Excerpt: "Here’s a lesson I learned the hard way:
This was the Monday after Thanksgiving, two seasons ago, high above the Superdome, inside a press box virtually scraping the ceiling. The Giants were playing a prime-time game against the Saints and they were getting hammered. Actually, it was worse than that. They were getting manhandled, humiliated, emasculated.
Even from up there, it seemed like a senseless battering, one that would end 49-24 and one that, at some point, felt like the Giants would’ve preferred to be anywhere else in the world but New Orleans. And so for the pending edition of the paper, I wrote that, using the worst four-letter word in sports:
Then, at game’s end, we hurried downstairs, walked into the locker room, and this was what we saw: a room packed with bloodied, battered players, all of them limping, all of them dragging themselves to the showers and the trainer’s room, all of them looking … the best word is this: vanquished.
Justin Tuck was one of them. And something he said stayed with me, and stays with me:
“There’s a big difference,” Tuck said, “between quitting and getting your head handed to you.”
I quickly rewrote my column, hastening to delete with urgency a certain word entirely from the final edition. And it’s a point worth pondering this morning, as we try to think about where the Giants are as a team right now. Yes, they got good and pounded by the Panthers on Sunday. A lot of Giants fans turned the game off. Those that were forced to stay saw something that fell between grisly and gruesome.
Carl Banks, for one, as a Giants broadcaster, had to watch every snap. And his mood rapidly darkened as the game got further and further out of hand. And it hadn’t gotten any better by the time he talked with WFAN’s Evan Roberts and Joe Benigno on Monday. Banks never used the “Q” word, but he used a lot of its cousins, calling the Giants emotion-free, wondering whether the players liked each other, questioning their self-respect.
Later, one of Banks’ teammates from their shared golden era, Harry Carson, told ESPN: “That’s not being a Giant. There’s a certain amount of pride and dignity when you put on that uniform and take the field.”
Old Giants do tend to take the red-white-and-blue team colors seriously, transform them into sacred vestments the further removed they are from the field, and there’s nothing wrong with that: There ought to be pride in a career well played, a football life well-lived.
But the one piece of amnesia that always seems to work its way into the memories of former players is this: just how agitating it was for them when they were playing to hear about how much better things were back in the day, about how much more the players cared." Read more...