Permit me to wax eloquent for a moment and talk about a subject that is personal to me but that I hope some of you will be able to relate to.
I have been on the waiting list for Giants season tickets for about 25 years. I have moved very slowly up the list making about as much progress as an iceberg trekking its way from Greenland to, oh... let's say... South America. At last count I had gotten all the way up to number 15,937. In normal times, at the normal rate at which Giants season tickets turn over and become available, that is still probably about 10 or 15 years away from getting tickets. However, the upheaval of personal seat licenses for the new stadium has created a seismic shift in the landscape for fans waiting for season tickets. No doubt, you've heard lots of chatter on sports talk radio about how greedy, how awful, how unfair the Giants are for instituting this personal seat license policy. There are lots of heart rending stories about families that have had season tickets in their name for 30 years or more and now have to give them up because they can't afford to come up with the expensive seat licenses. I guess it is sad that a family has to surrender tickets just because of money, but there is another perspective, and I hope you don't find it arrogant or unfeeling of me to present it. Specifically, the personal seat license policy has given the opportunity for thousands and thousands of loyal Giants fans to step up and have tickets available to them, where they could never have had them before. Currently, Giants stadium has about 70,000 seats. It is a fair assumption that every season ticket holder has at least 2 seats - nobody goes to the game alone - and many control as many as 8 or 10 seats. I know of some people that control 80 seats, but they are in it for profit, so we can exclude them from this little calculation. We can probably assume that the average number of tickets per account is 3 or 4. For simplicity sake - let's say 3 1/2 seats, which means that there are about 20,000 different families holding season tickets. The season ticket holders line is more than 200,000 deep, so there are more than 10 times as many people looking for seats as there are holding seats. One could argue that is unfair to those 200K loyal fans waiting for seats to be excluded from buying simply because someone else got in line first. If I go to a movie and get sold out, I accept the fact that I can't go in for this showing, but I am not excluded permanently from catching the flick - I can catch the next viewing. Seems to me it should be the same for Giants season tickets. You've had your tickets for 30 years - it might be nice to give someone else a chance.
While on the waiting list, I have been going to Giants games by buying tickets from a friend who is a season ticket holder. He retired, moved down south and since he was no longer able to attend games regularly, has been nice enough to sell me tickets to five regular season games per year, plus the preseason games, which I also take off his hands. It's still not the same as having your own tickets, however. To get tickets in my own name has been an interest, a strong interest, a passion, ok - I'll admit it - an obsession of mine for some time. My wife, ever the faithful, supportive partner, concerned about my fulfilling this ambition was going to do everything in her power to help me achieve my quest. Unbeknown to me, a few weeks before my birthday in February, she composed a letter and sent it to the Giants requesting that I be granted season tickets for my birthday. When my wife, God bless her, does something, she does not do it half way; she goes full bore. This was not just an ordinary letter requesting tickets, of the type the Giants must get hundreds of times per week. This was a testimonial to me as a great humanitarian, community servant, religious leader, philanthropist, helper of the blind and downtrodden and healer of the sick. I was unaware of her attempt, reading this letter after the fact, and it sounded like she was describing the reincarnation of Mother Theresa. It brought tears to my eyes until I realized it was about me. The letter went on to explain in great detail what an obsessed, committed Giants fan I am, providing much documentary evidence to prove the point. She enclosed a picture of my surprise 56th birthday party which had an LT theme. (Get it? - LT wore # 56). She provided the invitation that she sent out for the party which made reference to LT and required everyone to wear a Giants jersey to the party. She provided a picture from said party that had my entire family dressed in Giants jerseys, including my then 2-month-old grandson who was asleep in my arms wearing a Jeremy Shockey jersey. She included a picture of me and my youngest son attending the Giants-Miami game in London in December 2007. (Note: my son was studying overseas in Europe that year and would have missed the entire Giants season, so I scalped tickets, flew him and myself over to London to attend the game.) Of course there were pictures of us at our many tailgate parties at the stadium. Even I was impressed.
