New York Giants Training Camp Part One
In 1996 I was a 21-year old SUNY Albany student slinging coffee at Professor Java’s Coffee House. As a transplanted Long Islander and life time New York Giants fan, I was thrilled to find out that the New York Giants, MY New York Giants would be hosting their summer training camp at my college. I remember being quite excited. However, despite the enthusiasm, I never took advantage of the opportunity to see a practice while I attended school at the University.
Could it be I was too busy with school studies? Perhaps. Intramural athletics? Possibly. My girlfriend? No doubt. Or maybe it was that the 1996 edition of the New Giants just were not a very good football team? The 1995 New York Giants had been a God awful 5-11. This miserable season was only exacerbated by yet another Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl title in January 1996. There was just no urgency to get out there to see the likes of QB bust Dave Brown or Chris Calloway. So, I figured I would wait for a better year.
It would not be until the summer of 2006 when I would make my first visit to training camp at my former college’s campus. I brought along my 8 year old boy and we comfortably set up shop along side the practice field. This was back when “2-a-day” practices were still common place; so we took in the evening session. The turn out for the practice was fair to moderate for mid-week. Very easy for one to navigate and take in the specter of a professional practice.
By 2006, the New York Giants had been in Albany for training camp for 10 years, so the novelty had worn off for many, but not for the fanatics. This camp did have some buzz. The 2004 #1 draft pick, Eli Manning, was now the anointed one and was seen, beyond the shadow of a doubt, as the team’s franchise quarterback. Tiki Barber had morphed into a bonafide NFL star. Plus, there was the exciting high risk, high reward receiver, Plaxico Burress, and outspoken, yet talented, Jeremy Shockey to add to the zest. Not to mention, the New York Giants came into this camp as the defending NFC East Champions. Expectations among fans were indeed elevated, but not feverish. The practice was enjoyable. You could move around from location to location and snap off great pictures. You could see all the players and their numbers. When the players left the field to return to the dorms, requests for autographs were reasonably granted along the barriers that were modestly lined with Sharpie-wielding fans about 3-rows deep.
It was this pleasant memory that resonated with me when I decided to take my now 14 year old boy again to camp this past week. However, this time, we would be bringing his 7-year old sister and 6-year old brother (Hey…we’re good Catholics). The younger kids knew exactly where we were going. The New York Giants are no mystery to them. They watched as Daddy painstakingly watched the NFC Championship game in San Francisco from behind a sofa pillow. They did the same 2 weeks later when I chanted like a Tibetan Monk during Super Bowl XLVI. They know who Eli is. They know what Victor Cruz does after a TD and what number Hakeem Nicks wears. Their expectations were through the roof. They were ready. I was just as excited. Then we arrived on campus.
To be continued….