Best. Day. Ever. NY Giants 41-0 NFC Championship Game Victory: January 14, 2001
I don’t often write about sporting events, but today is an important day over here at 2bitMonkey. 10 years ago today (March 25, 2003) my brother tragically and suddenly passed away at the age of 19. In his honor and memory, I am posting a story about a day we spent together that forever lives on in my mind as a day that our friendship (which is different than our brotherhood) was cemented.
It started on a Friday afternoon a little over 12 years ago, January 2001. The New York Giants were scheduled to take on rookie sensation Randy Moss and the favored Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship Game that Sunday at Giants Stadium in the Meadowlands. More than anything I wanted to go to the game. I’d never been to an NFL playoff game before, and if the Giants won they’d make it to the Super Bowl for the first time in a decade. When the Giants last appeared in a championship game I was just 13 years old; here was my first chance to experience the exhilaration as an adult. I searched online for tickets without much luck – this was before Craigslist and stubhub – eBay was pretty much the only game in town. I was running out of time. Finally I found someone with reasonably priced tickets (though they still weren’t cheap) and I called my brother to see if he’d be willing to come with me to the game. We’d been to three or four games together that year, all Giants victories. My brother said yes – of course! He was always game for anything – the tickets were messengered to my office … I couldn’t wait!
The next day, Saturday, it snowed approximately two feet. Driving to the game in my Mazda Miata was a bit of an adventure but there was no other way. We finally got to the Stadium and about half of the parking lot was completely covered in piled up snow, mountains upon mountains of it plowed, pushed and otherwise made to accommodate at least some of the many cars descending upon the scene. Drivers pulled their SUV’s up on big snow piles and just left them on the side of the road. We didn’t know what to do and the game was about to start. So we did what any stupid, young, red-blooded American males at a football game would do and just left the Miata on the side of the road outside the parking lot and sprinted to the entrance!
We got into the game, not yet in our seats, and the Giants scored on the very first play we saw. It was 7-0 Giants, though the game was only a minute old. Everyone was standing and cheering; the Stadium was as loud as I’d ever heard it. As we squeezed our way down the aisle the Giants recovered a turnover, and on the very next play they another touchdown – 14-0 Giants. The game was less than 3 minutes old and the place was shaking. The Giants scored again and again and again and by halftime it was 34-0 Giants! My brother and I didn’t sit down once the entire first half and neither did anyone else. The music was blaring, the crowd was in a frenzy, the atmosphere was more like a party or celebration than like a football game.
Maybe it was the cold, maybe it was the standing and cheering, most likely it was the delirium of watching our team cruise to a Super Bowl appearance, but there were some other really funny things that we laughed about all day. The people in front of us each had a thermos with steaming hot “cider” which led them to a nice state of joyful intoxication. Old people getting hammered on steaming hot cider – hysterical. Then there was the fan standing next to me. Bundled in his parka, he literally never sat down for the entire game, but he also never cheered or made a sound. I’m pretty sure he never moved more than an inch. Three hours frozen still while a party went on around him. It was spooky. My brother kept couldn’t stop gesturing and subtly (and not so subtly) pointing at him, calling him an Eskimo. Eventually everyone sat down and the Eskimo still didn’t move. It was funny, especially to my brother and his warped sense of humor.
The Giants went on to win 41-0. My brother and I talked all season about how the fans at Giants Stadium loved hometown heroes Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi more than the Giants. So of course, when the final whistle blew, after the mandatory playing of “We Are the Champions” over the speakers they segued right into the Boss’ “Born to Run.” Fox set up a stage on the field and Terry Bradshaw tried to interview players and coach Jim Fassel on the field, but the fans didn’t allow it. They downed him out screaming “Bruce Bruce Bruce …” My brother and I were cracking up. Minutes after our first NFC title in a decade and fans wanted to hear “Born to Run” more than a post-game interview with the Giants quarterback and head coach. Bradshaw, confused, waited for the song to end and gamely tried to do the interview. But the Stadium P.A. played Bon Jovi’s “It’s My Life” and the fans sang along! Pure and utter insanity. At this point my brother and I couldn’t see straight we were laughing so hard. And the Eskimo sitting next to us still didn’t move.
Eventually it was time to leave; we found the car, pushed it off the snow pile and got on the road. We heard “Born to Run” on the radio (no lie) and celebrated the whole way home. My brother and I talked about that day so many times over the ensuing years. It was great at the time, and it was something we bonded over more and more as time went on. Any time either of us would hear “It’s My Life” on the radio we would instantly tell the other one about it, then wind up talking about that day. No one else ever understood why either of us liked that song.
I’ve been fortunate to be at a lot of great games over the years. I’ve seen a no-hitter, a perfect game, dramatic playoff wins and World Series games, but that NFC Championship Game still stands out as the best game ever. One of my best days ever. Twelve years later, with my brother no longer with us, it still is. It always will.