherit his increasingly heavy burden. I was the one who could, at long last, validate his fandom, who could prove that he didn't endure seventeen years of lousy football for nothing.

I don't remember much about the first game he took me to. I don't know if the Giants won or lost, or even who the opponent was. What I do remember, though, is being awed by the spectacle of professional football, by the intensity of the experience. I also remember The Old Man telling me to "watch number 56" but not being able to peel my eyes off of number 53. But whether or not I knew or understood it at the time, that afternoon I was invited into the club of long-suffering Giants fans, an invitation I readily accepted without hesitation. Just like that I was a Giants fan for life. And though my resolve has been tested several times over the years that followed (most notably during The Dave Brown era), I can't say that I've ever seriously regretted my decision. Still, it was not an informed decision.

When I made that fateful decision to pledge my lifelong loyalty to the New York Giants, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. None whatsoever. How could I have? I was just a seven-year-old kid. What did I know about pain and loss? What did I know about disappointment? Even if the Old Man had warned me (which, wisely, he didn't), how could I have possibly known that being a die hard fan would bring with it stress and despair with far greater frequency than it would exultant triumph and joy? To paraphrase Yeats, what need did I have to dread the monstrous crying of the wind?

Now that I know better, it's far too late. I've reached the point of no return, and will never get out of this alive. But little Ruby still has a fighting chance. Maybe. If she's strong, she may be able to resist the allure of the game, to deny the attraction of its beguiling spectacle. Maybe I'll figure out a way to explain to her what it is she's signing up for in terms a child can understand, offering up an early lesson in risk and reward. Or perhaps she'll be blessed with the gift of perspective, an ability to differentiate between a game played on an artificial field by a bunch of athletic strangers and, well, real fucking life.

Doubtful. Chances are that from the first tailgate she'll embrace it without thinking, just like I did. Then I'll embrace her, knowing that our season tickets will be in good hands for at least one more generation, uneasily resigned to accept the truth that bluenacy runs in our veins.

I apologize in advance, sweetheart. I know you didn't ask for this. One day, perhaps after a Super Bowl, you'll find it in your heart to forgive me.


* Ruby made that face after learning, on Sunday night, that both Gary Matthews, Jr. and Fernando Tatis were in the Mets starting lineup.

Welcome to (New) Giants Stadium, Where Your Seats May or May Not Exist

Tuesday, April 27, 2010 |

The Old Man and I got our first up-close look at the Giants' swanky new 1.7 billion dollar digs on Saturday morning. Despite being denied the pleasure of a rare offseason tailgate, we were both very much looking forward to sitting down in the seats we just plunked down twenty grand for* and taking in the scene from a vantage-point that will hopefully become as familiar to us as the view from row 6 of section 127 had been at the old building.

After negotiating the parking lot with surprising ease, we entered the unnamed stadium at the Pepsi Gate and, after a brief detour at midfield, made our way to our new home in section 133. The seats we had been assigned were supposedly comparable to those we had inhabited at Giants Stadium, only two rows closer to the field. Row 6 at Giants Stadium had been close enough for visiting players and officials to hear our infrequently creative shouts of derision ("Hey Dexter, read this!") and for me to once nearly catch an errant punt during pregame warm-ups, but row 4? Row 4 is close enough to hear the snap count. Row 4 is close enough to chat-up the side judge, if one were so inclined.

Emerging from the tunnel, I made a beeline for row 4. But when I got to the bottom of the section and checked the number of the first row, it read "5." Rows 1-4 were, inexplicably, nowhere to be found. 

What an absolutely deflating moment. We felt like the Griswold's at the gates of Walley World. Sorry, folks. Park's closed. Moose out front shoulda told ya. After expressing our disbelief, we located a member of the stadium's guest services staff, an amiable, curly-haired fellow who assured us that the seats did, in fact, exist yet for some reason weren't installed. Because the stadium had been built to accommodate various configurations for a multitude of events, he explained, a large number of the seats ringing the field in the lower bowl were removable. Those included rows 1-4 of section 133, the seats the Old Man had just driven an hour and a half to sit in.

Needless to say this didn't sit well with us. So we sought out a higher-level staff member stationed on the concourse behind section 146 to whom we could voice our displeasure and, we hoped, get some real answers from. The staff member was found but the answers, unfortunately, were not. Instead, the staff member (who, to her credit, was very nice despite being quite obviously overwhelmed) took the Old Man's name, number and email address and told us to expect a call sometime this week. As of this writing, no such call has come.

