Cover Image: Once a Giant

Once a Giant

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As a lifelong NY Giants fan, I was excited to read this book, particularly since the 1986 Super Bowl team is one of the best! It was interesting to get the inside info on the team, as well as the players and coaches, in general. It's obvious Myers has a great affinity for the team. Parcels. Taylor. Simms. All are legendary, for sure, and this book helps explain why. It's awesome that, all these years later, many of them still keep in touch. Any fan will love reading the tales right from the players themselves.

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Every sports fan will have one special player or team that they will cherish for the rest of their lives. For fans of the New York Giants, most will say that the 1986 team that won the first Super Bowl in the history of the franchise is that team. Veteran football writer Gary Myers writes about that team with little journalistic neutrality and shares some great stories about that team in this book.

Any book about this team needs to start with the person who had the biggest personality on the team, head coach Bill Parcells. What was the most striking aspect about Parcells in this book and how much he cares about this particular team is the generosity of both his time and his money that he shares with these Giants. That is still the case today, more than 35 years after they won that championship. If any of them needs some help, they call the man who worked them very hard when they played football for him. The other coach featured in Myers’ writing, Bill Belichek, is not only quite different personality-wise but the relationship he had with Parcells was a soap opera in its own right and that is described in good detail here.

As for the players, just like with the coaches, their stories have to start with one particular individual- Lawrence Taylor. If he’s not the greatest defensive player to ever put on the pads, he’s certainly in the conversation. His off-field problems are well known but what was amazing to read about in the book was how he could be out all night on Saturday and yet still be the terrific player he was on Sundays.

Speaking of partying, that wasn’t limited to Taylor. Myers shares a story of how several of the Giants players would spend Friday night at the clubs, on dates or at bars and then drive to the parking lot of Giants Stadium so they didn’t miss the mandatory Saturday morning meeting. Of course, not every player did this and the stories are not all about this type of lifestyle. Some are heart-tugging (Mark Bavaria’s health issues, Bobby Johnson losing his Super Bowl ring to a pawn shop, then getting it back), some make the reader chuckle (Sean Landetta’s success with women was actual funny) and are just about living a good life and watching over everyone - that was the case for Harry Carson.

The book does jump around from topic to topic - sometimes football, sometimes medical issues, sometimes relationships - and that does make it a bit harder to follow. But for football fans of a certain age, especially Giants fans, this is a book that will bring back all the memories of that special championship season.

I wish to thank Public Affairs for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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For a NY Giants fan - and, really, an NFL fan - this was a great read. I was born in 1985 so my only knowledge of the 1986 Super Bowl team was through stories and any resurrected clips occasionally shown on television. This book was storytelling at its finest, providing great insight not only into the brotherhood of the ‘86 team but also the lives of many of the players and coaches. After reading about the play of LT and Simms - of some of the great hits and catches - I felt inspired to try to watch as much as I could of the ‘86 team. Option for a movie, anyone?

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Everyone who cares about sports has that one special team in his or her past. Maybe it was the team that justified the faith of their fans with a championship. Maybe it was an unexpected season that came out of nowhere. Maybe it was a team from the fan's youth that lured him in for a lifetime of rooting for the laundry.

No matter how objective he had to be as a reporter while covering the 1986 New York Giants, Gary Myers obviously has fond memories about the 1986 New York Giants and their players and coaches. Admittedly, it was the end of a long run of failure for the Giants, who won a title in 1956 and then took a little more than 30 years before duplicating that accomplishment. Even so, it's the personalities that count here.

It was only natural that Myers wanted to revisit that particular group of me. Therefore, "Once a Giant" comes across with a touch of sweetness in terms of nostalgia and in personal relationships. The book also fits in nicely with the "Whatever happened to ..." theme that has been propelling book sales for years.

Any discussion about that Giants' team must start with its coach. Bill Parcells almost lost his job in the early 1980s, but held on long enough to see the team succeed. He was a big enough personality to keep his band of characters in control and willing to play hard for him. A master manipulator, Parcells' mind games often worked wonders. If he needed a little advice on X's and O's along the way, his top assistant coach was Bill Belichick. As we know now, Belichick eventually went to the New England Patriots ... and certainly is in the discussion as the greatest coach in NFL history.

Any discussion about the players starts with Lawrence Taylor, the legendary linebacker for the teams of that era. If he's not the greatest defensive player in NFL history, he's in the argument. Taylor did everything hard - partied hard at night, used drugs recklessly, etc. It's hard to know how he good he might have been had he stayed on the straight and narrow - in other words, if he was the football equivalent of Mike Pence. Probably not as well. Somehow, L.T. pulled it off.

Then there's the quarterback, Phil Simms. His career had some interesting ups and downs, but he was ready to blossom during the mid-1980s. Simms saved the best day of his football life for the biggest day of his life - the Super Bowl in 1987. Simms played an almost perfect game in leading New York to a win over the Denver Broncos.

There were plenty of other stars here. Mark Bavaro was a tank of a tight end. Harry Carson was a Hall of Famer at linebacker. Running back Joe Morris had the year of his life with 1,516 yards rushing. And so on down the line through the various starters and role players.

Myers' prior relationships with the principals come in handy here. It's almost as if everyone involved couldn't wait to tell stories about those teams. Yes, there are moments about the games, but there are also stories about the relationships among the team members. There are tales about nights out that ended in the parking lots of Giants Stadium on Saturday mornings as players wanted to make sure they'd make a road trip.

The author also emphasizes the way that the players stick together, even all these years later. Some of the team leaders check in on the rest of the squad, more than 35 years later. Not surprisingly, many of those players have physical problems that have bothered them for years, and sometimes they need help. Often a teammate or coach has been there to provide. Even Parcells is willing to get his checkbook out when one of the boys needs support.

Myers has been around football for decades, and at times this feels like he's emptying out stuff from his notebooks that has been accumulated over the years. Maybe this could have been slightly more organized, but it might be more fun this way. It's also easy to wonder if other championship teams have maintained similar bonds over the years. It's easy to do that these days, between alumni weekends and autograph shows.

No matter. There are certainly many fans in the New York City area who will never forget that 1986 Giants team, and will always cherish their memories. "Once a Giant" will offer a chance to feel a flood of emotions about that group's past and present. It ought to be a big, big hit in the New York City area.

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