SCOREBOARD 01-10-2010

Bidding Giants Stadium a farewell

Memories of the Meadowlands brings sadness as place gets ready for demolition

A major part of my life is coming down soon, bound to be a part of history and nostalgia like other places like it.
A least when Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City was torn down in 1985, it had to be razed. It had become worn down and falling apart. A light stand even collapsed. There was no activity there for years. It was historic and nostalgic, sure, but it was also an eyesore.
And when Roosevelt Stadium in Union City recently came down, it was taken down to build a new school – one that has a unique field on the roof that has the Roosevelt Stadium name as its entrance and the feel of the old joint by its construction. It looks and feels like Union City Roosevelt Stadium, only four stories above Kennedy Boulevard.
However, a majestic edifice such as Giants Stadium didn’t have to come down, but it will very shortly, being replaced by an even bigger and apparently better place without a name right now, simply being called the New Meadowlands Stadium.
When Giants Stadium was first being built in early 1974, I remember driving to my aunt’s home in Little Ferry along Moonachie Road, wondering what it was going to look like when it was finished.
I marveled how incredible it was going to be that people all over the world would recognize that the home of the New York Football Giants was located in New Jersey, even if the Giants themselves really never accepted it.
I was fascinated with the thought of how many great events would take place there, just six miles from my front door in Jersey City.
I never dreamed that I would spend thousands of hours in the joint, as a fan, as a worker, as a sportswriter.
But I did.
I was an employee of Harry M. Stevens in the early 1980s, working as a bus boy in the Stadium Club, picking up dirty dishes and filling water glasses for everyone from then Vice President George H.W. Bush to soccer great Pele. I even spilled a glass of water on the vice president, causing a Secret Service horror show and forcing me to a back room to organize dirty dish patrol in the back of the kitchen.
I sold Italian ices at hot summer concerts, giving me a sticky blue forearm by the end of the long day, and beer at college football games, long before the beer sales were banned for college games.
As a fan, I was there for the Miracle of the Meadowlands, when Joe Pisarcik fumbled and Herman Edwards raced for the touchdown. I was there when a plane flew over the place carrying the banner, “15 Years of Lousy Football: We’ve Had Enough,” causing the fans to chant, “We’ve had enough,” over and over. Now, Giant fans, after you’ve won THREE Super Bowls, tell me that doesn’t feel like completely ancient history?
I was there for when the Giants won their first NFC Championship in the swirling winds of January, 1987, when Jay Schroeder of the Redskins was running so totally scared of Lawrence Taylor. I sat in the very last row of the top of the place and watched hot dog wrappers and newspapers swirl around the place like some farm house in Kansas carrying Dorothy and Toto, in disbelief like many others that the Giants were finally going to the Super Bowl.
I was there in 1990, when Flipper Anderson took a pass from Jim Everett in overtime to beat the Giants in the NFC Playoffs, much to my delight, and Anderson ran right into the tunnel after making the catch. In fact, as a diehard Los Angeles, then St. Louis Rams fan, I never missed a single game that my favorite team played in the place. I’m proud to say that as bad as the Rams are now, more often than not, I left Giants Stadium with a Ram victory.
I was a Jet season ticket holder for two years, a Giant ticket holder for three – and I wasn’t really a fan of either team. I just liked going to the games.
I went to countless Kickoff Classic college games, saw Bruce a few times, Elton and Billy together – my two favorite musicians of all time – twice. I was there when Pope John Paul II held Mass in the pouring rain; I was on the field with my proud Polish mother, as she sat soaked in her wheelchair.
Finally, as a sportswriter, I can’t even begin to count how many times I covered events there. I covered the Jets and the Giants several times for too many newspapers to remember. I covered countless and endless soccer games, from the old MetroStars to the now feeble Red Bulls. I once even covered the Maccabiah Games there, not bad for an Irish Catholic boy from Jersey City among all the Jewish athletes.
And I covered high school football state championship games galore, perhaps my fondest memories of the place.
I was there in the warm December sun of 1994 watching my alma mater, St. Peter’s Prep, upset the No. 1-ranked team in the country, Bergen Catholic, in a game that I had to be the only person not playing in to correctly predict. I’ll always have that image of Paul Que breaking through the middle of the BC line for the first touchdown, proving to everyone that Prep was indeed for real.
I was also there in 2005 to watch Andrew Booth do a somersault into the end zone after intercepting a pass and scoring the game-winning touchdown as the Marauders knocked off Don Bosco Prep for their third and last state crown.
I was there for five of Hoboken’s six state championship wins, watching family members celebrate and dance on the sidelines, capturing Gatorade baths, witnessing history. I saw great high school running backs Keeon Walker and Tyrell Dortch practically carry their respective teams to state championships with games for the ages, then saw Damien Bates do the same thing about seven years later.
I was also there for the losses, the Prep setbacks, the Red Wing defeats. I saw Union Hill’s one chance at state glory go up in smoke in 1998. I had to endure Secaucus’ only trip to the place called Mecca fall unsuccessful last December.
And as a sportswriter, I was there all those times on the sidelines, covering the game that I love in a place that I adored.
I walked out the door on Saturday, Dec. 5, 2009 for the last time. I was soaked, once again. The early afternoon rain had turned to mammoth snowflakes. My beloved alma mater Prep suffered another setback at the hands of Don Bosco Prep, a day after Secaucus lost. It was a lost weekend for Hudson County football, even without Ray Milland and Bette Davis.
As I realized it was the last time I would cover an event there, I was deeply saddened, still not understanding why such a gorgeous facility was going to have to come down. When the wrecking ball blasted its way through Shea Stadium last January, I honestly didn’t shed a tear. It was a God-awful ballpark that needed to be replaced. I applauded Shea’s destruction.
However, leaving Giants Stadium in the winter snow was like attending the funeral of a young man who died tragically at a way too early age. Sure, there are the memories that won’t soon go away. Some will last a lifetime. So will the friends and acquaintances that I’ve made through my association with the place.
There was a major sense of sadness as I turned back and looked at Giants Stadium in the driving snow. I put my briefcase in my car, took off my soaked Mets jacket, and looked up at the outside of the place, the snow pelting my face. I had another assignment to head off to. I was running late as usual.
I wiped the tear from my eye, realizing that three-quarters of my existence on this good earth was spent having Giants Stadium as a major part of it.
Soon, it won’t be there anymore. And in that respect, a part of my life just won’t be the same as well.

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