Beyond the disappointment of not being able to view our seats at an event billed as a "seat viewing" (or even being able to confirm that they exist) I have to admit that I was also underwhelmed by the new facility in general. I am aware that we're still 4 months from the first preseason game and that efforts will be made in the interim to spruce-up and beautify the place, but right now it's a whole lot of drab concrete, a whole lot of gray. And with the upstart co-tenant going halfsies on the project and demanding if not deserving equal footing within, I don't see how that's going to change in any significant way. Other than the Coach's Club, which we saw for the first and last time on Saturday, the place has a very industrial feel. Cold and austere. Decidedly corporate.

The gigantic video boards in each corner are cool, I guess, if gigantic video boards are your sort of thing. And the view that best approximates the one we will supposedly have from our non-existent row is pretty awesome, too. The seats themselves are more comfortable and offer more leg room than the seats in the old building, as well, and there appear to be more and larger bathrooms in addition to significantly wider concourses. I'm not trying to be negative, really. I'm sure, in time, the new joint will grow on me, just like New Shea has. It's just hard for me to embrace the place right now, not just because I have nowhere to sit inside of it, but also because the old building is literally standing on its last legs a stone's throw away.

That, besides learning that our seats might not exist, was my main problem with the seat-viewing. From the moment we pulled off of Route 3, my eyes and attention kept veering towards the demolition across the parking lot. Looking at it from certain angles, Giants Stadium--my old treehouse--reminded me of the Roman Colosseum, a modern ruin. I took a total of 19 photos in the hour and change that we were there, and 9 of them were of the demolition. Check them out here, if you can stomach it.

The only similarity between the old building and the new building, from what I can tell, is that our seats didn't exist in either on Saturday. I can still buy a pair from the old building for $499 if I want, though. In the new building, $499 will buy a round of beers. Maybe a pretzel.

The Giants must be under the impression that the fans, like the lower stands, are removable, reconfigurable. In other words, replaceable. Even 46-year season ticket holders like The Old Man. And, sadly, they're probably right. But that doesn't mean we're not owed an explanation and an apology. Considering our investment, in both dollars and years (not to mention emotional energy), that's the least they can do.

Not content to take the moose out front's word for it, we anxiously await their call.


* We meaning he.

4/28 UPDATE: I guess the squeaky wheel really does get the grease. The Old Man received a call this afternoon from one Kevin Frattura, Vice President of Sales for Giants Stadium, LLC. Mr. Frattura explained to the Old Man that our seats do, in fact, exist, and that they had been removed to accommodate a configuration for soccer. He mentioned that he was calling at the urging of Giants VP of Communication Pat Hanlon, who had been made aware of this post. Thanks, Pat.

The One That Got Away

Friday, April 16, 2010 |

"She knows there's no success like failure,
And that failure's no success at all."

-- Bob Dylan, "Love Minus Zero/No Limit"

Book editors, like placekickers and relief pitchers, need to have short memories or else risk certain madness. Like layoffs and papercuts, the tendency to dwell on one's failures is an occupational hazard for those in my profession, and over the years it has shortened the careers of far better editors than myself.

Books, if granted the power, can haunt an editor. They can shadow one's movements, cloud one's judgment. And not just the failures (or even the successes), but the ones that get away, too. The ones we lose at auction or those which, whether through our own miscalculations or due to circumstances beyond our control, manage to slip through our desirous fingers.

The ones that get away are, for some, the hardest to move past. I know they are for me. It's easy to brush off the disappointing sales of a book you had high hopes for by blaming its performance on breakdowns in the sales, marketing and/or publicity departments. I'm a pro at that. It's also easy to write-off a bestseller as a stroke of luck, fortuitous timing, or the result of a major media booking. All of those things are external, and have little to do with the work you, as the acquiring editor, invested in a book's development and subsequent birth into the world of letters. I have to continually remind myself that there's only so much an editor can do, because we do plenty, including cheerleading.

I'm no stranger to ones that get away, either, professionally or personally. There have been girls, sure. Jobs. Opportunities creative and otherwise, all blown. Somehow or another they've all gotten away from me, eluded my flailing grasp. And those are just the ones I was alert enough to recognize.

I got into this business thinking that it would lead me, through the relationships I'd forge, to a book (or many books) of my own. I had been inspired by masterworks like Frederick Exley's A Fan's Notes and Roger Kahn's The Boys of Summer--non-traditional sports books of true literary merit--so I set out in my early days in the business to find the next Exley, the next Kahn, while working on my own would-be masterpiece in my spare time. Only it never happened.

