The P Posted December 24, 2009 Share Posted December 24, 2009 The Post’s Steve Serby asked the Giants’ co-owner to recall his (and late father Wellington’s) greatest memories about Giants Stadium just a few days before the team plays its final game there. Q: Your first Giants Stadium memory? A: I remember driving here with a college roommate of mine in 1975 before the stadium was completed getting lost trying to find place. And then finally finding it, and then just walking around the building and just thinking, “What a great building it’s gonna be.” A football-only stadium, configured for football, with a great seating bowl and compared to what we had at Yankee Stadium. I remember thinking, “This place is gonna be pretty special for us.” Charles Wenzelberg Q: And your dad’s feeling? A: He was excited about moving into a building that was gonna be our own, with our name on it, and it was football-only. And then our fans, once they got into the building, would be excited about it. Because I think people forget that at the time, it was about as controversial a decision as we have ever had in our history, and he was vilified, both broadcast and print at the time for “abandoning New York” and moving the franchise. But somebody pointed out at the time Giants Stadium was actually closer to Times Square than Yankee Stadium was (chuckles). Unfortunately . . . any enthusiasm he had for the building was tempered by the fact that we had such lousy teams. We were in that period that I refer to as “The Wilderness” — 1964-80. Q: The first game in October 1976? A: Jimmy Robinson (scored) the first touchdown . . . and everything after that was bad. I remember the walk with (my father) into the locker room, how disappointed he was. Marty Schottenheimer, our defensive coordinator, (walked) up to him in the locker room (and said), “Mr. Mara, I’m sorry we spoiled your day.” And he said to him, “No, you didn’t spoil it.” It was one of the few times in his life he was not necessarily being truthful (chuckles) when he said that. Q: Joe Pisarcik (The Fumble)? A: I was working for CBS in the (national TV) broadcast booth as a spotter. Don Criqui was the play-by-play guy, and I remember sitting there stunned . . . not believing what had happened. I had to leave the booth at that point because I couldn’t watch — there were a few plays that occurred after that which I never saw ’cause I just couldn’t bear to watch any more. That was my last game ever in the broadcast booth as a spotter. I realized that I was just too emotionally connected with the game, and I couldn’t behave with the appropriate decorum. Q: You sat in a booth with your father when the “15 years of lousy football” banner was flown overhead the next week against the Cardinals. A: I don’t remember whether we saw the banner. We certainly were aware of the protest, and the chanting started. I think it was, “We’ve had enough.” And it was either that game, or it was a game later in the season where I can remember him being hung in effigy from the third deck. I don’t remember him saying anything, he just kinda shook his head and stuff, but I know it had to be painful for him. Q: Beating Dallas (in 1981) and making the playoffs when the Jets beat Green Bay the following day? A: My father was so desperate to get into the locker room afterwards, and the elevator was out of order. So we actually went outside the building and walked down the ramps. And I remember the fans coming up and slapping him on the back, (saying) “Congratulations.” And I remember feeling so happy for him at that time after all he had been through for so many years. Q: The ’86 NFC Championship game? A: I just remember the wind blowing incredibly. I remember feeling for the first time, maybe in my lifetime, that there was no way we were gonna lose. . . . Just the type of team that we had, I just felt like it was our time. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt that way since. Q: The 2000 NFC Championship game? A: The outcome was not in doubt really after halftime, and the NFL kept trying to get him to go downstairs so he could be ready for the trophy presentation, which they were gonna do on the field, and he wasn’t gonna leave. . . . Having lived through The Fumble (chuckles) and everything else, the game is never over. Finally, he consented to go down with about four minutes left. I can remember him standing — you never saw him ever on the field during a game — and he stood behind the end zone, kinda off in the corner with my mother. And I remember thinking that after all those years in the ’70s, and being hung in effigy and all the criticism and everything else, that he had come a long way, so I remember feeling particularly happy for him. Q: Your father’s speech on the podium? A: I knew he had something planned for that. You just tell by the look on his face (chuckles), because people had written at the time that this was the worst team ever to play in an NFC Championship game, or words to that effect, and I knew, knowing him as long as I have, that that was gonna work its way into his acceptance. Q: The Phil Simms and Lawrence Taylor retirement ceremonies? A: Both of those nights were special for him because he loved both of them. Probably the angriest and most upset I ever saw him was the day we released Phil Simms. I thought for a while there that he was gonna block George (Young) from doing it. That hurt him a lot. Phil was one of his guys. Q: Watching Bill Parcells roam the sidelines? A: You always had a feeling that no matter what was happening in the game, with him coaching, and then with Simms at quarterback, that you always had a chance to win. And that’s a great feeling to have. Q: The first game after 9/11? A: I remember being in my father’s office for an NFL conference call (about whether) to play the games the following week, and he was so adamantly opposed . . . having witnessed from the stadium itself the Trade Centers going down, you could still see the smoke. We still had no idea how many had died. And I remember him voicing his opinion very forcefully, and I think that carried a lot of weight, because a lot of owners, at the time, wanted to play the following week. . . . He had lived through, of course, the Kennedy assassination, when we played the following week, and he believed at the time that that was the right thing to do, and later said to me that that was clearly a mistake, and I think that always stuck in the back of his mind. Q: Your father in the hospital toward the end? A: The most emotion that I ever felt in that stadium were the two games that we played, the one just before he died, and the one after he died. It was Oct. 23 (2005) against Denver, beating them on the last play. . . . I just remember not being as emotionally involved in the game as I usually am because I knew he was gonna die any day. But then when we win on the last play, I just remember being overcome by emotion. And obviously, the following week after he had died, beating Washington, and then walking to the locker room afterwards and having the players give me the game ball, that was a very special moment for me. Q: Why will you miss Giants Stadium? A: I think mostly because we have so many memories there, both good and bad, but more good. But I think for me, personally, it’s a building that’s identified with my father, and it’s like I’m losing another piece of him when the building comes down (in February). http://www.nypost.com/p/sports/giants/serby_special_with_john_mara_ukxlFQQNDVKp6wSyQu3X9J/0 Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
Create an account or sign in to comment
You need to be a member in order to leave a comment
Create an account
Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!Register a new account
Already have an account? Sign in here.Sign In Now