This past weekend, I had the honor and privilege of joining almost every teammate and coach from the Giants 1986 Championship season. It was an event that we all looked forward to, but were surprised by the high level of emotions generated.
My face still hurts from laughing and crying for three straight days.
It didn't seem like 25 years since we were all together, it seemed like 25 hours. Nothing changed. The same guys getting on each other for the same stuff all these years later. The sounds of such familiar voices brought us all back to a great time in our lives.
Looking around the room that first night amazed me. We had some great players, especially on defense: Lawrence Taylor, Harry Carson, Carl Banks, Jim Burt, Leonard Marshall, Pepper Johnson, Mark Collins, and George Martin. The offense was pretty good too: Phil Simms, Mark Bavaro, Joe Morris, Maurice Carthon, OJ Anderson, an unheralded offensive line, and a tough receiving corps.
But the consensus was that we did something great because were were a team. Yes we had Hall of Famers, All-Pros, and solid starters. But we had back ups and role players that contributed mightily to the success. Every job was important on the Giants.
To have Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick, as well as most of the staff, participate in all of the festivities, added much to the celebration. Parcells couldn't stop smiling and his eyes welled up more than once. Someone had remarked that Belichick never looked happier, to which another observed, "I never saw him happy, period".
There was only one person that could have pulled this off. One guy no one would say no to, Harry Carson. He was, and still is, our captain. One of the great sights of Super Bowl XXI was watching the coin toss at midfield. The Broncos had six players walk out and we had just one, Harry. It was a show of strength on our part that carried into the game.
Harry Carson has demonstrated his concern for "his guys" countless times over the years. A wonderful example of who Harry Carson is, as a person and a leader, was demonstrated about 10 years ago when backup QB Jeff Rutledge was involved in a serious car accident in Tennessee. Upon hearing of the news, Harry jumped into his car, drove 7 hours to TN, visited Jeff in the hospital for two hours, then drove back to Jersey.
The bonds forged a quarter century ago are as strong as ever. The care and concern we have for one another is something Parcells says he is most proud of. After our SB win, he said "that for the rest of your lives, no one can say you couldn't do it, because you did".
Going into the weekend, I knew there would be laughs, lots of them. I knew the stories would be exaggerated by time, but I didn't expect to hear, "love ya", thrown around so freely. I guess even hardened ex players have a soft spot.
Being with those guys, it seemed as if we could go onto the field one more time.
The body ages, but the spirit never does.