I am a Giants fan, but I'm also fascinated by the human condition, and I happen to think nothing is more fascinating than a million people brought together by nothing more than a football team and the rare socially acceptable opportunity to get drunk before breakfast. It was with this in mind that I set off for Lower Manhattan this morning, with zero ideas for my "coverage" and even less forethought of how to make it happen. Would you be surprised if I told you the whole thing was a disaster, and that I was forcibly removed from Broadway by an NYPD sergeant after five minutes?
For crowd control purposes, there were multiple barriers, manned by police officers whose only job it was to keep me from getting to the parade. I'm of the firm belief that you can talk your way into anything provided you act like you're supposed to be there, and your camera has a big enough zoom lens. After striking out a few times—common responses included, "Where's your ID?", "I need to see your ID," "I can't let you through if you don't have ID," and "I'm not getting in trouble for you"—I managed to get through three consecutive checkpoints by finding common ground with the officers.
"I know, I need an ID," I'd lament. "I was supposed to have one by now, but DCPI fucked up." DCPI helps the police deal with the press, and the press deal with the police. Consequently, both the police and the press hate DCPI.
So I made it: right out in the middle of Broadway, just waiting for the first float to roll by.
Any parade crowd breaks down into roughly equal groups of those there to actually celebrate and revel in the team's season, and those who are just there for the spectacle. This second group is divided: Sometimes they're college kids and teenagers who spent their morning drinking on New Jersey Transit into the city that morning, or maybe at one of the tens of bars in Tribeca that opened before dawn.
Other times it's school-age kids, skipping class with groups of friends, or more commonly taken out of school by their parents for a once-in-a-who-knows party. In New York City, school attendance tends to drop below 75 percent for parade days, and our last mayor outright told kids to play hooky. These kids are always more excited than maybe even the Giants themselves: No one in the world knows happiness like a student who's not in school when he's supposed to be.
The fans, many of whom have been there since sun-up, were keeping themselves warm and busy by exchanging toilet paper bombardments. But a few enterprising folks brought along footballs to toss around, and I caught one guy in a fright wig and Hakeem Nicks jersey taking aim at a target well above the heads of his receivers across the street ...
The ball in flight ...
... could it be? ...
The football sailed directly through this half-open second floor window, nailing a woman sitting inside. I know you will not believe me, but it was the greatest thing anyone has ever seen, ever. People lost their shit. Not even Eli Manning holding the Lombardi Trophy would get more of an ovation this morning.
As the crowd looked on in awe, one cop gave the thrower a round of applause.
Here is where things went bad. There are no more photos from the middle of the parade route, because I was accosted by an officer who apparently noticed I wasn't publicly displaying my press credentials. This was because I had none, I explained to him. Quite politely, I thought, and a reasonable explanation to boot. Maybe not.
He also didn't hate DCPI as much as I hoped he might.
You know how The New York Times retained the country's top First Amendment lawyers for Judith Miller? This was not that, and I could see Nick Denton laughing and lighting a cigar with Facebook stock rather than going to bat for me. This one wasn't worth it. I was given a two-officer escort back through all three checkpoints, once again on the outside looking in.
Sometimes you're the windshield, and sometimes you're walking away with the drunk chicks in Jeremy Shockey jerseys.
A sign on a boarded-up storefront I saw, as I searched for another entrance to the parade route. Possibly homemade.
I was out of time. The parade had started, so I figured I had better at least join the spectators if I wanted to catch a distant glimpse of some people on a double-decker bus who might or might not be Giants. These are my people, the true fans, and the only ID we need is our passion. (I tried that line at another police checkpoint. Didn't work.)
A fire engine proved a handy vantage point for some ...
... scaffolding for others ...
... office windows for still others ...
... and dad's shoulders for a lucky few.
The floats were distant, identifying players was uncertain, but the atmosphere was festive. A drum, cowbell, vuvuzela, and airhorn band kept the beat ...
... and the drunk teenagers danced along.
And in the end I saw some of the Giants, I think, though they were partially obscured by a cotton candy seller. I do love a parade.