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Spirit Of Giants Owner Can Still Be Felt


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As The past few weeks have unfolded, one delightful surprise begetting another, one improbable twist followed by another impossible turn, it’s been hard not to think of just how completely Wellington Mara would have enjoyed this run, how much of a kick he would have gotten out of this team, this coach, these players.


“There is always something special about accomplishing something that nobody thought you would,” John Mara, his eldest son and now the proprietor of his half of the Mara-Tisch partnership, said yesterday. “And I’m sure he would have had his own unique way of expressing that during the trophy presentation.”


Wait a beat.


“Not so sure he would have been successful in keeping my mother off the stage however,” Mara added wryly, and you would suspect that Terry Bradshaw would nod ruefully with quiet assent at that.


In many ways, though, Ann Mara’s feisty postgame defense of the family business was perfectly in keeping with the way her late husband felt toward the team that his father, Tim, purchased in 1925 for the tidy sum of $500 — a number which, even converted for inflation, comes out to roughly $6,200 in 2012 dollars.


We tend to remember Wellington as quiet, dignified, modest — and he was all of those things, a man who understood his place of prominence within the pantheon of the NFL, whose nod of assent allowed for revenue sharing and the league’s burst into pre-eminence. He was of the old guard, and of the old school.


But he had his moments of public satisfaction, too. So it was hard not to hear his voice a few weeks ago, when the Giants took the Cowboys to the woodshed on the final night of the regular season. It was 1996 when his undermanned Giants knocked off the defending champs on a night when Jerry Jones infuriated Mara by strolling through the end zone during the game, making sure the cameras knew where to find him.


Afterward, Mara said. “It’s nice to see arrogance humbled.” And damned if it wasn’t just as nice 15 years later.


It was hard not to hear his voice again Sunday, while the Giants celebrated madly as Lawrence Tynes’ boot bisected the uprights at Candlestick Park, their joy a clear mixture of achievement and how-do-you-like-us-now defiance, the kind Wellington Mara himself once famously exhibited in similar circumstances.


“Remember, this was the Giants team referred to as the worst team ever to win home-field advantage in the National Football League,” Wellington said on the day the Giants beat the Vikings 41-0 to win the 2000 NFC Championship, the voice amplified and thrilling 79,000 gleeful fans. “Today we became the worst team ever to win the NFC Championship. And in two weeks, we’re going to try to become the worst team ever to win the Super Bowl.”


Bradshaw was holding the mike that day, too.


“You’re right about how my father would have felt about this team,” said John Mara, who certainly has heard that voice, louder and clearer than anyone else the past few weeks. “The 2007 team, too.”


Wellington Mara died Oct. 25, 2005, at 89. Yesterday, if you strolled up and down the rows of graves and memorials at Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Hawthorne, the only way you would identify Mara’s final resting place is if you were looking for it. It is neither prominent nor pretentious, nor especially large. Fitting.


There were two American flags standing sentry in front of the marker that honors Wellington, his parents, his brother, niece and nephew, and a faded Christmas wreath. There were four pebbles positioned on top of the grave, an old Jewish tradition for this distinctly Irish-American clan. The only out-of-place souvenir was a yellow Top Flite 0 golf ball, with a scribbled message lost to the elements.


This all seemed right, actually. On the other side of this same cemetery, Yankees fans periodically have turned the graves of Babe Ruth and Billy Martin into shrines of Yankees caps and postcards and baseballs, tokens and talismans everywhere. The visitors mean well, but it does tend to conjure Jim Morrison’s grave site at Pere Lachaise.


Not here. If Giants fans come, they arrive empty-handed and simply pay respects. Besides, if they want to think of their late owner, all they need to do is watch his beloved football team and listen carefully. Surely you can hear the delight in his voice.












Wellington Mara.

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