The moment Matt Bahr's 42-yard field goal went through the uprights, the phone rang. Expecting it to be my dad or brother, I grabbed the phone celebrating the moment. The New York Giants had just beaten the San Francisco 49ers to win the 1991 NFC Championship 15-13 and the Giants were headed to the Super Bowl. Lawrence "BLEEPING" Taylor was coming to Tampa with the Giants. As I said hello on that call, a voice screamed at a volume that likely has caused permanent damage to my ability to hear. It wasn't my dad or brother.
'WE ARE GOING TO THAT GAME! WE ALL ARE! AND DON'T SAY NO!"
Uh oh. The New York Boys were coming. Just who are the New York Boys? You can't look them up on twitter. They don't have a Facebook page. They don't have an office in downtown Manhattan. But you know them. Imagine every obnoxious New York sports fan. Multiply that by ten and then add a level of arrogance and throw in a deep, Big Apple accent and you have the New York Boys. They were/are a combination of relatives, friends, even a few you were told to not like. Heck, I think one or two were out on parole and not legally allowed to travel but they were really harmless.
We all lived Giants football. In 1987, the Giants won their first Super Bowl beating Elway and the Broncos. But that game was in Pasadena. The only ones who went to that game were a few fathers of the New York Boys who could afford that trip out west. But this game was in Tampa. This game was in Florida. This game was in the state where all New Yorkers either move or vacation to.
The Giants were going to face the Buffalo Bills. No one from the city even views Buffalo as part of New York. But you always respect fans of the Bills and knew they would represent well in Tampa.
Super Bowl XXV did not have a bye week. The game would be played one week after conference championships. It also came during a time America found itself in the Gulf War.
Back to that call and when the screaming died down, then came orders. I mean orders. I mean you do this or....well, not that serious but when you are told what is needed, you had to take it seriously.
I was told four of them would be coming down and I had to find tickets. What? Where was I going to find five tickets(including me) and do it in a matter of a few days. Oh, did I mention I was also asked to find 3-4 hotel rooms? Heck, why not ask me if we could go the track with Parcells sometime during the week?
By the time I was done talking to my dad and brother and reliving every big moment of that game against the Niners, the New York Boys had upped the number coming down to Tampa for the game. We were now at 9 by midnight.
I may have a connection or two after working in this business after all these years, but not in 1991, I was 24 and my contacts were a bit smaller then. But by Tuesday of that week, I somehow had secured two tickets to the game. Yes, I paid out of my own pocket(I have no idea what I paid, but I am sure it was painful on me to hand over the cash for those tickets).
By Thursday I was told 12 were coming down. A few would be flying in Friday night. Another group would land Saturday afternoon and a few were driving down. I felt that group had a 20% of making it to Tampa. Why? No chance they'd get past Atlantic City without stopping and not leaving until the Tuesday after the Super Bowl.
My problem was not enough tickets and I had no hotel rooms. Oh, I could get rooms in Lakeland and there was never a thought about anyone staying at my one bedroom apartment in Orlando.
Back then, I wasn't on the internet looking for tickets or rooms. I was using a telephone and dialing long distance(look it up) to call hotels checking on rooms. By Thursday night I had secured one room. One room for a group of 12 coming down and I had still just two tickets to the game.
My hope was the New York Boys would get into Tampa and know enough people to find enough tickets that maybe 5-6 would get into the game and the others would either hang outside the stadium, watch at a sports bar or at a hotel- likely a place they didn't have a room.
By Friday late morning, I had somehow secured a second hotel room at the same hotel and my ticket count was up to 3. At this moment, I was easily out $2,000 for the tickets and hotel rooms. I couldn't afford any of this, but the Giants were playing in the Super Bowl.
The great thing about friends like this is despite the tough guy approach, everyone appreciates effort. When I got to Tampa Friday afternoon I met up with the first five to arrive. After a quick check-in at the hotel, we headed out. Where were we going? You don't think the New York Boys had friends in town that might know where someone was selling tickets to the game?
