Friday, January 6, 2017

When your family creates a Giant problem

Football is family. Surely you've heard that. It's all the rage as the NFL would like you to know. After all, the league has been beating that drum for about two years now, and despite some noteworthy dissent, I'm not really going to argue all that much. After all, I was an unrecognizably sports-free child until I stumbled upon my father watching a Browns-Broncos game on Monday Night Football in 1990. Even then I wasn't won over until I saw the end of the Leon Lett Game when Pete Stoyanovich lifted the Dolphins over the Cowboys in a hail storm on Thanksgiving, this time with both my father and my uncle sitting nearby. Outside of my father, however, my immediate family tends to be somewhat oblivious to the goings-on of the NFL unless the Super Bowl is around the corner or the Giants happen to be playing particularly well.

The exception to this may be my sister, whom I visited in London this past October when I saw the Giants play the Rams at Twickenham Stadium back in a world where we still thought the American people actually had the good sense not to elect a thin-skinned narcissist to the White House. What a special time it was. But I think my sister would be the first to admit that she is, perhaps, not the biggest football fan I know or even in her own home. I did attend the game with her husband, after all.

I have, of course, sought to change this with the next generation, and that includes my oldest nephew, whom I have showered with an overabundance of paraphernalia in an attempt to brainwash him to root for the same teams as me. Apparently he is quite fond of his Giants stuffed football that plays noises when it feels impact, all of which signals some impressive progress considering I think my brother and his wife find football to be (not without some cause, it should be said) a morally bankrupt enterprise.

They are entitled to their opinion of course, but my nephew's interest is of great importance this week because for the first time in five years, which is to say, the first time in his entire life, which at the moment has lasted three years and six days, the New York Football Giants will be playing a playoff game this Sunday.

Obviously, I am very excited, or at least anticipatory, for a return to the postseason that is both righteously deserved and too long in the making. Five years is an unusually long amount of time for the Giants to miss the postseason. In fact, the last time the Giants snapped a playoff drought this long was back in 1981 when they defeated the Eagles in a Wild Card game on the heels of an 18-year absence. Bizarrely, that absence followed a run of five Championship Game appearances in seven seasons. That is to say, the last time the Giants returned to the playoffs after this long of a dry spell, my brother was a mere 24 days old and I was not alive. The last time the Giants began a playoff-less run this long, the Super Bowl did not yet exist.

So, yes, this is historically significant and unusual. I hope my three-year old nephew never experiences a drought quite so long in his life (though I guess the law of large numbers makes that unlikely), and I would love to share this hopeful return to glory with him this Sunday afternoon.

This Sunday afternoon is my nephew's birthday party. He is three. His parents make the decisions. They will not be watching football.

Sometimes I wonder if the gods have a dark sense of humor, but I'm never in on the joke. That seems to explain why I care about the Mets so much. The Giants are a different matter even if they've missed the playoffs in six of the past seven seasons and we just choose to overlook that because the one time they made the playoffs, well, you know. That, at least, has been a pretty rewarding relationship even if the last few years have been fallow. The Giants have still been to the Super Bowl five times in my life and are the only team to win a title in each of the past four decades. I ain't complaining.

But after five years of waiting for the Giants to play in the postseason again, it seems like a cruel misfortune that the game should run up against a family function where I almost certainly will not have great access to a television, let alone one that's showing a football game. Did I also mention that I actually turned down a relatively inexpensive chance to attend this game so I could be at the party?

So, I ask, is football really family when your family doesn't love football?

Seems like a bit of a quandary, no? As it stands, my plans are largely to follow voraciously on my phone for the first half and pray the venue has a television with the game on. The silver lining is that my nephew, being only three years old, has a three-year-old's bedtime, and the party is scheduled to end early enough that I should be able to catch the second half if I sprint to a nearby friend's apartment. At least that's the plan.

Maybe I'll be lucky. Maybe my nephew will wonder why Uncle Dave is staring at the TV so anxiously and he'll come over, and perhaps I'll get to share some of a thrilling Giants playoff victory with him, forever inducting him into frustratingly satisfying life that is being a Giants fan. That would be ideal. But as some old prophets once said, you can't always get what you want. I'm just hoping that come Sunday I'll get what I need and that maybe -- maybe -- I won't run into this quandary when my nephew has his birthday again next year.

Unless the Giants win. In which case I will promptly schedule him a second birthday party for next weekend.

(4) Houston over (5) Oakland -- Remember when the Raiders had a quarterback? That was fun.
(3) Seattle over (6) Detroit -- I'd like to think the Lions have a chance to knock the team that scares me most out of the NFC playoffs, but there's a reason they scare me.
(3) Pittsburgh over (6) Miami -- A friend this week told me he has more confidence in Matt Moore than Ryan Tannehill. I try to convince myself of crazy things sometimes, too.
(5) NY Giants over (4) Green Bay -- I mean, duh.


  1. I know this will sound sacrilegious, but can't you DVR the game and watch it on delay? Turn off your phone, avoid news, etc, and race through the first half when you get home? Also, now that I pay attention to football, my picks:
    Houston over Oakland
    Seattle over Detroit
    Miami over Pittsburgh
    Giants over Greenbay

    1. Note: autocorrect changed Green Bay to Greenbay 😑

  2. DVRing a sporting event? A PLAYOFF sporting event? In this day and age?

    Surely you jest.