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Team Carson in full force


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Team Carson in full force

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

NEW YORK -- Each time Harry Carson's name came up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame voting and he didn't make it, they bled for him. Each time one of them heard the news on the radio and called another one to say, "Can you believe they left him out again?" they felt a growing anger and a private rage.


Harry Carson was their captain and always would be. Harry Carson was their leader and always would be.


They remain unique, these Giants. All of them, coaches and players alike, remain a team even today. Coaches move on to other jobs but their footprints remain in a time warp when the Giants moved in a world where tunes of glory echoed and re-echoed in their ears.


Players retire but the games they played, the blazing heat of training camp and the icy Decembers they shared, live on in memory. The great players and the great coaches and the great teams kindle and rekindle every flame.


Harry was their captain. To insult the captain in the Hall of Fame was to insult each one of them. Carson could handle that. He even wrote a letter to the Hall of Fame committee asking them to withdraw his name. As he explained yesterday:


"I don't need a Hall of Fame honor to validate who I am."


But the captain's team thought he did, in the sense that such a vote was a validation of the man they had chosen to be their leader ... such a vote was a validation for all of them. In countless struggles past on the wind-hammered fields in Chicago and Philly and Washington ... in the sunshine of Arizona and San Diego and Miami ... under the domes of New Orleans and Minneapolis, nobody pushed the captain around.


Each of them, therefore, took each of his Hall of Fame rejections personally.


And now that he has made it, each of them takes that news the same way -- a personal vindication for the man they followed on the field and often follow off the field even now.


Yesterday, they came to Gallagher's Steak House on the West Side of Manhattan ... at least 20 them ... men who had played shoulder to shoulder with him and men who had coached him ... an honor guard that had waited far too long for this moment.


This was their guy and still is. You couldn't have kept them away with a net and a trident. There was Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick; George Martin and Lawrence Taylor; Phil Simms and Pepper Johnson; Jim Burt and Curtis McGriff, and a dozen or so more.


Parcells spoke passionately about his captain:


"Yes, he had talent. A lot of guys have talent. Everyone up here has talent. You should have more to be a Hall of Famer. You should have the ability to lead ... to make everyone around you better ... those are the only ones who deserve to be there.


"Harry paid his way. I know he walked down that icy tunnel at the Meadowlands so many times when he didn't feel well and he was wondering how he would get through it. He called our defensive signals ... he was a team leader ... he was the captain."


If you know Harry Carson, then you know he was telling the truth when he said he didn't need this honor. But if you know the men who gathered with him yesterday, they felt they needed it for him.


As Carson sat there, if you looked down the honor guard on either side of him, their faces seemed to grow younger as each spoke. Suddenly, these were no longer the Boys of December come to honor their leader. Energized as they always had been when he was the focal point of their on-field gatherings, they seemed to breathe life into the past and hold it in their battle-worn hands.


George Martin and Carson had been teammates for nearly the entire length of Martin's career. They remain best friends today. Yesterday, it was Martin who took the occasion and seized it as though he knew it were a chance to tell the world about another dimension of the captain ... a dimension that could not be measured in blitzes and tackles and interceptions.


Martin spoke with a passion that seemed to speak for all of them:


"Some of you with gray hair and expanded waistlines remember a running back named Doug Kotar and the cancer that took him. It was Harry who mobilized us, who set up a visit and who established the scholarship fund for his children.


"Not so long ago a guy who had been our backup quarterback, Jeff Rutledge, almost died in a car crash. He told me that it was Harry who drove seven hours and sat by his bedside and Harry who told him not to worry because he was going to pay all the bills and it was Harry who gave him the incentive to live.


"He was our captain and I'll be able to tell my grandchildren I played with Harry Carson."


And then Carson spoke. He honored his college coach, who was there. He honored the coaches in the room and the men with whom he played.


"I feel tremendously honored to have played with all these men up here," Carson said. "I consider them my brothers. If they ever need anything they know they can always pick up the phone and I'll be there for them. That's what this whole Hall of Fame thing is. It's about them. The specialness about this whole thing is about these guys here. I think about Mr. (Wellington) Mara and how much he wanted this honor for me.


"I give thanks to all these guys who made it possible for me to be in this position this afternoon."


And each of them had an image triggered by the things he said ... a private reflection of goal-line stands and rushing out of the tunnel into the Meadowlands sunlight and of afternoons when it seemed they would never grow older.


Their captain would always be there for them.




Jerry Izenberg appears regularly in The Star-Ledger.





© 2006 The Star Ledger

© 2006 NJ.com All Rights Reserved.

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I'm going to the induction so if anyone else's going to be there, I'll be the one there wearing a Giants hat....

I was going to go until me and my wife received 3 tickets in one month. Dude, you don't even know how pissed I am right now. :furious:

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Sorry to hear about the tickets; that'll ruin your day for sure.


Never the less, the coverage will be good enough (I'm sure). I'm looking forward to seeing some our greats togetehr. I really don't get the opportunity very often since I live in Ohio.

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Sorry to hear about the tickets; that'll ruin your day for sure.


Never the less, the coverage will be good enough (I'm sure). I'm looking forward to seeing some our greats togetehr. I really don't get the opportunity very often since I live in Ohio.

That's why I want to go. Because I know a ton of Giants great will be in attendance. :cwy:

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