First Love

When I was growing up in the New York area, I knew a lot of guys whose favorite football team was from halfway across the country, the Green Bay Packers.  These same guys almost invariably also rooted for the Boston Celtics during basketball season.  In baseball season, they finally got around to being Yankee fans, but it wasn’t out of any kind of local loyalty.   They just glommed onto whatever team was tops in each sport, because it was never about anything more for them than a kind of vicarious status derived from being associated with a winner.  (Ladies, you've had to compete against this type for so long that I doubt any further elaboration is needed.)

I loved my New York Giants.  Intensely.  Passionately.  I watched every televised game, and listened on the radio when they weren’t on TV.  I felt like I really knew the players.

Among them was Y.A. Tittle, still playing when he was 40 years old and bald as an eagle.  I considered him the coolest quarterback in the game, not least for his “field generalship.”  In an age when quarterbacks actually called their own plays, rather than just having them delivered by the coach via a headset in their helmets, Y.A. had an uncanny knack for knowing when he could run the exact same play he’d just caught a team napping with, and embarrass them with it again.  Sometimes he could even do it a third time.  It was a magnificent thing to watch.

The Giants also had their share of big-name stars like Frank Gifford and Roosevelt Grier, but one of the guys I liked best was a much lesser-known player named Joe Morrison.  Joe was an unprepossessing workman who usually played halfback, but could be tapped to do just about anything the team happened to need at the time:  sometimes he filled in for the kicker, sometimes he played quarterback, and once I believe he even played center.  You tend to get attached to somebody you can rely on like that, when the going gets tough and you’re out there shoulder to shoulder on the field of combat.

And make no mistake about it, I was out there on the field with them--at least in spirit.  I was probably more intensely there than a lot of contemporary "bonus babies" lucky enough to physically occupy the space.