They've been playing football at Giants Stadium since 1976, the year the place opened in the Meadowlands. I've had the privilege of covering the last 25 seasons on a regular basis, and so many memories come to mind.
As the Giants prepare for their final game at the stadium, my 10 most memorable Big Blue moments at the place:
10. Dec. 10, 1978: First NFL game I ever covered — for Gannett Westchester-Rockland Newspapers — filling in for the beat reporter. Three weeks after “The Fumble” against the Eagles, when Joe Pisarcik’s botched handoff to Larry Csonka was returned 26 yards for a stunning touchdown in the final seconds by future Jets coach Herman Edwards, a plane flew overhead carrying a banner: “15 years of lousy football. We’ve had enough.” Had no idea at the time it would be a watershed moment in franchise history.
9. Dec. 27, 1997: More than an hour after the Giants’ 23-22 loss to the Vikings in a game they squandered in the final minutes, general manager George Young walked alone onto the field, sat on the Giants’ empty bench and wept. It would be the final game of his 18-year run as the Giants’ front-office boss. It was Young who was hired two months after that plane flew overhead, and he helped resurrect the franchise with the drafting of such players as Lawrence Taylor, Phil Simms, Joe Morris and Mark Bavaro and the hiring of Bill Parcells as head coach.
8. Oct. 10, 1994. At halftime of the Giants’ Monday night game against the Vikings, Taylor’s No. 56 was retired. Best player I ever covered. Best defensive player in NFL history. Changed the game as much as any single player. The following season, on Sept. 4, 1995, the Giants retired Simms’ No. 11 jersey at halftime of a game against the Cowboys. Simms threw a pass to LT for old time’s sake. Simms? Toughest football player I’ve ever been around.
7. Jan. 7, 1990. The Giants had won the NFC East and hosted the Rams in the divisional round of the playoffs. Game went to overtime tied at 13. In OT, Jim Everett threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Flipper Anderson, who never stopped as he ran through the end zone, through the tunnel and into the locker room. Parcells was near tears in his postgame news conference.
6. Nov. 22, 2000. Three days after losing to the Lions to fall to 7-4, at his regular Wednesday news conference, Jim Fassel guaranteed the Giants would go to the playoffs. “I’m shoving my chips to the middle of the table,” he said. The Giants made the playoffs and went all the way to the Super Bowl before losing to the Ravens.
5. Dec. 15, 1990. Simms left a 17-13 loss to the Bills with a leg injury. More than an hour after the game, New York Times columnist Dave Anderson and I met Simms in the tunnel outside the X-ray room. Simms was on crutches and in a cast: broken foot. Who knew the Giants still would go on to win the Super Bowl behind backup Jeff Hostetler, who would beat Joe Montana to get there?
4. Jan. 14, 2001. The 41-0 rout of the Vikings in the NFC Championship Game was one thing. The postgame trash-talking by iconic owner Wellington Mara was even more stunning. “This team was referred to as the worst team ever to win the home-field advantage in the National Football League,” he said upon receiving the NFC championship trophy. “And today, on our field of painted mud, we proved we’re the worst team ever to win the NFC championship. In two weeks, we’re going to try to become the worst team ever to win the Super Bowl.”
3. Dec. 29, 2007. The Giants faced the 15-0 Patriots in the final game of the season, and it meant nothing in terms of playoff seeding for the Giants. But Tom Coughlin opted not to rest his starters, and it proved to be the springboard for one of the most remarkable playoff runs in NFL history. The Patriots won, 38-35, to become the first team to go unbeaten in the regular season since the 1972 Dolphins, but the Giants would beat them five weeks later to win Super Bowl XLII, arguably the greatest Super Bowl ever.
2. Jan. 4, 1986. After completing a 14-2 regular season, the Giants hosted the two-time Super Bowl champion 49ers in the divisional round. The signature play of the game: Jim Burt’s devastating hit on Montana as the future Hall of Fame quarterback threw a pass that was intercepted and returned for a touchdown by Taylor.
1. Jan. 11, 1987. In a frigid, windswept stadium, the Giants dominated the Redskins, 17-0, to win the NFC Championship Game for the first time. In the final minutes, fans were so caught up in the moment that they began throwing papers, programs and cups, creating a blizzard-like effect to celebrate the team’s first trip to the Super Bowl. A Gatorade shower for Parcells, the most charismatic sports figure I’ve ever been around.
Thank you, Giants Stadium. It’s been incredible.