Over the course of the next five hours we went all over Tampa meeting many people I didn't know and many I never wanted to see again. When Friday ended, the ticket count was up to 9. I was paid back every penny I had put out and after seeing 5-6 people per hotel room, I drove back to Orlando because my quiet apartment sounded like the best option.
My phone rang early Saturday, around 7am. I then heard a line you never want to hear after reading everything above: "We got a problem."
The problem was the hotel manager wanted to kick out most of the group because three of them thought it was a good idea to go to the lobby and move, not one, but three couches into the elevator up to the floors where the two rooms were because no one wanted to sleep on the floor.
My suggestion upon hearing the news was "put the couches back and apologize."
It didn't work. The hotel manager kicked out the group and by noon on Saturday the hotel rooms were gone and many more tickets were needed.
It gets better when one of the geniuses had an idea. His plan was to sell two of their tickets for $2,000 and then find new hotel rooms. By the time I got back to Tampa that transaction happened. The group had secured a $1,300 suite for Saturday night. I have to admit it was a brilliant move. The suite was big enough to sleep eight and once they found a couple of couches from that lobby(I'm joking here), everyone would have a place to sleep that night. What about Sunday night after the game? One day at a time man.
Again, before midnight Saturday I drove back to Orlando. I had a feeling my potential for getting arrested was minimal if I was back home. Amazingly, no one got arrested in Tampa that night and when I pulled into that hotel Sunday there was no SWAT team outside and all the couches seemed in place in the lobby.
But the problem was the ticket count was at 6. Wait. It was at 9 but they sold a pair so there should be 7 tickets left. True, but someone lost a ticket. The guy that insisted on holding his ticket could not find his ticket and instead of saying he was sorry or felt bad just concluded "I'll get another one."
One of the remaining six tickets was mine and no one disputed that. But what about the rest of the group? Oh, did I mention by 1p Super Bowl Sunday that group was now 17? That's right, a few hours before kickoff we needed 11 tickets to the biggest sporting event our nation holds. Yet for some reason I looked around and there was no panic. The group was confident. There were wallets filled with cash and contacts to connect with and deals to be made.
Over the course of the next three hours I watched deals made on a street corner. I saw cash move without a thought. I heard language no one should here and I saw professional scalpers get played. One hour before kickoff, not only did the group of 17 have 17 tickets. They had 23. The extra six were sold within 30 minutes. The last purchase went to a New York stockbroker who paid $1,600 in cash so he and his 10-year old son could watch our Giants play in the Super Bowl.
The New York Boys had made it down to Tampa. They managed to not get arrested, although that could have gone either way. They partied with fellow New Yorkers and bragged about their team. And before kickoff had turned a profit that would pay for a hotel room or suite somewhere that night.
We marched inside that stadium and despite having tickets spread out all over that place, everyone migrated to area of who had the best seats, Giants side about the 10-yard line 20-25 rows up. We squeezed in and met new friends. You found someone who knew someone. You bought someone a beer to ease the complaints and we cheered.
When Whitney Houston belted out that anthem, every single person stood there proud to be an American and I cried like everyone else.
You know how the game ended. Norwood missed the field goal. We hugged and celebrated. This was our Super Bowl. My dad was at the "Greatest Game Ever Played" in 1958 when the Giants lost to the Colts in the first overtime title game ever played. Some of the other dads went to Pasadena a few years before. But this game was our game.
I stayed for a while to celebrate after the game. Sure enough, the group used some of that ticket money to secure a few hotel rooms that Sunday night. I think 4 had airline reservations for Monday morning. The rest had no idea how or when they were headed home.
When I said my goodbyes I knew we would all never be together again. I savored the moment and headed back to Orlando. I bottled those memories because nothing will come close to that week.
I stay in contact with a few of the New York Boys. A few still live in the city. Others have moved elsewhere. Some have kids and have become mature adults that function as adults should. A few have passed away.
Sunday's Super Bowl will be a few days past the 30th anniversary of that Giants win and I can't help but wonder...........How did they get those couches into the elevator?
Final thought: New Kids on the Block was the halftime act for that game. Let's just say the New York Boys were not fans
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