Big Blue United

What It Means To Be A Giants Fan – By Dan Lacasky

What It Means To Be A Giants Fan

A photo of Howard Cross, Myself, and my late father. December 3rd, 2007.

By Dan Lacasky – Big Blue United 12.14.17

I don’t remember a lot of my childhood due to concussions I got from playing football in high school, but what I do remember usually circles around the Giants, and the greatest person I’ll ever know; my father.

The earliest memory I can clearly picture, without help from videos of occasions, was from January 2001, when the Giants unfortunately got pasted in SuperBowl XXXV by the Baltimore Ravens. I don’t remember the game itself intently, but I do remember my dad jumping out of his brown leather reclining chair screaming at the TV, and rightfully so. I remember him calling Ray Lewis a ‘piece of -expletive- murderer, which was also the first swear word I learned, much to my mothers dismay.

I was 7 years old at the time, and it struck me as weird as to why a grown man, or anybody for that matter, would yell at a TV and at people who couldn’t hear him. I asked him about it afterwords, and through gritted teeth, he told me ‘it’s passion Dan, I’m just very passionate about the Giants. One day you’ll understand.’ Boy, do I ever. We always bonded over the Giants specifically, but I never realized the full bond until now.

Since that day, I’ve always been a Giants fan, despise all the nay-sayers. A lot of my friends DESPISE the Giants and their fans, grouping most of the fans as ‘bandwagon-jumpers,’ fans who suddenly became fans only after we won our 2 recent SuperBowls. To them I always say I’ve been a fan since Kerry Collins and Jesse Palmer manned the Quarterback position. I will always be a Giants fan, no matter how bad we play.

I watched for many seasons as Amani Toomer was a reliable target for years, as Jeremy Shockey was an explosive Tight End, Tiki Barber set club records, as Michael Strahan made opposing QB’s cower in fear, just for starters. I always related more to the linemen because of my own size, where guys like Luke Petitgout, Shaun O’Hara, and David Diehl inspired me to play the sport, which I finally picked up in 2007. I would have joined a pee-wee league team earlier, but my town had a 150-pound limit, which I exceeded by 6th grade (I was really big and tall).

In that 2007 season, I started summer Freshman Football practice with an average knowledge of the game, from both watching it on Sundays/Mondays with my dad and from playing Madden on my PlayStation 1&2. I was tall. big, and had long arms, so the coaches rightfully made me a lineman, but at the time, I had close to zero idea what I was doing. I told my dad I was having fun but struggling, so about mid-way through the summer, around late July, he would work extra on the weekends to come to my practices during the week to watch me and critique me. The coaches generally didn’t allow this, but the offensive coordinator was a neighbor of ours, and he convinced the head coach to allow it, because my dad (which I found out 2 years later) promised I would be great if he could watch me.

He saw that I loved the game with a passion, but I didn’t know how to play it with passion. I remember one practice, I got destroyed on a play. At center, I snapped a ball directly into the dirt, then allowed a defender to run right by me and hit our QB. I had no anger; I didn’t have the fire in my heart.

We drove home from the high school’s field in his ’03 Silverado; a car ride that changed my life.

He was quiet, utterly quiet, not even the radio was playing. Growing up, I learned this was usually not good; this is when my dad was P.O.’ed. About 2 miles from the house he pulled the car over and slowly started talking to me.

‘Dan..remember when Sean died?’

I could barely hold myself together. Sean was a friend of mine, in an odd way. He was much older; 23 when I was 13; I knew him because he worked with my mom. He was a mentor to me when my parents were going through/ got divorced, because he knew a teenage boy needs help at that point in life, without parental turmoil. He guided me through it, and even helped me with sports. He helped me with my basketball shot, with my baseball swing, and gave me confidence to play football the following year. He was truly a brother to me, when I needed one. Unfortunately, he died in a freak accident, where an idiot threw a keg of beer in a fire, and the keg exploded. I can’t go into details because of the pain, but the pain is the central focus here.

‘Yes dad. It was the most I ever hurt. The maddest I’ve ever been’

‘Tomorrow at practice, tell them to put you at tackle. When the ball is snapped, remember how angry and hurt you were when he died. Channel that on the field to your advantage.’

The next day, it was a rainy day in Connecticut, and the field was muddy. I asked the coaches for the request to play tackle, and it was accepted for the most part; they put me at Right Guard. The play was ‘Red 12’ on our play-cards, for me it was a solo block on a Defensive Tackle. Our snap call was ‘GO HIT’, which the center yelled to alert that the ball was being snapped. I heard our Center Matt, call it out. I remembered the pain, the anger. I saw red, pure hate. I clenched my fists, nearly cried and ran forward with both arms. I leveled the man across from me to the ground. The coaches were so impressed, I was a week 1 starter, a guy who never played before. I never looked back, starting all 10 games, and even being named a team captain that year. My dad helped me channel emotions, and gain passions. Without that, without football, I don’t know exactly where I’d be.

The Giants went on to win the SuperBowl that season, which made it a perfect year/ football season to me.

Now at 24 years old, I’m the one screaming at the Giants (a little too much this season), wearing his Mark Bavaro jersey that he wore for every game, that my mom bought for him in 1987. It is my prized possession, over my signed footballs, or my Giants helmet. A Jersey, that fits a little snug (my dad was tall and skinny, I am tall and big), that has nearly 30 years of memories and proud Giants tradition.

My favorite memories involve him and the Giants. One of the best was in the photo above. My dad was a Auto-Technician for Toyota, and Toyota sponsors the Giants. Every year, they have a ‘fantasy night’, where employees of Toyota from various and selected locations can play touch football with former Giants. He was able to take me in 2007, claiming I was an employee for them. It was such a fun drive to New Jersey, and the night was equally as great. We got to the stadium, and selected our jerseys we wanted. They didn’t have the players names on them, but that was even better for me. I was number 55 my freshman year, but longed to be 72, after Osi Umenyiora. I picked that, and my dad picked his second favorite, 52, for Hall-of-Famer Harry Carson, since somebody came early to claim number 89. In the above picture, we were getting ready and warmed up with retired Giants TE Howard Cross, but also met Jesse Armstead, Sean Landetta, Joe Morris, Jesse Armstrong, Phillipi Sparks, and my personal favorite that I met, Eric Dorsey (he was tall and funny).

I keep that picture with me at all times, so that I don’t forget. My father passed away a little over 5 months ago, and I often have issues remembering what he looks like already. Concussions are really no joke. I never want to forget the memories, so I live through the picture of him and I, whether they pertain to the Giants or not, and I remember.

The Giants always make all of them come back to me, which is why I love them so much.  Beyond the sport I played and love, beyond the base level of love I have for my team. The Giants are my love and passion (apologies to my fiancee if she reads this), the Giants help me not to forget. The Giants help me feel like everything is alright. 

What It Means To Be A Giants Fan, to me, is to remember my father, the love he gave me, and the memories we made.