EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - I learned a lot about our team these past few days. Good and bad. Not necessarily the coaches or the players, but the fans. We've lost two straight divisional games. Lots of key players are getting hit with the injury bug, Hakeem Nicks being the latest addition to that list. I get it, things look dark. But I never thought I'd see so many people, who consistently claim to be "die-hard fans," be so quick to throw away the season with our backs against the wall. If history's taught us anything, shouldn't we know that this team plays best in times of their greatest adversity?
For those of you who know me on Facebook, you might think I'm going to be a bit of a copycat, since I've already used the following as a "post." But I still think it's worth repeating. Here's a little Giants' history lesson:
- First, in 1990, one of the greatest quarterbacks in our franchise's history, Phil Simms, went down with a broken foot just before the playoffs began. Not our star receiver or running back, our starting quarterback. And for those of you who remember that postseason, our playoff run was one of the hardest stretches any team's ever had to face. But then, an unknown backup with confidence in his ability, his coaching staff, his teammates, and his awesome moustache stepped in and led us to victory in Super Bowl XXV.
- Nearly a decade later, in 2000, the picture once again grew very dark for the New York Football Giants. People were losing faith in the team left and right, and no one thought we had a chance to do much of anything. Jim Fassel, our head coach at the time, made his famous "all-in" speech, rallying the players and the fans all the way to the Super Bowl where we unfortunately couldn't quite finish the dream season, losing to the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XXXV.
- In 2007, under head coach Tom Coughlin, we had more peaks and valleys than the old Route 66. We let up a combined 80 points in the first two games (two very ugly losses), and the sports world was convinced our then-defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo didn't have what it took to lead this defense. We then tore off six straight wins, and life was good again. However, in the second half of the season we had a few really ugly losses to Dallas, Minnesota, and Washington, and again all hope was lost. Plaxico hadn't been able to practice all season, Eli wasn't playing well, and Shockey's health status was almost always in question until the day of the game. Despite all the cynicism, we pulled off a comeback win on the road in Buffalo and fought very hard in a close loss to end the season against New England. Obviously, the rest is history.
- Right now, after 10 games, we're 6-4. We're 2nd in our division, 1-2 in said division (with three more divisional games left to play), and 5-2 in the conference.
What's the point of reliving all this, you might ask? It's simple – to put this season in perspective. We've seen this movie before, yet there are a lot of fans out there that think there's no reason left to hope. If we've learned anything from years of being Giants' fans, it's that we play best when things are at their worst, when it looks like there's no light at the end of the tunnel.
So, fellow fans, I implore you to have some faith in your team! Yes, we've shot ourselves in the foot as of late and brought many of our losses on ourselves. One fan wrote to say, "Well, good teams don't ever make mistakes to let close games slip away." Another wrote, "Bottom line, we don't have the talent on the field to match up and maintain while Hakeem and Smith are out." Really? On the same day as our ugly collapse, the great and powerful Peyton Manning threw the Colts' game away on a bad interception late in the fourth quarter. In that same game, a New England team who, besides Tom Brady, was made up almost entirely of players who for all we know could've been on some team's practice squad last season, beat them.
So to those so-called "fans" who seem to be doing nothing but looking for reasons to think this season's hopeless, keep it to yourself, or go offer to write for the New York Post or some other obnoxious tabloid. But don't declare your depressing hopelessness for the public to read about on some social networking site. I was thinking yesterday, what would happen if Coughlin came into work, found out about Nicks, and thought, "well, that's it - let's pack it in?" Or anyone on the team thought that? It'd be ludicrous. As far as I'm concerned, the fans are the 12th man. Therefore, we have the responsibility to carry ourselves with the same hope and optimism as anyone employed by the team. We're an extension of the New York Giants, and represent them with our public "outcries," so to speak. I'm proud of it, and we all should be. I'd like to think most of us are, we just gotta get those stragglers back in line.
