We are officially less than a month before the start of the NFL season, so it's probably time to start previewing the monster. The key to the NFL's success — other than fantasy football and gambling, of course — is the rabid nature of its fans. That is to say: You don't see a lot of painting their faces for their favorite golfer.
We asked a gaggle of writers, from the Web, from print, from books, even a TV guy or two, to tell us, in as many or as little words as they need, why My Team Is Better Than Your Team. This is not meant to be factual, or dispassionate, or even logical: We just asked them to riff on why they love their team so much, or what their team means to them, or whatever. We will be running two a day until the beginning of the NFL season.
Right now: the New Your Giants. Your author is Peter Schrager.
Peter Schrager is a writer for FoxSports.com. His words are after the jump.
As a seventh grader living in suburban New Jersey during the early 90's, there were three things that defined you:
1. Whether you were a Super Nintendo or Genesis guy.
2. Whether you still played traveling soccer or not.
3. Which team's Starter Jacket you wore.
The first two were simple enough.
- Sonic or Mario? Pick one and never look back.
- Still wearing those Umbro shorts? Seriously?
The third one, though — well, that caused sleepless nights. Choosing which team you wanted plastered on to your back was essentially the first real life decision you ever had to make. It was a four-month process, starting in the summer, and culminating before the start of football season. The choice had incredible repercussions. Once you settled on a team, you were stuck with it until at least the end of the following March.
The Starter Jacket, of course, was more than a comfortable zip-up coat that sold anywhere from $85-120 retail in the local Foot Locker. It was an identity. It was a lifestyle.
The most popular ones said a lot about you—or at least—who you wanted to be:
Some free-word association with the big five:
1. Raiders: Ice Cube. Snoop Dog. Chronic. Gangs. Guns. Death. Crime. NWA. Bo Jackson. Jay Schroeder.
2. Bulls: "Come Fly With Me." Jordan. Pippen. Grant. Will Perdue.
3. Knicks: Oakley. Mason. Starks. Shaved Heads. Black Sneakers. Bullies.
4. Cowboys: Aikman. Irvin. Emmitt. Perennial Winners.
5. Bills: Kelly. Thomas. Reed. Perennial Losers.
Back then, it wasn't cool to wear Giants paraphernalia. This was just after the XXI and XXV Super Bowl teams and right before the Sean Payton/Jim Fassell era in East Rutherford. We're talking the Dave Brown, Ray Handley, Lewis Tillman, Dan Reeves, Kent Graham and Thomas Lewis years. Rodney Hampton was "The Guy," but even he was a reluctant star, a throwback from the 1950's whose highlight reel includes countless three-yard runs into the line of scrimmage. In a time when the NFL featured the high-flying Run N' Gun Oilers, the "2 Legit 2 Quit" Falcons and the no-nonsense Pat Swilling-led Saints, buying a puffy red, white and blue Giants jacket wasn't exactly a statement of cool.
For a 13-year-old kid, there was absolutely nothing fun about the early to mid-90's Giants. Nothing at all. No flashy players, no cool logo, not a single touchdown dance. To be certain, you weren't picking them as your squad in Madden. Though I don't have the Elias Sports Bureau stats on me, I'd say those squads had fewer highlights per game than any other team in professional sports history. I vaguely remember Charles Way making a really nice block once. But even that is a clouded memory. Search the annals of NFL Films, log onto You Tube: You'll find nothing. I'm telling you, it's like those teams never even existed.
But I was a die-hard fan.
I'll never forget how grueling a decision-making process picking my Starter Jacket was. In my mother's Volvo en route to the Freehold Raceway Mall for some back-to-school shopping at the Chess King and JC Penney's, I vividly remember having a panic attack. My conscience haunted me. Was I required to buy a Giants jacket? Was it my duty as a fan? I nearly fainted walking out of Spencer's Gifts.
When I actually got to the Foot Locker, a brand new Ottawa Senators jacket stared me back in the face. It was perfect. You know that scene in Zoolander when he first breaks out "Magnum," and the world momentarily freezes? Well, that was me and this Sens coat.
It made sense: A new team in the booming NHL, the rookie sensation Alexander Daigle, a slick logo with even slicker colors. I'd be the talk of the town. I picked it up, discussed with the man in the referee shirt and marched right to the counter for purchase. I was going to be the first kid in all of Freehold to have an Ottawa Senators jacket. This was a big deal.
Then something majestic happened. I'm not one for fate. I don't believe in love at first sight, hated that movie Serendipity and cringe at the thought of people who watch that "Earl" show and find a way to sneak the word "karma" into every other sentence. But on that day, in that mall, something really fucked up happened.
The Senators coat had already been all wrapped up, put in the bag, and swiped at the counter. The choice had been made. Then, just as my mother was reaching for her wallet to make the Starter Jacket decision official, a hideous red, white, and blue Giants jacket fell from a random rack above the cash register and plummeted to the ground. No rhyme or reason at all. Boom. It just fell from the heavens. It was like the ghost of Vince Lombardi was trying to say something.
There it was. Sprawled out on the filthy floor of a shopping mall Foot Locker, the jacket just sat there. I read the writing on the wall. I quickly woke up from my daze. What was I doing? I was a Giants fan. Was I really going to wear the colors of a hockey team in a Canadian city I knew nothing about instead of my beloved G-Men? It was a slap in the face to so many people. My father, my brother, my grandfather, Phil Simms, even Joe Pisarcik!
I broke it down in my brain, Nick Bakay-style:
Choose the Senators jacket: Gain the respect of classmates, be different, maybe even increase my chances of getting to "sloppy second" during the school year.
Choose the Giants jacket: Avoid shaming the family name, stand up for what's right, set back my social life three, maybe five years.
In the end, I couldn't ignore the sign from above. I went with the ugliest, plainest Starter jacket in the entire store: old Big Blue.
While wearing that Giants Starter jacket, I saw the famous ice-throwing game against San Diego, witnessed multiple second half collapses versus the Eagles and fought off pneumonia in countless late December games sitting in the upper bowels of Giants Stadium. I saw Emmitt Smith tear our hearts out with one working arm. I watched Ricky Proehl catch not one, but two fourth-quarter touchdowns in a loss to the lowly Cardinals. I saw Phil Simms and Lawrence Taylor get their numbers retired, Ray Handley coach his last game and Tyrone Wheatley start his first.
I wore that ratty Giants Starter jacket up until my senior year of high school. That Giants jacket defined who I was then, and if it still fit me, I'd likely still be wearing it today. Of course, the G-men are a lot cooler these days. A preseason chic pick by the experts to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl, everyone seems to be on the bandwagon. Big Blue returns eleven offensive starters, has depth at every position, and something to prove after last year's disappointing season-ending loss to Carolina.
As for the Ottawa Senators ... Well, I haven't really been following them. But I'm confident they've done just fine without my support as a fan. After all, they had Alexander Daigle. And that neat logo.