Saturday, February 04, 2012

Confessions of a former Giants fan

I've been reading a lot lately about where the equator, or the Mason-Dixon line, lies, separating New England Patriots and New York Football Giants fans. Somewhere outside of Brookline and Cambridge, Worcester and Providence, beyond Hartford and Connecticut's Tea Party country and on down towards the Big Apple. Newsroom editors assign stories in their own banal way. But the mapping of allegiances has been haunting me.
I grew up in Fairfield County and New York City. We used to walk to Gimbel's and check out the sports equipment, the Woolworth's on Lexington Avenue for the terrapins and guinea pigs, the corner newsstand for the Richie Rich comic books. Grand Central and Metro North defined our childhood -- Darien, next stop. My first ballgame was Yankee Stadium, the theatrical entrance from the interior a flash of vivid green through a portal. I could not understand why my younger brother could possibly want to leave in the 7th inning. My second game was where I first had my first beer, a Michelob. In 1986, I drove down from Torrington, Connecticut, where I worked at the Register Citizen, and scalped $200 tickets to the sixth game of the World Series, where the balled rolled through Buckner's legs and we all hugged each other like it was V-J Day. Then we went to Giants stadium and they flashed the New York score on what today would be considered a very crude Jumbotron. Yes, those Giants, the same I cheered a few years later on the field goal attempt by Buffalo, and on and on. A tradition began of partaking in he Giants-Eagles game every year in the Meadowlands, the tailgating thick with accents equivalent to a Saturday Night Live parody, the crowd noise on opponents' third downs deafening.
And so yes, I am descipable. I was a New York sports fan -- the Mets, the Knicks, the Giants, the Islanders. Even when I moved to Boston, I was clinging, defiantly, to that loyalty. As a Boston Globe reporter I interviewed Ray Flynn in Dorchester in a hideous blue and orange Mets jacket. His look of disdain was palpable. I mocked my roommate in Kendall Square for tuning in to his beloved C's. And then it all changed. And the New England Patriots were the first to turn the tide.
I started to learn the players. I read the Globe Sports section like I was studying for an algebra test. The embrace of place started rising up all around me -- New England, Massachusetts, Boston. The New England Patriots. Inevitably, inexorably, the others followed. The Red Sox. The Celtics. The Boston Bruins. I've been wanting to put the sticker of the old Patriots logo on my bumper for some time now.
I go to New York all the time; I am serene when the Acela pulls into Penn Station; I wrote a book where the action all takes place in New York. But when I settle in front of the widescreen tomorrow, Ich bin ein Bostonian. If I ever met Tom Brady my knees would wobble. I'd like for just one moment to be inside Bill Belichick's head, to see the wheels turning, the gameplan, the backup game plan, the adjustments after that. The team's victory will make history, avenge the curse of the perfect season, and secure the dynasty. But it will be, once again, like playing an old girlfriend. I'm all knots and pins and needles for all kinds of reasons. You know I used to love you. But that's all over now.