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What Giants They Are

  • Dec 17, 2011
Rating:
+5
In 1956, a head coach named Jim Lee Howell coached the New York Giants to the NFL Title. While it was his only title, he did win his conference in 1958, 1959, 1961, 1962, and 1963 as well. A dominant team like that would be expected to have a loaded roster, and Howell's Giants totally did: Hall of Famers Frank Gifford, Sam Huff, and Roosevelt Brown were on those teams. Quarterback YA Tittle was under center for the runs in 1961, 1962, and 1963. Howell also had an all-pro running back named Alex Webster. But he also had a pair of aces up his sleeve that just can't be topped: Vince Lombardi got his coaching start coordinating Howell's offense, while Tom Landry sparkled as New York's defensive coordinator! Green Bay and Dallas, you're welcome.

That's just a very minor way in which the presence of the New York Giants has been instrumental in turning the NFL into what it is now. The Giants - another one of my potential personal replacement teams, and the strongest candidate so far - are one of the faces of the National Football League, and the more senior of the two "New York City" teams. As a native of New York, understand that my favorite baseball team is the New York Yankees, who have been the THE public enemy of professional sports for some time. Their nickname is the Evil Empire! The Yankees are the older team of New York City and I'm very proud to legitimately call them my team, especially since my hometown football team (the Buffalo Bills, whom I will soon no longer be a fan of) and hockey team (the Buffalo Sabres) are, respectively, a doormat and a heartbreaker. But I have trouble coming to terms with the Yankees because I believe a person's sports teams should be a decent projection of who the person is. And the Yankees are decidedly everything I'm not: Corporate princes who want to overwhelm opponents, generic good guys without any flashes of attitude or personality, a selfish juggernaut which will take what it can and leave only scraps for the other teams,a reflection of a suburban America which is composed strictly of a 9-5 suited father, stay-at-home mother, 2.3 children, overwhelmingly white with ten fingers and ten toes.

I get that the Giants are the face of a league which is growing more and more insufferably corporatized by the year. But despite that, the Giants stand out. The late owner of the Giants was Wellington Mara. In the largest market in the NFL, Mara could have easily dominated for life. But he also had a sense of sportsmanship and fair play the Yankees lack, so he agreed to share his television revenue across the league to make it as competitive as possible. Can you imagine Hank Steinbrenner willingly doing that? Mara had a sense of loyalty and charity, and he always stuck by his players during their darkest hours. (To be fair, one of the few appealing aspects of the Steinbrenner family is that they do this a lot too. Hank's late father, George, frequently fielded players like Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden, who were known for off-the-field problems and rehabilitated under his tenure.) While the Yankees require a certain kind of haircut of their players to promote a specific image, the Giants let players be themselves, even at the occasional expense of the team's image. The Yankees dominate through being robot drones who simply play and promote their brand names. The Giants are personalities who focus on the single goal they have in common, then fight toward it. The Yankees bludgeon. The Giants fight. The Giants are a big corporation, but as a big corporation, they're Apple. Or Ben and Jerry's. Or Whole Foods, or another corporation that goes against the grain by having a sense of fairness.

This sense of fairness has certainly cost the Giants - they have seven titles (three Super Bowls) in a history dating back to 1925. Pretty good, not a number that gets made fun of a lot in the uber-competitive NFL. But less than two other teams, the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears. But what the Giants lack in the dominance of their Yankee counterparts, they make up for with their powerful history. Try these two games on for size: In 1930, when the Great Depression was getting off the ground, professional football didn't have anything close to its current stature in the sports world. The pros were derided by the college circuit, and by then the Giants were fed up. The walked up to one of the greatest teams in college football history - none other than the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame - and said "We'll challenge you're best to a football game. Legendary Irish coach Knute Rockne got together his Four Horsemen, and the all-stars of his 1924 championship squad and met the Giants at the Polo Grounds, confident he would win easily. The contest was one-sided, alright. The Giants shut out the Irish. And just like that, professional football was taken more seriously. Plus the game managed to raise $100,000 for the homeless. Rockne, after the game, called the Giants the greatest football machine he ever saw.

The other game took place 28 years later. Professional football by then was a kind of blinking light in the public eye, the way Major League Soccer is in the United States now. On December 28, 1958, the Giants played against the Baltimore Colts for the Championship. The Colts were led by the indomitable Johnny Unitas, who with a last-minute drive, sent the game into overtime - the first time that ever happened. The Colts scored a touchdown and won the game. But the result didn't matter so much as the fact that a whopping 45 million people watched the game on NBC. The Giants lost, but the game was a watershed moment for the league which began a popularity spike and inspired Lamar Hunt to form the American Football League, which was later merged with the NFL.

For an added sense of history, the Giants also played a couple of Championship games against the Bears which are famous because the Giants switched into better sneakers at halftime, not having any luck on the frozen Chicago terrain. They hit a nasty set of doldrums in the 1970's, including an all-time low in a game called the Miracle at the Meadowlands, in which the Giants were leading and on offense in the closing seconds when they called for a handoff instead of a knee, which was subsequently fumbled and returned for a touchdown by the other team. The remade themselves in the 80's, and have won three Super Bowls since then - one in 1986, the second in 1990, and the third in 2007 with an NFC Title in 2000 for good measure.

