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Berger's Burg: The New York football Giants will remain No. 1 forever

The 2009 New York Giants football season will kick off Sept. 13 in Giants Stadium against the Washington Redskins (ugh!). As anyone who reads my column knows, I am a football fanatic in general and a Giants fanatic in particular.

My enthusiasm for the team began many years ago, when I was many years younger. My brother, Milt, brought me to Yankee Stadium — Giants Stadium was not built yet — for my first Giants game. It was love at first sight. Watching a brown, blimp-shaped torpedo being run with, thrown, kicked and ferociously sought after by 22 players from both teams was ecstasy.

Milt and I liked the game so much we saved our money to buy tickets for the entire season. In those days, sports fans preferred not to purchase season tickets because tickets for single games were always available. We had the foresight to predict the phenomenon professional football was to become.

I followed the team on its many travels to various stadiums until Giants Stadium was built, including Yankee Stadium, the Yale Bowl, Princeton’s Palmer Stadium and Shea Stadium. Many a year I perspired profusely at Giants summer training camps, watching veterans and rookies compete for positions. I would freeze at the end of the regular season, played in winter’s damp and frigid weather.

I will never forget the Giants-Packers championship game on Dec. 30, 1962. A polar bear would have left after the singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” With the temperature hovering around 9 degrees and wind-chill factor a frosty minus-12, the cold air knifed through my teenaged body. Despite the inclement weather, the capacity crowd of 64,892 fans scarcely left their seats during the game.

During the first half, the extreme weather caused my extremities and joints to ache. Mercifully, Mother Nature lent a welcoming icy hand in the second half. She willed the coldness to numb my hands, legs and face.

When the game ended, I did not mind I could not walk on frozen legs, nor did I care my car, parked on a Bronx street, had succumbed to the cold. And I was not concerned about not being able to contact the AAA, which required me to catch the elevated subway to Main Street, then ride a Queens bus to my Whitestone home before thawing out. And to do it all again, the following morning, but in reverse to retrieve my glaciated car. But those small matters did not disturb me as much as the Giants losing the championship game. Oy!

I had my first serious disagreement about the Giants with my new bride, Gloria, one month after we were married. She had the audacity to ask me to forego a Giants’ game! Her best friend was getting married on the day of the Giants-Cleveland game.

I immediately placed a Giants’ helmet atop my head, assumed the football crouch position, grimaced, girded my loins, looked her straight in the eye and firmly said, “Gloria, I positively, absolutely and emphatically assert nothing will ever stop me from attending a Giants game.” I stood tall, steadfast and inflexible.

To this day, I regret not seeing Cleveland play.

Gloria complained I spent too much time watching football. So, one Sunday afternoon, she put on my Giants football helmet, shoulder pads and jersey and blocked my view of the TV. “OK,” she said, “either play me or trade me!” But fate stepped in. With two sons, Gloria eventually saw the light. She had to join us or forever sit alone during the football season. Happily, she joined the fold and hasn’t missed a Giants game since.

My greatest day in the newspaper business was covering the Super Bowl in Phoenix, Ariz., for TimesLedger Newspapers and being invited to the victory party after the game. Sharing the joy of victory with the other celebrants and players was delicious. The partying went on into the wee hours of the morning and I almost forgot to write my Super Bowl column! Gloria and I will always love our Giants.

What are the prospects for the coming season? Nothing but the Super Bowl! Trust me.

Contact Alex Berger at timesledgernews@cnglocal.com.

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