Instead, like many editors before me, I am left today with a half of a novel and some vague notes tucked away in a drawer I never open. The unfinished novel centered around a neurotic Jewish writer living in New York City (quite a stretch, I know) whose best friend, nicknamed "The Duke," had distinguished himself by playing three replacement games for the narrator's beloved New York Giants as a weakside linebacker and special teams wedge-buster during the strike-shortened 1987 season. The overcomplicated plot dictated the employment of a novel-within-a-novel technique that I had neither the faculty nor the patience to get right, and as a result the book sputtered to a stop after about 150 exasperated pages.

Once, I summoned the courage to share those pages with a more senior editor at my first book publishing job, a lovely dark-haired woman whose opinion I respected and who, not so coincidentally, I secretly desired. She responded by telling me that what I had written was "picaresque", a comment which sent me scrambling for a dictionary. I'm still not sure whether she meant the remark as a compliment or an indictment of my amateurishness, but it hardly matters now.

The attempt at the novel came after I made, in my late teens and early-to-mid twenties, what I believed was a wholehearted effort to become a poet in full. For my efforts I was twice rejected by The University of Michigan's subconcentration program in creative writing, rejections I mistook, naively, as poetic themselves. I produced hundreds of pages of energetic, mostly indecipherable poetry in those years. They included some interesting language and image experiments I guess, but on the whole the poems lacked substance. Mostly I was just aping my heroes, and not particularly well. The poems were, in retrospect, like a fireworks show after a baseball game, except the baseball game got rained out. Still, that didn't stop me from submitting them to hundreds of literary magazines, submissions which resulted in a deluge of rejections dotted by occasional, uplifting placements in unmentionable, ephemeral publications more often than not bound by side-saddle staplers. One such publication, if memory serves, was called Meat Whistle Quarterly. My first published poem, released in a green-papered broadside by the folks at Poetry Motel in Duluth, focused its attention on ejaculate. How proud my mother was.

I also made a run at writing a screenplay. Three drafts, each one worse than the last. Eventually, my frustration with it extended beyond my capacity for revision. So one night, under the influence of cheap bourbon, I rode the R train all the way out to Coney Island and threw the motherfucker in the ocean. At the time I thought it, too, was a poetic gesture, until the discovery several years later of a floppy disk (remember them?) containing all three drafts, plus notes, which I haven't since had the stomach to discard. I keep it in the same drawer as my half-novel.

Then there was the music, which represents another post for another time. I can't go there now.

Those personal creative failures have led me--not without some resistance--to my current position, where they hover over my cubicle like Eliot's women "talking of Michelangelo". As an editor, I've spent the past 10 years giving rise to others' voices, hiding (not always expertly) behind them, a would-be Cyrano of sportswriting. I've had my share of successes and more than my share of failures along the way. I've worked with writers whose work was possessed of great craft yet lacked heart, and I've worked with writers whose work had heart in spades yet lacked essential elements of craft. Once or twice I was lucky enough to work with a writer who had it all, but I've also had to re-write more books than I'd care to admit.

Through acquiring and editing something in the neighborhood of 200 books on sports I've managed, however, to carve out a nice little niche for myself in the publishing world. See, I'm the editor who, when you call up to pitch a book about, say, the American Football League or the training of champion prizefighters, has an informed opinion on those subjects. I'm the editor who often knows more about these subjects than the agent calling to pitch me does. Sadly, this makes me a rare species among my peers, yet it has won me more books over the course of my career than I've lost over such petty concerns as money.

One of those books was a delightful volume entitled Mets by the Numbers. Sometime in the Summer of 2007 I was sitting in field level box seats at Shea Stadium with the authors of that book when one of them, the knowledgeable and talented Jon Springer, asked me if I was familiar with a blog called Cardboard Gods. I wasn't.

"It's written by a guy named Josh Wilker," Jon said. "He's incredible. I read a few recent posts, and they were so good I went back to the beginning and read them all."

That night, when I got home, I did the same thing. It took me hours, but no more than five minutes passed before I realized that in Josh Wilker I had finally found my Exley (earlier, I had found my Kahn by working with the actual Kahn). For the first time since I'd read A Fan's Notes all those years earlier, I encountered a voice that seemed to speak to me directly. I bookmarked the site and made it a daily must-read. I recommended it to everyone I knew, sports fans and non-sports fans alike, creating a micro-legion of devoted acolytes in the process.

