Saturday, August 8, 2009

I Will Always Be Wild About Harry

(The NFL inducted members into the Hall of Fame today. Here is something I wrote last winter about my favorite Hall of Famer.)

Well, I've done the best that I could. I'm here maybe a little late, but I'm here. I don't care how long it's taken. All of you who have been my supporters, you Giant fans, you know what it's all about, you know what it's all about. You've been there for me. You remember those years when the Giants sucked, the Giants were awful. You know about it. Even the Redskin fans know about it. Even the Cowboy fans know about it. Even the Eagles fans know about it.- Harry Carson's Hall of Fame Speech

As I write, the Giants will be defending their championship in a playoff game one day from now against the Eagles in the Meadowlands. Its new territory for Giant fans; we have never won a Super Bowl and made the playoffs the following year.

Can we lose? Of course we can. If the 2007 Pats could lose, if John Wooden's UCLA teams could lose, if Joe Louis could lose, if Ted Williams could strike out, then trust me, the Giants can lose.

But I just read something that makes me think we got this one in the bag: The Giants have made Harry Carson an honorary captain for Sunday's game.

You see, whenever I make my list of my 10 favorite athletes, Harry is always at or near the top like "Stairway To Heaven" was always at the top of WNEW countdowns or so T Crow can understand, "In The Still of The Night" is always number one on the Don K. Reed Do Wop Shop Countdown.

Why is Harry so high on my list?

I have lots of (Gary) reasons:

For Giant fans my age, we began rooting for the Giants in the mid 1970's. Harry's rookie season was 1975. The Giant Harry will forever be linked with, George Martin, was a rookie in 1974. To first become a fan when these guys showed up, its like being locked in a library with Einstein and Oppenheimer: you tend to learn a lot and watch a lot.

Harry got caught up in the greatest drought in Giant history. We went from Lee Harvey Oswald's JFK assassination to Hinkley's attempt on Reagan without once sniffing the playoffs. In fact, Oswald or Hinkley were probably better QB's than Piscarcik or Jerry Goldsteyn.

But Giant fans to comfort from watching Harry play linebacker. He was that good. First, the guy was chiseled. He was not made out of skin and bones, but marble. When he made the Hall of Fame, I thought "This is the first time in history that a marble bust will be chiseled to honor a man... chiseled from marble!" Manny Ramirez could swing an aluminum bat today and hit Harry in the back, and Harry would think a feather landed on the back of his shirt.

Look at that goddamn bust above. It looks more like Harry than Harry. I say put a # 53 Jersey on that bust on Sunday and lets see how many times it tackles Westbrook.

In the 1970's he singlehandedly ensured that the Giants were not embarrassed. The guy was the Rock of Gibraltar, no NFL team made their cash running up the middle on the mid 70's Giants.

He could plug any hole, no matter how many offensive linemen were assigned to take him out.

Although the Giants had good linebackers when Harry first came up, it was like he was Jimi Hendrix playing with a Carriage House band. When LT showed up in 1981, it was like the first time Jagger met Richards, or Marley and Tosh sharing their first spliff.

But if all Harry did was become a hall of fame linebacker, he never would have made my list. He made my list because he was able to play a ferocious game and yet remain gentle. He made my list because he is a great leader of men. He made my list because he had a greater presence than any other athlete I have ever seen.

When Giant RB Doug Kotar was terminally ill with brain cancer, it was Harry who escorted him to his treatments, who organized team visits, who started a scholarship fund for Kotar's kids. When QB Jeff Rutledge was in a serious car accident, it was Harry who drove the 7 hrs, to visit and help. Harry had such respect, a 22 year -old LT,felt bad using curse words in front of him.

These stories are the tip of the iceberg with Harry. Watch his Hall of Fame speech. True to the man, its about others: he urges the NFL and Union to help retired players with no medical coverage, he mentions fallen Giants like Kotar, Troy Archer and Wellington Mara, and the love he has received from Giant fans.

Two quick memories:

Its October 1986. I am at Giants Stadium for a Monday Night Game with Jimmy Gallagher. Its my first time seeing a Giant game in person: Giants- Redskins. (I have always thought, continue to think so, that the best seat to a Giant game is at home next to my father.)

We get there at least two hours before the game. I can't keep my eyes off Harry. He is on the field in sweatpants and a tee shirt, and he has a yellow walkman. Stadium employees and fans approach Harry. He treats them all as if they are a Head of State. Strong handshakes, eye contact, autographs and smiles for all. I keep thinking he is as comfortable with people before the game as he is smashing heads during the game. Somehow the ugly Romanowski part of football never intrudes on this sweet man's life. I left Giant's Stadium that night thinking: Every good thought I have ever had about this man has been validated by what I have seen tonight.

Second and last memory. It is three months later. January 1987. Giants-Broncos Super Bowl. The coin flip is about to occur, and I have a feeling that hits me that lets me no that their is no chance the the Giants will lose this game.

What happened? Both teams send out their captains for the coin flip. Here come the Broncos. They must of had 20 captains. It looked like the starting line of the NYC marathon. Plus, they were all in white and orange, it was like an ice cream truck convention came to town.

And on behalf of the Giants out strolls...... Harry. One man to represent one team. One man to represent the hopes and dreams of Giant fans everywhere. Trust me, it was perfect. Trust me, we were well represented.

You know how Reagan commands the camera when he met Gorbachev in Reykjavik? That was Harry during the coin toss. The Broncos all 7,000 captains, were immediately diminished by the mere arrival of Harry Carson.

At that moment, I knew the game was a mere formality.

So I say bring Harry out for the coin toss.

It has proven to work in the past, and it will also give Giant fans like me another chance to cheer a man that we will never forget.

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