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Berger’s Burg: Giants touch down in football fans’ hearts

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A gentleman, a big Giants fan dressed in Giants Blue, was sitting in a two-seat box all alone. The usher approached him and asked, “Why is that seat empty, sir?”

The man said, “It’s my wife’s seat.”

“Where is she?”

“She died.”

“Oh, my, couldn’t you have given the seat to a relative?”

The man shook his head sadly and said, “Oh, no, they are all at her funeral!”

Ah! At long last, my wait is finally over. The brand-new Giants football season will officially kick off on Thursday, Sept. 5. Why are they starting on a Thursday, you naturally query? Elementary, my dear Watson. It obviously is to accommodate the many Jewish Giants fans who celebrate their Rosh Hashanah holiday on the following weekend. Don’t you just love those Giants?

As anyone who reads my columns knows, I am a football fanatic in general, and a New York Giants fanatic, in particular. My close relationship with the team started many years ago. My brother, Milt, brought me to Yankee Stadium for my first Giants football game, and it was love at first sight. Watching a brown, blimp-shaped torpedo being thrown, kicked and ferociously sought after by the 22 players on both teams was pure ecstasy. Not unlike, I might add, my first date with Gloria.

I liked the game so much that I convinced Milt, then and there, to chip in and buy two season tickets with our allowance money. Back then, it was not very common for sports fans to purchase season tickets, since seats for all games were always readily available and cheap. Few fans had the foresight to know what a phenomenon football was to become.

I followed the team on its many moves to various stadiums, including Yankee Stadium, Yale Bowl, Princeton’s Palmer Stadium and Shea Stadium, before they finally settled in beautiful Giants Stadium. Many a year I perspired profusely at Giants summer training camps, watching the veterans and rookies compete for jobs. Then, I would freeze at the tail end of regular season games in an ice-cold refrigerator known as Giants Stadium.

Although summer is here, I still shiver recalling the coldest game I ever sat through. It was the memorable Giants-Packers championship game played on Dec. 30, 1962. A polar bear would have left immediately after the singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

With the temperature hovering at 13 degrees and the wind-chill factor at a frigid 10 below zero, the cold air knifed right through my teenaged body. The other 64,892 brave fans in attendance, along with Milt, froze along with me. But we all refused to leave our seats.

My joints and extremities quickly began to ache during the first half and the discomfort level rose measurably as the game progressed. Mercifully, Mother Nature lent a welcoming icy hand. She willed the coldness to numb my body completely. I felt nothing.

When the game finally ran its course, I didn’t mind that I couldn’t walk on frozen legs. Nor did I mind that my car, which had been parked on a Bronx street, succumbed to the cold and died. I also didn’t mind that I had to wait all alone (Milt already had left in his own car) three hours in my freezing automobile before the AAA mechanic arrived. The tardy mechanic lifted the hood, took one look and said that he could not get the car started because it was too cold. He suggested that I call AAA again the following day.

So, I left my car and staggered up the stairs of the Bronx elevated line. I caught the subway to the Main Street station and waited for a bus one hour in the frigid winter night until I reached the comfort of my Whitestone home to thaw out. And, as if all that wasn’t bad enough, I also had to miss school the following day to retrieve my car. But these small matters did not disturb me as much as the Giants losing that championship game. I still haven’t recovered.

Because of my passion for football, I had my first lively disagreement with my new bride, Gloria. We had been married just one month and she had the audacity to ask me to forego a Giants game. She explained that her best friend was getting married on the same day of a Giants-Cleveland game. I immediately took a rigid stand. I looked her straight in the eye and firmly said, “Gloria, there is nothing more important to me, this Sunday, than watching the Giants play against Cleveland’s great running back, Jim Brown. I positively refuse to forego that game to attend your friend’s wedding.”

I stood tall, steadfast and inflexible. To this day, I still regret not seeing Jim Brown.

For many years, Gloria kept complaining that I spent too much time watching football. So, one day, she put on a regulation Giants football helmet, shoulder pads and a Giants’ Jersey, and blocked my view to the TV. She said, “OK, football fanatic, either play me or trade me!”

But fate stepped in. With two sons in the house, both football fans, Gloria eventually saw the light. She knew that she had to join us or forever sit alone on Sundays during the football season. Happily and faithfully, she did join the fold and has looked forward to football seasons ever since.

Quite often, besides going to the home games, the family also attended games played in hostile Philadelphia. Their fans, the worst behaved in the league, would devise evil ways to abuse us fans wearing Giants Blue. At one game we sat next to Sister Carol Ann (a nun who also loved the Giants), but this did not deter the hometown fans from throwing debris at us. Do you know that Veterans Field in Philadelphia is the only stadium in the League that has its own courtroom in the stadium?

I own a Giants automobile vanity license plate. I wear Giants Blue all year and I have a wall full of pictures of my favorite players, past and present. Since 1986, I have basked in the glories of three Giants Super Bowls, and agonized over several lost seasons. Feast or famine, Gloria and I always will be Giants fans. What are the prospects for the coming season? Nothing but Super Bowl! Trust me.

Reach columnist Alex Berger by e-mail at timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, ext. 140.

Posted 7:16 pm, October 10, 2011
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