My identification with Wilker's voice, like Exley's, is curious, as on the surface he and I have little in common beyond our shared love of baseball and the baseball cards of our respective youths. To begin, he's got nearly a decade on me. We were also raised in drastically different environments, under rather different circumstances. One of the happiest moments of my youth is the coin's flipside to one of his most deflating. The dissimilarities only become more pronounced from there.

Despite these differences, there was just something to Wilker's voice that I couldn't shake. Perhaps it's because the voice is so personal, so openly vulnerable and honest. Perhaps it was because Wilker had found a way to write about sports without really writing about sports at all. But perhaps, unconsciously, I related to his voice because I, too, knew what it felt like to never quite fit in. I, too, had known failure.

Whatever the reason, I checked the site every day, the posts unraveling like small miracles before me, sustaining me, and I always felt disappointed on the rare days when a new entry failed to appear. 

About a year later, in March of 2008, I contacted Wilker after reading about "the bloodsucking nature of every single editor and agent in the universe" in a post he'd written about Gene Pentz of the Houston Astros. Sensing an opening, I expressed in a cordial email my admiration for his writing and my interest in turning Cardboard Gods into a book. He responded within hours, and with that, the courtship was underway. While it was far from my first rodeo, it wasn't his either. He had, I surmised, been burned by editors and agents before, so I treaded with caution. But it was hard to mask my enthusiasm for the project.

A short proposal soon followed which I shared with my publisher, a non-baseball fan. It proved, not-so surprisingly, a tough sell for him.

It's a book about baseball cards? 
Yes and no. More like a memoir. 
About baseball cards?
Not exactly. The cards are only a part of it.
Hmmn. Has he published a book before?
10 books for young readers. This one is nothing like those.
How did they sell?
Not well. Did you read the proposal?
No. Can you print it out for me again?
Will you do me a favor? Just read this one post I've printed out.
Sure. But who's Bob Colluccio?

Never in my editorial career--not before or since--had I desired an acquisition more. Books for which I'd offered six-figure advances paled in comparison. My biggest successes--bestsellers, critical raves--all fell away from my memory. I was convinced Cardboard Gods was the book that would define my career. At long last I'd have discovered a unique talent and helped nurture his inimitable voice into the world. It would be as close as I'd ever get to knowing greatness. Little did I know that I was tilting at windmills.

A few weeks later, in a nondescript Thai restaurant on ninth avenue, I made the critical mistake of mentioning my fondness for Cardboard Gods to an ambitious young literary agent. I'm not sure why I did it. Maybe I was self-sabotaging. Maybe I was thinking she wouldn't remember. But the most likely explanation is that I wasn't thinking at all. Wilker retained the young agent's services not long after that, and a new, revised proposal soon circulated. I didn't even read it. Instead, I went to my publisher and made my plea, emerging from his office with a modest offer which I shared with the agent at the end of a far-too-dramatic email.

The story gets more complicated from there, but by this point I am sure you can ascertain how it ended. In short, I did not acquire the book. It would be ungentlemanly of me to say why, exactly, so I won't. Instead I'll just say that I came very close, and that the determining factor was beyond my control. I don't harbor any ill will against the author or his agent, who was gracious enough to send me a review copy a few months back. I'm happy for Josh that he was able to secure, through his agent, a better deal elsewhere, because he deserves it. I'm also happy for the folks at Seven Footer Press, who had the prescience to realize what an absolute gem had fallen into their laps. I wish them all the best of luck. But that doesn't take away the sting of this "one that got away", because its getting away was entirely my fault. I have nobody to blame but myself. Again.

The book, of course, is extraordinary. It's even better than I expected it to be, and I expected a whole hell of a lot. I recommend it without qualification to anyone who enjoys great writing, regardless of one's opinion of baseball (or baseball cards). It's the kind of book that serves to reaffirm the form, that reminds you that books still have the power to move people in profound ways. It certainly moved me. More than that, it's caused me to reevaluate my entire adult life.

No small feat, Josh. I only wish that I could fail as beautifully as you have.

Bluenatic Exclusive: Tailgating Prohibited at Giants PSL-Holder Open House

Wednesday, March 31, 2010 |

Those of you fellow Bluenatics who might have been planning to make a day out of the forthcoming seat-viewing/open house at the still unnamed new Giants Stadium by partaking in a rare offseason tailgate will no doubt be disappointed to learn that your attempts at grilling glory will be thwarted.

