Happiness & hope return to Canyon in a Giant way


By Josh Rogers

Photo courtesy of the Downtown Alliance

Downtown Express photo by Elisabeth Robert

Teammates taped Eli Manning as he showed off the Giants Vince Lombardi Trophy for winning the Super Bowl. Below, workers threw confetti as the team went up the Canyon of Heroes. Bottom, Giants defensive lineman Jay Alford, left, Guy Whimper, Fred Robbins and their position coach, Mike Waufle. Opposite page, crowds surrounded “The Cube” sculpture on Broadway. Giant linebacker Antonio Pierce accepted a key to the city from Mayor Bloomberg, who gave one to each coach and player.

More than seven years after the last “heroes” paraded up lower Broadway and over six years after Sept. 11 forever changed Downtown, the New York Giants rolled up the famed Canyon of Heroes Tuesday to celebrate their upset Super Bowl win.

I came to the office wearing my Giants hat in preparation for the parade, and a fellow editor told me “I can see this will be an objective report.”

Well of course not. I’ve been a fan for over 30 years and my team was coming into my coverage area to celebrate their most surprising Super Bowl win ever. I didn’t wear the hat on Sunday — I never do on game day — it’s bad luck for me to wear Giant paraphernalia, unless of course I’m not in the New York area, or in the rare event I’m watching the game live, in which case it is important to the team to show public support. For anyone looking for the logic, remember “fan” is short for fanatic.

I won’t argue with anyone who cites victory keys like the G-Men’s pass rush against Patriots quarterback Tom Brady or Eli Manning’s steady hand and his unprecedented scramble to allow David Tyree’s spectacular helmet-leaning catch on the winning drive, but not wearing the hat couldn’t have hurt, nor did the thousands of other superstitions done by thousands of true Big Blue fans.

The parade and ceremony appeared to have drawn hundreds of thousands of people and my reporter’s instinct not to applaud or cheer naturally went out the window with the tons of recycled paper — 21st century ticker-tape.

Walking up Franklin St. toward the parade was a young woman wearing a Giant helmet and carrying a stroller. Protection from a possible unruly crowd? Tameca Dunlap, 31, said no, her 3½ year old son who was riding on his father shoulders had decided not to wear it.

Behind City Hall was Eddie Ziemer, 53, who took the train in from Poughkeepsie with his friend Drew D’Angelo, 55. They got to the city at 8 a.m. and “still couldn’t get close” for the 11 a.m. — 1 p.m. parade, D’Angelo said.

The two men, who own an Upstate bar, were hoping the Giant floats would drive past them before the players got off for the ceremony, but the players disembarked a football field away from where they were standing. They cheered anyway and settled for pictures with a friendly police horse.

Many Giant fans, at least this one, had some doubts, but Ziemer said he had a feeling early in the playoffs.

“After they beat Dallas, I knew it was a destiny thing,” he said.

He was wearing a Tiki Barber jersey and was not sure if the team would have won had the NBC analyst played one more year. “I can tell you Tiki is sorry he opened his mouth,” he said referring to Barber’s criticism of Manning early in the season.

Manning, after driving up the Canyon with two Michaels of a different size — defensive end Strahan and Mayor Bloomberg, told the City Hall crowd that New York was the greatest city in the world and “all of y’all deserve the greatest team in the world.”

Coach Tom Coughlin, whom I and many others had hoped would be fired last year — my apologies Coach — said the Canyon parade was nothing he could have ever imagined. “Talk about the emotion, talk about noise… That’s something we will remember for the rest of our lives.”

Memories were important on both sides as many players taped the crowds as the throngs returned the favor.

John Mara, the team’s co-owner, said “we are very proud to bring to this city the first championship since the attacks of Sept. 11.” He added that George Martin, a member of the team’s ’87 Super Bowl championship, is currently walking around the country to raise money for World Trade Center rescue workers suffering with 9/11-related health problems.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a longtime fan, said just like Downtown is rising, “this Giant team rose up and did what no one thought was possible by becoming champions of the world.”

The last parade was in 2000 for the Yankees Subway Series win over the Mets. This was the 203rd Canyon of Heroes parade, but the football Giants’ first. The ’87 Super Bowl team did not get one because the team had previously moved its home games to New Jersey and Mayor Ed Koch did not think it mattered much that the team kept “New York” in its name. Bloomberg invited the East Rutherford, N.J. mayor to the ceremony and all resentments seemed to have been forgotten.

The ’91 championship team declined the parade invitation because it coincided with the start of the Gulf War.

The Downtown Alliance plans to commemorate Tuesday’s parade with a sidewalk plaque on Broadway between Park Pl. and Barclay St. to go with the other markings. The first parade was in 1886 for the dedication of the Statue of Liberty.

Some politicians were not above a little New England needling. Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who endorsed Hillary Clinton, joked that he wrote in a Coughlin-Manning ticket when he voted in the morning. He nominated defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuola, whose game plan stymied the Pats, as defense secretary. “We were going to make Bill Belichick director of the C.I.A., but his covert operations weren’t so good,” the governor said in reference to the Patriot coach’s history of illegal video taping.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, a fan since age 3, gave Coughlin a 100-0 Senate resolution praising the Giants win. Schumer gleefully said “Ted Kennedy had to vote for it. John Kerry had to vote for it.”

Before the players and pols got to City Hall, fans with ceremony passes waited for hours. When a replay of Tyree’s catch was shown on the monitor, the crowd cheered as if it was happening live.

Captain Charlie Jaquillard was one of the few not wearing something blue. He had on army fatigues instead. He said the mayor’s office offered tickets to service members stationed in New York.

He started to believe the G-Men could win after the first half. “When the defense was able to hold them to 7 points, I knew they had a chance,” he said.

He now is an army recruiter but he served for six months running a quartermaster supply company north of Baghdad in 2005 and may have to go back in six months.

“I go where I am best able to serve,” he said. “It is what it is. We’re doing the best we can there and we’re making progress.”

Does he think “heroes” is the best word to describe athletes.

“Call them heroes, call them champions, but you do have to put it in perspective, because there are plenty of folks putting their lives on the line,” he said. “They’re heroes in what they do.”