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Berger’s Burg: Youthful love of Giants now fully in bloom

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But I was ecstatic when they finally found a permanent home at Giants Stadium.

And my training camps journeys? Don't ask! Each and every summer, I would hit the road to such places as St. Michael's College in Winooski, Vermont, (1959-60); Fairfield University, Connecticut, (1961-69); C.W. Post (1970-71); Monmouth College in New Jersey, (1970-71); back to Fairfield University (1974); Pace University (1975-87); Farleigh Dickinson University (1988-95); and Albany State University (1996- Present). Now you know the blood flowing through my veins is pure and concentrated Giants' Blue.

Before I consented to marry Gloria, who was a non-football fan at the time, I advised her that she first had to pass an intensive quiz about the Giants. She had to name by memory, each and every active player, their numbers, their positions, the Giants' record for the past and present seasons, and other sundry but vital statistics about the team. After all, how could I marry a girl who does not know such fundamental information?

Gloria at first struggled with the profusion of material I threw at her, but she proved to be a quick study and she passed my finals with an A-minus.

Our marriage took place in 1963. That year, the Giants had a championship-caliber team, which included such stellar players as Frank Gifford, Y.A. Tittle, and Sam Huff. They were the class of the League (although by quirk of misfortune, they lost the championship game for which I have never since recovered).

Following Gloria's entry into my Giants' club, I hit her with my one unbreakable rule that she positively and absolutely had to faithfully observe always: NEVER, EVER, schedule a social activity (or any other event) on a Giants Football Sunday. The games take preference over everything else.

But, wouldn't you know? Just a few weeks after our marriage, on one of the biggest games of the year, the Cleveland Browns and their great running back, Jimmy Brown, were coming to town. Gloria accepted an invitation to her best friend's wedding and that included me. "That's all right," I told her, with my jutting jaw protruding defiantly. "We are not going. They can get married without us." I stood tall and I stood firm.

You know, to this very day, I regret not seeing the mighty Jim Brown on that afternoon.

She then agreed to accompany my brother, Milt, and me to future Giants games. With the arrival of our two sons, who both became Giants fanatics, Gloria eventually saw the light. She knew that she either had to join us or forever sit alone on Sundays during the football season. She did join the fold and has looked forward to football seasons ever since.

Fate smiled on us a while later. Would you believe that my son, Jon, while in college, was hired as a summer crowd-control guard in Training Camp? From that small beginning, he rose to become the director of Statistical and Computer Services. A machia!

So, the Giants beat the Vikings for the NFC Championship and will be playing in Super Bowl XXXV on Jan. 28. Ironically, it will be played in the same Tampa, Fla. stadium they played in 10 years earlier, when they defeated a heavily favored Buffalo Bills team in Super Bowl XXV. The Bills' last minute field-goal attempt sailed wide right and preserved our victory, 21 - 20. Gloria was the most excited person in the family.

Before the game, we ran into none other than Wellington Mara, the esteemed owner of the Giants, at the hotel. I hesitantly approached him and said, "Thank you, Mr. Mara, for giving Jon his opportunity." This gracious man looked at Gloria and me and replied, "Thank you for giving us Jon."

I also fondly remember the previous 1986 Super Bowl played in California's Rose Bowl. Actually, the Giants had been quite an inept team until that year. It was heartbreaking to see the team lose year after year. But, a new coach, Bill Parcells, led us to that first Super Bowl. We played John Elway and his Denver Broncos.

However, before the game, our Super Bowl tickets (which were being scalped for $1,000 apiece) were maliciously and suddenly stolen from us. Yes, STOLEN! I foolishly had taken my wallet out, with the oversized, gold and silver tickets extending out, when, in a flash, a goniff raced by, snatched the tickets, and disappeared into the crowd. My golden tickets were gone.

Oh, the inhumanity of it all. After traveling all the way to California to watch my previously dreadful Giants in this Big Game, would this dream-come-true suddenly go up in smoke?

After reporting the tragedy to the police, we were directed to speak with a representative who would be in a special NFL booth set up outside the stadium. Luckily, we were first in line and waited impatiently for the booth to open. When it did, there was a long line of other disgruntled fans behind us. I related our story to a Giants official who was in the booth at the time. He took two tickets from his envelope and presented them to us, saying that they were the only unsold tickets left, and apologized because they weren't together. I grabbed them, without fumbling the hand-off. The others on the line were not as fortunate and had to watch the game on television in their hotel rooms.

I can now say that nothing, and I mean nothing, ever gave me a greater thrill than these two Super Bowl wins, except perhaps the week I spent on my honeymoon (Gloria reads this column, you know). Now, the Giants are in a position to play in their third Super Bowl game. It has been 10 long years since they won the last one. Don't you think we deserve it again?

If they play and win, I will have a wide smile on my face for a year. However, should they lose, it won't be a problem. I am now an older, wiser, much more mature person. I simply will take a loss in stride. I know it is just a game and there won't be any pining, moping, or a hermit's life for me.

But, if it turns out to be a bleak and empty Super Bowl Sunday, I will calmly pull out the last strands of hair I have left on my head, break my television set and take Gloria on a second honeymoon.

Go Giants!

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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