It’s not just the end of an era-it’s the end of my youth. When the New Jersey sports and exposition authority opened Giants Stadium on October 10th 1976, I was in my youthful teen years, both in life and in football. The New York Giants would not become a decent team again for about five more years. I was there for the plane overhead in 1978 proclaiming “15 years of lousy football, we have had enough.” I was there for the debut of Phil Simms and LT, for the “four playoff teams in the first seven years of the 1980’s”, for the “almost” season of 1985, for “the” 1986 Stretch run to the 14-2 record and Super Bowl XXI. The Flipper Anderson “through the end zone and right into the locker room” catch of 1989.
But best of all, I was there for 1990. Thirty one to seven over the Bears in the playoffs, Parcells and Ditka prowling their sidelines like two sentries on opposite sides of the DMZ, the Giants feeling and knowing they needed to “make up” for the playoff loss to Da Bears in ‘85, I saw O.J. Anderson, Rodney Hampton, and Dave Meggett (the first three headed rushing monster!), I saw the “Jints” “ball control” 90% of the teams they played that season. Although I was already getting a press credential to the draft that was the first year I got to watch games from the press box in the Meadowlands. I went to “Frisco” for the 15-13 stunner. I went to Tampa for XXV, working my first Super Bowl as a media member.
Then came a few down years, again. “Fits and starts” my Dad would have called them (he passed in December of 1987, and we buried him with a pair of Giants tickets to a home game against the Green Bay Packers scheduled for the next day in the breast pocket of his suit) had he still been alive. At least he got to see his team win a Super Bowl. “Now I can die in peace,” he told me on the flight home from California. Eleven months later he was gone at age 59 to heart failure. My mother always said the Giants weakened his heart. I said the strike of ‘87 was then last straw for him.
Ray Handley: I can still remember Tom Keegan of Bayonne, sitting five rows behind us in section 311 screaming at the top of his lungs “Handley can you hear me? You’re a bum Handley!!!” I remember January 14, 2000 and the Giants shut-out victory in just their third ever NFC title game. Just as clear was the drubbing the Baltimore Ravens handed the Giants two weeks later. It was my last Super Bowl with a credential.
I’m going to miss the memories of Giants Stadium, the “real” stadium – the watered down diet soda, the warm water dogs, the “ramps” where I made friends at halftime and before games for a generation. I’ll miss you Meadowlands, but I’ll never forget you and the good times you gave me or the education in the great game of football I got from sitting in section 311.