But wait - there's more. She didn't just send this to the Giants ticket office or to the Giants sales office who are selling tickets for the new stadium; she sent it directly to the executive offices and addressed it to the owners, Mara and Tisch themselves. Here's where the story gets interesting. About one week after the Giants received this package from my wife, she received a letter back from the Giants saying that someone from the Giants sales office would be contacting her husband shortly to offer seasons tickets. This was not a form letter, it was dictated by John Mara to his administrative assistant and it was signed by Mr. Mara himself, in his own hand. I waited for a day or two for the sales office to contact me, but when I did not receive a call or email, I decided to call them myself. I telephoned the ticket office and after listening to the prerecorded message, was connected to an actual live person in the ticket office. I explained that I had received a letter from the Giants saying that I would be contacted about season's tickets. The person handling my call said that she would connect me to the sales office. Before she could do that, I interrupted and explained that the letter that I had received was not from the sales office, rather it was from John Mara himself. Without missing a beat, she said that she would connect me to the Giants executive office instead of the sales office. The phone rang and was picked up by John Mara himself. I recognized his distinctive and distinguished voice immediately from all the radio and TV interviews that I had heard over the last few years. He was completely understated, unpretentious and very engaging. The public impression he delivers of being a humble, "regular" guy is precisely matched by his telephone presence. He is, simply stated, a very nice man. He answered the phone with a simple "Hello". I was startled at recognizing his voice and realizing who he was. I had expected that I would be connected to an assistant or an administrative layer of blockers for the owner, and I simply said - "John?"... not "Mr. Mara"; I called him John. Boy did I feel stupid; we're not exactly on a first name basis. He could have sensed impertinence on my part and said something like "who is this?" in a stern voice, instead he calmly and softly replied "yes". I went on to identify myself, thanked him for taking my call, explained to him that I was the one whose wife sent the package requesting tickets and thanked him again for his personal response to the letter. I thanked him also for giving me the opportunity to buy season's tickets and he replied that he was genuinely happy that he could do so. He also told me exactly whom to talk with in the sales office if I had some bureaucratic difficulties, gave me that person's direct extension and the call seemed about to end. But I decided that I just couldn't let the opportunity pass, because unless he invites me to his daughter's wedding, this is surely the last time I will ever get a chance to speak with him.
So we started reminiscing about our common Giants history - we are about the same age, I am 3 years older - and share, therefore, approximately the same memories of Giants past. I told him that I go way back with the Giants. I remember when home games were not televised and you had to sit around the radio to listen to home games to find out what was happening to your team. His response was one phrase: Marty Glickman, who was the radio voice of the Giants for many years. I wanted to impress him, so I told him that the radio color analyst for the Giants, Glickman's partner, was Al DeRogatis who later went on to be the main football color commentator for NBC TV. Then we started to reminisce about all the old time players and he was as easy and friendly as he could be. We talked about the famous players: Robustelli, Katkavage, Huff, Tittle, Gifford, Rosey Grier, Rosey Brown, Del Shofner and some others. But we also shared memories of some of the lesser know players, who were Giants favorites in their day: OL-men Bookie Bolin, Darrel Dess and Ray Wietecha; Phil King, Jimmy Patton, Erich Barnes, Joe Morrison, Aaron Thomas and some others. I concluded by telling him that I have been going to Giants games with my kids for a long time using someone else's tickets and, as silly as it may sound, the time we spent together at those games was a real bonding opportunity for our family. He said that he has heard that same sentiment from lots of other families and it makes him feel good about the enterprise that he runs and the fans that support his team. I came off, not with the rough impression, but with the direct, personal knowledge that he was a very decent man.
When you root for a sports team, of course you root as much for the uniform as you do for the players in them and often identify with the owner and the management . But you want to feel that the players, the management and the owners that you are rooting for are decent, good people. It's sometimes hard to do that nowadays with the invasive reporting and with the money, greed, ego, self promotion and self centered attitudes that seem to pervade sports. I left this exchange satisfied and convinced that the owner of the Giants, Mr John K. Mara is a man that I am very happy to root for.