Danny Kanell is back at Bethpage Black, 17 years after he watched parts of the 2002 U.S. Open in his off time while playing quarterback for the Arena Football League’s New York Dragons.
It turned out he and other Dragons were being housed in Plainview, not far from the course, so they would sneak onto volunteer shuttle buses and take in the tournament, which Tiger Woods won.
Two weeks later, it got even better. Charles Wang, who owned the Dragons, arranged for the players to play a round at the course.
“I played from the tips, all the way back; I carried my own bag and it was probably 90 degrees, dead of summer,” the former Giant said Tuesday before co-hosting his SiriusXM Satellite Radio show at the PGA Championship.
“I shot 88. It was brutal. I’m better than that. It was unbelievable. It felt like a marathon. I was beat down.”
Kanell, 45, is set to play the course again on Monday, the day after the end of the PGA.
At one point he was a scratch golfer, but with three daughters ages 11, 9 and 6, he has less time for the game than in the past, so he is around a 5 handicap these days. (He lives in Florida.)
“It’s a test of your will – mental and physical,” he said of Bethpage Black.
Kanell has an unusual place in recent Giants history.
Only three quarterbacks have led the team to first-place finishes since 1990. One, Eli Manning, is a potential Hall of Famer. Another, Kerry Collins, is 18th all-time in passing yards, just ahead of Joe Montana and Johnny Unitas.
Then there is Kanell, who in 1997 took over for Dave Brown, led the team to a 10-5-1 finish and the NFC East title, and before the following season was over had lost his starting job to Kent Graham – and eventually his roster spot to Collins in 1999.
“It was a tremendous experience,” Kanell said. “I got to experience the highs and lows of playing in New York. When I was drafted here (in the fourth round in 1996), I don’t think people were in love with Dave Brown. He had struggled. The idea of being the backup, I was the fan favorite before I’d even taken a snap.
“It was really cool to be the toast of the town, even if it was for a short period of time. It was a ton of fun.”
Daniel Jones, the sixth overall pick in the draft, will arrive under far different circumstances than those Kanell faced. He is a first-round pick, and Manning is ahead of him on the depth chart.
“I feel bad for Daniel Jones,” Kanell said. “I didn’t have him rated number one or number two (among draftable quarterbacks) . . . But I feel like he’s facing this uphill battle now because everybody became prisoners of the mock drafts and who they thought should be the quarterback.
“Maybe they over-drafted him, maybe they didn’t, but now that he’s there if you’re a Giants fan, why wouldn’t you support him? I think there’s a good chance if he throws a pick in the preseason, he gets booed, which isn’t fair.”
After spending his last two NFL seasons with the Broncos in 2003 and 2004, Kanell tried his hand at various post-playing careers, then got into sports media by accident.
He was offered the chance to call an NFL Europe game. When he saw that it was to be played in Barcelona, he said, “Oh, I’m all in. That sealed the deal. I asked, ‘Who do I call for my travel arrangements?’”
It was then that he discovered the travel was to Mount Laurel, New Jersey, where he would call the game off a monitor in a small booth at NFL Films headquarters.
Kanell later worked for ESPN, which let him go in 2017. Last year, he began co-hosting on SiriusXM with Steve Torre. They took their show on the road to Shinnecock Hills last June for the U.S. Open.
In addition to his SiriusXM show, Kannel is co-hosting his daily show with Raja Bell on the streaming network CBS Sports HQ from Bethpage Black this week.
Kanell has created some stirs on social media, including in 2015 when he wrote on Twitter that there was a “war on football” being waged by those going too far on safety measures, and added that the “liberal media loves it.”
“You either want to be loved or hated in this business,” Kanell said. “If you’re in the middle, you’re forgotten.”
He said he does care about player safety, but added, “I think sometimes we’ve gone over the top, and I’ve tried to voice that and unfortunately took a lot of heat for that . . . Football is never going to be a safe game. It’s a violent, collision-filled sport. Unless you want to drastically change it, it’s always there.”