Monday, December 29, 2008

There was clown paint all over the walls

There are many things I love about being a season ticket holder for the Giants. The seat location is high on the list. We are three rows off the field in the west end zone. This is the end zone where the players enter and exit, and is always to the left when you watch a game on television. We are in section 140, row 3, seats 1-4. I've sat in seat 4 for as long as I can remember. To give a little more perspective, a field goal would have to be very wide left to end up in my lap.

The location pays dividends in certain situations. The ultimate is a goal line stand by the defense (best ever was the playoff game against the Bears in 1990) or a touchdown play that ends in our corner (Dominik Hixson's kick return against the Pats in 2007 was as good as any).

However, there are less obvious benefits to the seat location. One involves the opposing team and the welcoming nature of people from the New York City area. The defensive and offensive lines warm up right in front of us. This is especially fun when the Eagles come to down. I remember the days of Reggie White and Jerome Brown. Fans would yell pleasant words of encouragement and Brown would respond with gentle finger gestures and adjustments to his two favorite glands. The best reception I ever witnessed for a player was for a kicker of all people. Bill Gramatica was kicking for the Arizona Cardinals a few years back. Mid way through the first quarter, he kicked an easy 35 yard field goal through the uprights. This was a simple field goal, during a regular season game in the first quarter. Nothing to get too excited about, one would think. However, Mr. Gramatica has a ritual of leaping into the air and pumping his fist after every made field goal, as if he just won the World Cup. You would expect to hear that crazy soccer announcer yelling, "GGGOOOOOOOAAAALLLLLL!!!!" On this occasion, old Bill missed the landing. As his leg came down, his knee buckled, blowing out his ACL and ending his season. The worst was yet to come for old Bill. He was forced to ride off the field in a golf cart right past our corner of the end zone. I can not repeat what was said to him as the cart scooted by at 5mph. Let's just say, it was the definition of a Bronx cheer.

Along with the other team, we often have celebrities milling about before the game. There are plenty of sports reporters from TV and radio ready to throw a microphone into the face of anyone of modest celebrity. On one occasion, Paul Tagliabue, then Commissioner of the NFL, was standing directly in front of our section speaking to Joe Montana, who had recently retired. For those who do not know, Tagliabue is from Jersey City, the town a couple of streets from where my parents grew up. He attended high school with my Mother at St. Michael's. My Father was with me at this game. As only my Father can, he drifted down to the rail, right above Tagliabue's head and shouted, "Hey Paul, St. Michael's, Class of '58!" Tagliabue looked up at the face and gave a somewhat awkward wave. Maybe it would have had more impact if my Mom was there?

Let me move on to my favorite benefit to our seats. It's that they are OUR SEATS! Nothing is better then when you arrive at a game and fans (usually from the other team) are in our seats before the game trying to get a glimpse of their favorite players. It is the best feeling to whip out your ticket stub to validate your rightful place and watch them walk away in shame. This was never more fun then a game against Dallas in the early '90's. We arrived at the seats (I believe my friend Tim was with me and maybe my brother-in-law Clarence) to find they were occupied by a pair of extremely obnoxious Cowboys fans (I know that statement is redundant). They took fanaticism to a new level by painting their faces with Cowboy colors and the infamous star. We performed the usual ritual, but they did not initially respond. I became a bit more forceful regarding our claim to the seats. One of the morons told me to take a hike and that these were their seats. Before things became too heated, I asked him to show me their stub. When he reluctantly did, I noticed they were sitting in the wrong section. They were to be in 139. This left them slightly embarrassed, as they skulked off to their appropriate seats.

I thought the story would end there, but Cowboy fans are not known for their intelligence. Sometime in the middle of the first quarter, I heard a raucous to my left in section 139. Fights in the stands are a common occurrence and help keep you entertained during those long TV timeouts. This one was particularly entertaining, as it involved my two friends from earlier in the day. I do not know what started it. Maybe they projected the same attitude with their new neighbors, as they had with me. However, this time they were not offending a skinny pacifist from Maryland. It was the Incredible Hulk! This was the largest man I have ever seen! He was holding one of the Boys fans in his one hand and pummeling in the face with his other. Cowboy paint was flying all over the neighboring fans! I believe the other fellow was already lying in the fetal position on the ground praying for help from Jerry Jones. Within a few seconds, security ascended on the melee. In true New York fashion, they separated the combatants and ushered away the two Cowboy fans. The Hulk was allowed to stay in his seat and enjoy the game in peace. Ah, justice.

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