by | Jan 20, 1987 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

ANAHEIM, Calif. — So now I am here at the Super Bowl, which is fine, thank you, but to tell the truth, it wouldn’t matter if I were here or 1,000 miles away. I already know who is going to win.

The New York Giants are going to win, not because they are the better team, which they are, and not because they are the stronger team, which they are, and not because they knock out opposing quarterbacks the same way some of us get paid, namely, once a week in a lump sum.

Which they do.

But no. The reason the Giants will win over the Denver Broncos is a little-known element I will call the misery factor. It means, quite simply, that the team that has made its fans miserable longer gets to win the Super Bowl.

I cannot think of a team more qualified than New York, whose fans are truly miserable. Of course, it is not hard to make a New Yorker miserable, because he feels that way most of the time, thanks to traffic, rent and the discomfort of constantly hiding his money in his shoe. But for years, New Yorkers were even more miserable on Sundays than the rest of the week. That is because of the Giants’ games on Sundays.

Can I tell you about my uncle? Wonderful man. Lived in New York. My earliest memory of him is behind a closed door in his bedroom.

“What’s he doing?” I would ask when I heard the furniture crashing against the wall.

“Oh, he’s just watching the Giants,” someone would say.

He lost control only if the Giants fumbled, threw an interception, or let a team score in the closing seconds. I cannot tell you how often those things happened. I can tell you my uncle never bothered with new bedroom furniture. It’s the way they lose I should point out something here. No doubt there are teams with worse historical records than the Giants. The Detroit Lions, perhaps. But New York, because it is bigger and louder and pushier than all other U.S. cities, figures it is more entitled to a champion. And so, with the Giants, it wasn’t just the losing, it was the way the fans took it. Right in the face. It was like . . . well, it was like this:PERSON: “Who do you think will win Sunday?”FAN: “The Giants will win by 50 points.”PERSON: “And what if they don’t?”FAN: “I kill myself.” Listen. I have a friend named Barry who has a friend named Jeff. These are real people who live in New York. I am not printing their last names, in case the Giants lose Sunday. The police, not I, should be first to notify next of kin.

Anyhow, I called Jeff and Barry Monday, because they have been watching Giants games together every Sunday since the ’70s. It was not a good time for such an addiction. You know how some people called the ’70s the Me Decade? Giants fans called it the Shoot Me Decade. The stars on those teams included quarterback Joe Pisarcik, running back Bobby Duhon and defensive specialist Richmond Flowers, a name that is also listed in the Virginia Yellow Pages.

“The Giants had two seasons at 6-10,” Jeff said. “We considered those our glory years.”

I know what you are thinking. New Yorkers exaggerate. They are not exaggerating. This is a team that hired Bill Arnsparger as coach. Only once did he ever win more than three games in a Giants season.

This is a team that signed Larry Csonka, a Super Bowl hero with Miami. He was a bust in New York. Craig Morton, already a bust in New York, was traded to Denver, and led the Broncos to the Super Bowl.

“In 1970,” Jeff said, “the Giants needed to win the last game of the season to make the playoffs. Alex Webster was the coach. I was at that game sitting in front of Alex Webster’s wife.

“Well, the Giants lost, 31-3. When it was over, I took Mrs. Webster’s hand and said, ‘We’ll do it next season.’ She sighed and said, ‘I hope so.’ “

The Giants didn’t see the playoffs for 11 years. Skiing is an alternative Now I am sure Denver fans will jump up and shout,
“Wait a minute! We had lean years, too!” That is true. The Broncos didn’t have a winning season from 1960 to 1972. But once they improved, it was a fairly steady climb to excellence.

Besides, if your team loses in Denver, you go skiing and forget about it. If your team loses in New York, you go out for a walk and trip over a wino, and while you are lying on the sidewalk, someone steals your wallet.

Besides, as bad as the Broncos once were, they never lost a game by fumbling the ball while trying to kill the clock. I saw the Giants do that once. Fortunately, I was not at my uncle’s place.

So I think the time has come for New York. As my friend Barry put it,
“Harry Carson has told us the suffering is over, and we believe him.”

Harry Carson is the type who can deliver. But just in case, I will offer him this single word of advice should his team go down to defeat Sunday.



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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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