I love the resilient character the Giants always seem to show. Unlike the Yankees, who prefer to bludgeon opponents to death and simply lay down and die if things don't go in that direction, the Giants seem to get better if the situation seems hopeless. This team has appeared in four Super Bowls, and they speak volumes about the team's overall toughness, ethic, and resilience: They were only favored in one of those Super Bowls. (1986, against the Denver Broncos.) In 1990, they were expected to get their asses beat by a team with a sixth-ranked defense and a top-ranked, revolutionary new offense called the K-Gun which no one could figure out how to stop. And, well, the Giants found out how to stop it, through use of some devious game trickery and keeping the ball as long as they could on offense, as well as a little help from their opponents, the Buffalo Bills, who were buying into their own hype. In 2007, they were facing another offensive juggernaut: The New England Patriots had gone 16-0 in the regular season, set records for points, touchdown passes and touchdown receptions, and beat the Giants in the season finale. The Giants, in comparison, went 10-6, lucked into a wild card spot, and played through three hostile road environments to get to a Super Bowl which everybody assumed was a done deal. But the Giants rose to the occasion, held the Patriots to 14 points, and quarterback Eli Manning out-Bradyied Pats quarterback Tom Brady, a comeback expert, by leading the Giants on one of the greatest drives in Super Bowl history which ended with a touchdown pass to Plaxico Burress. Even the Super Bowl they lost to the Baltimore Ravens had a hint of resilience: The team that year was 7-4 when coach Jim Fassel guaranteed playoffs. The Super Bowl was the next game Big Blue lost that year.

27 Hall of Fame players have played for the G-Men. Among them are some NFL household names, like Larry Csonka, Jim Thorpe, and the greatest linebacker to ever grace the gridiron, Lawrence Taylor. Some Hall Giants are known for their work for different teams - Csonka was best known for being the soul of the Miami Dolphins dynasty of the 70's, quarterback Fran Tarkenton had great years with the Giants but will always be a Minnesota Viking, and YA Tittle made his name with the San Francisco 49ers. (And Tittle, who only played four years with the Giants, put up some of his best career numbers with New York and the Giants retired his number.) But the Giants are surprisingly light on transcendent names. Lawrence Taylor is there, but there aren't many other real football celebrities. Michael Strahan and Tiki Barber come close, though. And Frank Gifford could also count, though he's better known for being Kathie Lee's husband than anything now.

The Giants are also surprisingly light on real quarterbacking power. They have three quarterbacks in the Hall of Fame - Benny Friedman, Fran Tarkenton, and YA Tittle. But those three played the majority of their careers elsewhere. Then there's Phil Simms and Eli Manning, the unquestioned faces of Giants quarterbacking. As Manning is constantly panned for not being the football god his big brother Peyton is, Simms would have to be the guy. He's not in the Hall of Fame, though, but his career is certainly worthy of it.

Being a New York team, the Giants of course have a ton of rivalries with teams who hate them for being the New York team. They share the position of the New York team with the New York Jets, with whom they also share their stadium. But this rivalry is mainly used as a ticket taker in the preseason, since the league's conference layout means the Jets and Giants will only tangle in the regular season once every four years. The Giants share their division with the Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins, and Dallas Cowboys, making those rivalries some of the oldest in the league. They also have a leftover rivalry with the San Francisco 49ers which began in the 80's, when both teams were establishing themselves as league powerhouses. It isn't as heated as it used to be, but the two have met a few times in the playoffs. The last time was in 2002, when the Giants squandered a 24-point lead and ultimately lost the game on a botched field goal hold at the last second.

In 2011, the Giants recently broke a losing streak with a tight, fiercely fought victory over Dallas. Because of it, they are on top of the NFC East with a 7-6 record which should be better. They are led by Eli Manning, a cool and efficient quarterback and a proven clutch artist who has led some amazing victory drives and appeared in the Pro Bowl. In 2011, I don't really think they have a real shot at the Super Bowl, although given what happen in 2007, I'm sure Eli and gang will definitely have their say on that matter. But even if the Giants don't do anything else this year, their proud story - which comes with more victories than all but two NFL teams - is enshrined among the lore of the NFL's greatest.

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December 17, 2011
What a great write-up, thanks for the education!
 
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More New York Giants reviews
Quick Tip by . February 13, 2012
Their last three Superbowl wins have all been amazing (Bills and Patriots twice). Seems like they are the ultimate underdog winners.
Quick Tip by . December 24, 2010
One of the original NFL franchises.   It's enjoyable to watch this team over the years.
Quick Tip by . September 15, 2010
2 words. Hakeem Nicks! Eli Manning and him are making a great team this season!
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The New York Giants are a professional American football team based in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The team plays its home games at Giants Stadium, which also serves as its headquarters, and trains at an adjacent practice facility within the Meadowlands Sports Complex. In a unique arrangement, the team shares the stadium with the New York Jets, who also play their home games there but maintain their training complex and headquarters at an off-site location.

The Giants are currently members of the Eastern Division of the National Football Conference (NFC) in the National Football League (NFL). They were one of five teams that joined the NFL in 1925, but the only one admitted that year which still exists.

The Giants rank third among all NFL franchises with seven NFL titles: four in the preā€“Super Bowl era (1927, 1934, 1938, 1956) and three since the advent of the Super Bowl (Super Bowls XXI (1986), XXV (1990), and XLII (2007)). Their championship tally is surpassed only by the Green Bay Packers (12) and Chicago Bears (9). During their history, the Giants have featured 15 Hall of Fame players, including NFL Most Valuable Player (MVP) award winners Mel Hein, Frank Gifford, Charlie Conerly, Y. A. Tittle, and Lawrence Taylor.

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