I remember my father holding my hand as we walked to the subway at Jerome Avenue in the Bronx. I was 9 years old, and he was taking me to my first Giants game.
There were plenty of other sports that held our fascination, but none would ever compare to football and to the Giants. I played the game in grammar school and was a pretty good wide receiver on our Catholic Youth Organization team. As I grew older I wasn’t big enough for tackle football, but I played the game in one form or another until I was 40. The game was in my blood.
My dad bought four Giants season tickets in 1958. He would take customers to each game, but often he would save a seat for me or one of my three brothers. Those early years, watching the likes of Y.A. Tittle, Frank Gifford, Sam Huff, Del Shofner and Pat Summerall were magical for me and connected me to the team in an intense way at such a young age. We sat in the bleachers at the stadium around the 35-yard line — not a bad seat — but the seats forced you to squeeze next to the other people in the row, which somehow bound us all together. I sat next to my dad, a closeness that I didn’t often feel from him. At halftime, he would break out the hot beef bouillon from his thermos and the sandwiches that he made each Sunday. No stadium food for us!
My older brother Pete had somehow gotten a piece of the goalpost from the Giants-Browns playoff game in 1958. That busted-up block of wood sat proudly over my brother’s desk with the score written on it. I would hold it like it was a precious religious relic and feel the excitement of that moment run up my arms and into my heart.
As years passed, the Giants moved to New Jersey, but while the new stadium was being built, we watched our boys play in the Yale Bowl for two years. When the new stadium finally opened, my dad’s seats were upgraded to the 48-yard line 24 rows up from the field. Amazing seats! But the years had caught up to my dad, and he no longer wanted to deal with the hassle of driving to Jersey, so Pete and I took over the seats.
In 1987, I took my son, Matt, to his first Giants game. He was 7. Those early days with Matt were fun beyond words. We’d tailgate in the parking lot and throw the football around before heading in for the game. He held my hand as we made our way to our seats — a link to my past and my father that I did not realize at the time.
As Matt and I grew older, so did our tradition of Sunday Giants games. When they were out of town, we’d watch them on TV together. If we were out for the day somewhere, we’d listen on the radio. We were fans! The 1990 season saw the Giants make it to the Super Bowl in Tampa against the Buffalo Bills. Matt was 10. I had a good friend in Florida who got us tickets to the game. As the final seconds ticked down and the Bills’ field goal attempt to win the game went wide right and missed, it seemed the whole world erupted around us. I lifted my son over my head as we danced like maniacs — burning a memory into our brains that would live for a lifetime.
As years went by, our passion for our Giants remained constant. In 2013, Matt, my son-in-law, Steve, and I took my grandson Jack to his first Giants game when he was 6 years old. There is much I remember from that day, but as I write this, I’m drawn back to Yankee Stadium where I held my father’s hand and felt a closeness to him that transcended the game or the team — a place where I find comfort in a proud tradition we all share.