I called Giants Stadium LLC yesterday afternoon to ask about tailgating at the event and was told by the nice fellow who took my call that I was the first person to make this inquiry. "That's a good question," the fellow said. He then told me that a superior would need to be consulted before an answer could be provided. So I gave the guy my name and cell number and 20 minutes later he called back to let me in on the disappointing news. Sorry, Giants fans, but no tailgating will be permitted in the lots before, during or after the open houses scheduled for April 24th and 25th. Rats.

It's a good thing I called, I guess. If I really was the first to formally inquire about the Giants tailgating policy for this event, then I can only assume that many fans are operating under the reasonable assumption that tailgating will be allowed and that they'll show up with their grills and coolers and beat-up camping chairs ready to get down, easy like Sunday morning.

The Giants, I'm sad to report, seem ill-prepared for this eventuality. Their decision to prohibit tailgating also leads me to believe that they're lacking the kind of intuition that would help them better understand and serve their fanbase, which co-owner and team president John Mara recently referred to as “the most loyal in all of sports."

That kind of loyalty is a great benefit to Mara and the Giants, because a less loyal, less patient fanbase might take issue with having to wait until two weeks after their new facility hosts its first event (a college lacrosse game between Hofstra and Delaware, of all things) before getting an in-person look at the seats they just shelled out tens of thousands of dollars for the right to purchase. Seats that will cost significantly more than the ones they just vacated.

The Giants shouldn't take that kind of loyalty for granted, either. After all, it was only last week that they finally announced that they'd sold all of the non-club level PSLs in the new building. This obviously took them longer than they'd anticipated, their fans being so loyal. And all they had to do was run through the entirety of their legendary waiting list to sell them. 133,000-plus names, according to some reports.

But even the most loyal of fans want to be treated like the team they've invested their hearts and savings in is attuned to their needs. And while it's true that tailgates don't help win football games and that, it can be reasonably argued, they decrease concessions and therefore hurt the team's bottom line, they have become such a vital component of the gameday experience that in some ways they've surpassed the game itself. Because it's at the tailgate where friends and family members gather to renew and enliven their relationships. It's at the tailgate where we schmooze over grilled meats, cold beers and thrown footballs to re-connect in a way we never could inside a roaring stadium, over a telephone or in our homes at holiday time amidst a million distractions. The tailgate, friends, is our escape. It's a stress-free, drama-free zone. The tailgate offers us a chance to collectively exhale, if only for a few hours.

When the team announced about two weeks ago that they’d be holding this exclusive seat-viewing/open house for their PSL holders on April 24th & 25th, I got excited. Sure, I’ve had my reservations about the new facility, but after seeing video of the demolition of my “old treehouse” and terrific images of my shiny new one, I began to prepare myself, mentally and emotionally, for the transition. And when my old friend Mosty suggested a tailgate, I took it as a stroke of pure inspiration. After all, what better way to embrace our new beginning at the Meadowlands than through the ritual of the tailgate? What better way to honor the legacy of the old building (most of which remains standing) that held so many great memories than by grilling one last rack of succulent ribs in its still formidable shadow?

And what would it take, really, for the Giants to grant us that wish? A few extra security guards? A permit of some sort? Some maintenance people? A bunch of porta-potties? Is that so much to ask?

Those of you who've visited this blog regularly since its inception more than 3 years ago or who know me personally are aware of the lengths I am usually willing to go to defend the Giants organization. I offer no apologies about being a homer and I never pretend to be an objective observer of happenings in the Giants universe. If anything, this blog has existed simply as a means for me to express my fawning adulation for my childhood heroes and their blue-jerseyed brethren. So when the Giants disappoint me on the field, I can accept it. That's part of the unwritten fan contract we all sign before we're wise enough to know better. We agree to accept X amount of heartbreak in return for the promise of an ultimate measure of redemption, though both parties acknowledge that restrictions apply. In that regard, Giants fans of my vintage have been most fortunate.

But when the Giants disappoint me like this it's different, though I fully concede that I'm probably overreacting. In the grand scheme of things, one tailgate doesn't mean all that much. Still, this decision by the Giants brass seems short-sighted at best, dunderheaded at worst. The good thing is they've got 25 days to make it right, to recognize that this is not a time to be saying "no" to their loyal fans. 2010 offers us all a chance for a fresh new beginning, so I implore the Giants to reconsider and greenlight the grilling.

Can I interest you in some bacon-wrapped shrimp, Mr. Mara? The secret of the tailgate is that they taste like victory loyalty.

4/1 Update - Giants VP of Communications Pat Hanlon responds via Twitter: "Bluenatic, once we're in the bldg and Giants Stadium is down, parking lots are up, etc, you can grill til heart's content...thanks"