"Who are you to judge a person's level of fandom?" Me? I'm nobody. Just a guy who really loves the Gmen, yet won't even use his real name, hiding behind an alias every week (although I mean come on, it is a damn cool alias). In my opinion, a fan is simply defined by their love and loyalty for their team. How they choose to represent it is entirely up to them (some buy jerseys, other simply scream out "GMEN!" at the top of their lungs in random, public places). What I think people have a serious issue with is how so many people are so quick to harshly overreact when things go bad and abandon all hope, instead of having faith and love in their team through thick AND THIN. But fans who one Monday talk about a coach being a legit Coach of the Year candidate decide two weeks later that he should be fired because of consecutive ugly losses and simply forget about how great he's been for us (got us a ring!) over the years pisses most true fans off. Of course, Coughlin's just one isolated issue, it ranges from late-season collapsing to Eli's poor play these last two weeks to a number of other irrationally harsh statements about our beloved GMEN. Real life isn't Madden, people - you can't just one week decide people stink and a quick replacement will change everything, and that all good teams go 16-0 and win every game by 21 points. All teams go through tough times, and all teams suffer injuries. Only the true fans can appreciate and respect the fact that the season is unpredictable, and all you can do is love and respect your team! Who's to say Derek Hagan won't step on the field this Sunday and have an absurd 200-yard receiving day with three touchdown receptions? Is it likely? Probably not. Is it possible? ABSOLUTELY. Cinderella stories have to happen somewhere – why not East Rutherford, New Jersey? We're a family. While we sometimes might want to replace our siblings or parents when they're bothering us, we know deep down that's not the correct way to handle it. We have to bear with it, and know that in the end, they care about us as much as we care about them, and will do everything in their power not to let us down. I believe we owe it to our team to show them the same courtesy and admiration.
Whew, rant over. On to last Sunday's miserable viewing experience:
A Bad Start, Even Before the First Whistle Blew
JJ and I should've known we'd be in for a long, arduous night from the get-go. We decided to watch the game at O'Brien's Irish Pub in Santa Monica. From what we'd heard, it was the marquee "New York Sports Bar" in the area, and we figured we'd need to be amongst many of our own kind for this game. Well, despite a lone Giants helmet on the wall, I don't really know if I'd call O'Brien's a New York sports bar. There were certainly a lot of Giants fans there mingling about, but nothing about the bar showed any sort of New York personality. Which brings us to the service, or lack thereof. We also went there to grab some quick dinner before the game started, but there was only one guy working the tables, and it took him nearly thirty minutes from the time we sat down (IN FULL GIANTS DRESS!) before he finally asked us what we'd like to drink, and we felt it necessary to throw in our food order at the same time, in case it took another thirty minutes for him to come back. Still, not too bad an experience so far. Then, the kicker.
Nearly two minutes before kickoff, your typical Southern California parent, exuding responsibility, thought it wise to bring his wife and toddler inside for a pleasant family dinner. Seriously, the kid had to be about two or three years old. Of course, they were seated in the booth next to us. The game started, and of course every play was followed either by very loud cheers or very loud jeers. JJ and I were certainly among those yelling, not letting one father's dumb decision to derail our viewing experience. Needless to say, after Eli threw his first pick, there were some angry expletives being shouted, and people continued screaming at the TV long after the play ended. JJ and I, lost in the game and not worrying about those around us, joined in. Of course the father had the nerve to lean over and say, "Do you mind? I'm trying to eat dinner with my wife and daughter over here, and you guys are being very loud." REALLY?!?! I promptly turned to the guy, without hesitation, to let him know it might not have been the wisest choice to bring his wife and toddler into a (supposedly) New York sports bar on the night of a primetime Giants-Eagles game with first place in the division on the line for a casual family meal. Let me just preface – this place isn't a restaurant that happens to have a bar area. This is a bar that happens to serve food and has tables to accommodate the viewing crowd. And this guy has the nerve to call out two Giants fans, in a New York sports bar, for cheering loudly for the Gmen? His best defense – "Well, they have a kids' menu." Wow. Then, the unexpected occurred. The guy who was seating tables, working for a (supposedly) New York sports bar, came and told MY FRIEND AND I to keep it down. It's not like he then turned to the family and said, "This is a New York sports bar, and when there's a Giants game on, it tends to get a little loud. Another night might be better, but we'll see what we can do." Or something at least unbiased and reasonable. No, he turned to us, and asked us to keep it down, saying nothing to the other party involved. I understand there was a kid, but is it our fault the guy was irresponsible? That's like bringing your child to a jam band concert and complaining about the smoke. A little logic goes a long way. Needless to say, we cancelled our food order, paid for our drinks, and got out of there. Certainly not going to that place for any New York sporting events any time in the near future.
We got to my place with plenty of time left to go in the second quarter. It was up and down the whole way through, but ultimately ended in a very disappointing loss. Obviously what happened at O'Brien's had nothing to do with how the game turned out, nor did we think it did, but there's never any room for bad mojo while watching a crucial divisional match up in primetime.
We all know how the game played out, and I don't want to spend time reliving the painful details. Some positives to take away were the blocked field goal at the end of the first half, our defense's ability to contain Vick, our defense's ability to create turnovers, and the likes of Travis Beckum and Derek Hagan coming up with huge touchdown receptions in the clutch. One thing's for certain – Michael Vick's arm and legs didn't beat us on Sunday night. Our own mistakes at crucial times in the game are what did us in. Those mistakes are correctable, although guys like Bradshaw fumbling every game and Eli refusing to learn how to slide correctly better hurry up and correct themselves soon. We have to believe that they will. The breaking news Tuesday morning was that the Giants signed Michael Clayton, fresh off a few weeks playing in the UFL. I don't know what to expect, but hopefully he'll serve his purpose in our offense adequately until we get Smith and Nicks back.
Non-Gmen Thoughts of the Week:
- Caught the newest Harry Potter over the weekend. Wow. While watching it, I thought back to how I saw the first couple films form this franchise with my immediate and extended family during the holiday season in years past. Don't get me wrong – the film was amazing, and I was on the edge of my seat the whole time – but in no way can you call this Harry Potter film "fun for the whole family." That much is for certain.
- Love the new ad campaign for the Windows phone ("a phone to save us from our phones," or whatever the tag line is). However, two things bother me: first, the whole point is that the phone essentially lets you "check what you care about most" quickly so you can get on with your normal life, or something to that effect. Is that really what we now care about most? That's kind of sad. Second, the same people who laugh at the commercial and how ridiculous it is (like a father getting pelted in the head with a baseball because he's too consumed with texting to pay attention to the catch he was having with his son – loved that one) are the same ones who are repeat offenders of those same exact actions. We love to laugh at ourselves, but never seem to learn from it. (Ooooh, ooooh, I should make that my Facebook status! Be right back J ).
- Not to kick him too hard while he's down, but karma's a bitch, isn't it Mr. Favre? Glad to see Aaron Rodgers put Brett in his place on the road in Minnesota, and even happier to see what a classy guy he was about it, exchanging what seemed like words of respect and admiration for the guy he used to play behind.
- Richard Seymour – what did you think was going to happen? Really?
- Bud Adams, you can't expect a great coach like Jeff Fisher, who has loads of self-respect, to get along with an immature baby like Vince Young. I realize no one likes to admit the fact that they have to move on without their number one draft pick, but it's not worth losing such a great coach simply because you feel it's necessary to give an overgrown child endless chances. Cut ties, move on.
Putting it in Perspective
All right, it's time to move forward. It looks like we'll be without Smith, Nicks, O'Hara, and Diehl for maybe a couple more weeks. Nicks, specifically, closer to 3 weeks. These next two weeks we play Jacksonville and Washington, both at home. Those are winnable games, even with our injury-depleted roster. If we can make it past those games, and keep it close against Minnesota, we should have nearly our full roster intact just in time to host the Philadelphia Eagles on December 19th. I have faith that we can do this, and everyone else should, too. Must believe in our Gmen, baby! To talk all things Giants, you can e-mail me at email@example.com, and you can find me on Facebook under the name "Gmen Superfan." I hope this week's article motivates most fans, and everyone can remember why we love this team so much, and the magical moments this franchise is capable of producing on any football weekend. This Thanksgiving, I know I'll be thankful for my health, happiness, the well-being of those close to me (INCLUDING MY G-FAM, OF COURSE), and the NEW YORK FOOTBALL GIANTS. Have a great holiday weekend everyone, and until next week, GO GMEN!!!
Written by Superfan