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The Happiest of All Hours: Spring Training at the Yankee Tavern

23 Mar

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Pitchers and catchers have long ago reported. They are now playing meaningless games in Florida. It is officially Spring. What better time to celebrate the season than for a Happy Hour beverage at the practically vacant Yankee Tavern.

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A fresco of two catchers

During the baseball season, fans spill out onto 161st Street before and after Yankee home games at the Yankee Tavern. Whether the Yankees win or lose, those crowds just do not make for a Happy Hour. What better way to enjoy this legendary dive than during the “exhibition” season. There are seats, many of them, at the bar. A meaningless Grapefruit League game is playing on one of the bar’s many screens. All I know that the game does not involve the Yankees.

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Grapefruit baseball

When the man behind the stick asks me what I want, I can hear him and he can hear me. We converse. He wants to know what my preference is. I tell him I would prefer something local. He ponders that for a moment.

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The man behind the stick at the Yankee Tavern

“The only local beer is probably Yuengling,” he says. I quickly Google on my phone and see that the Yuengling Brewery is in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, which is approximately two and a half hours from Yankee Stadium. Despite the plethora of micro and imported beers now on the menu at the Yankee Tavern, I go with the “local.”

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The local beer

The late afternoon sun is streaming in through the high windows of the Yankee Tavern. I notice a fancy espresso machine behind the bar. A few patrons wander in who are, apparently, regulars as the bartender addresses them by their first names and pour them their drinks without asking what they want.

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I can hear the excellent juke box playing the Temptations, “Just My Imagination.”  I can watch  Grapefruit League baseball in peace.

Temptations

“running away from me…”

I finish my Yuengling, leave a tip, and head back out to the subway overlooking a vacant Yankee Stadium as the sun sets over the adjacent Major Deegan Expressway.

yankee tavern

Yankee Tavern

72 E 161st

Bronx

 

A Trio of Bronx Bomber Burgers

17 Apr

Piper's Kilt

“I don’t know what it is about those Piper’s Kilt burgers, but they are the best,” Eugene crowed at our last get together.

“Better than the Blazer?” Gerry inquired.

“No, not better than the Blazer,” Eugene rescinded. “But still…”

Eugene’s declaration was pretty much lost on all of us with the exception of Gerry, who obviously knew of the establishments in question.

I knew nothing of the Blazer, but was aware of Piper’s Kilt, though not the one Eugene was bragging on, which was in Westchester—and not because of the much heralded burger. The Piper’s Kilt I was familiar with was in the Bronx and I never experienced the burger—or anything else there. I knew of the Bronx Piper’s Kilt because it was a block away from the Kingsbridge Little League field I had become so familiar with last summer and fall. I drove and walked past the place several times during those seasons and took notice of the sign proclaiming the burger being the best in town. Because so many joints make similar assertions, I paid no attention to the claim.

I was however, tempted. Piper’s Kilt looked like the perfect place to escape a few innings with a pint of something cold on tap. Despite the temptation, I never went in. For some reason I thought that sitting in a dark tavern, treating myself to a cold one and relishing a Homer Simpson moment while my kids were out on the field playing might send the wrong message to them.

But now that it was off season, I could no longer use such a lame excuse and after Eugene’s self assured hamburger pronouncement, I believed it was time to put his Piper’s Kilt claim to test. My eating compadres, Zio and Gerry, tagged along to help me assess.

Not only the best in town, the "best in the city."

Not only the best in town, the “best in the city.”

As I often do now when I visit the establishments I wish to chronicle in these pages, I arrived a little early and began taking pictures of the exterior of the restaurant. While I was photographing the sign proclaiming the burger as the best in town, a man in a sport jacket rushed outside and, after telling me he was the owner, asked, a bit defensively, why I was taking the pictures. I mumbled something about how I like to photograph different restaurant signs and send the pictures to my friends. That didn’t seem to satisfy him, so I told him I just like to take pictures of the places I eat and that I heard Piper’s Kilt was good and that I was going to give it a try.

He looked relieved and smiled. “Great, I just was checking. You never know what people do with photos these days on the internet.”

“Yeah, you never know,” I said in agreement.

He offered his hand. “I’m Joe,” he said. I took his hand and introduced myself. “Come say ‘hi’ when your friends get here.”

After I finished with the pictures, I walked in. Joe was at the bar sitting next to another, much older man who was nursing a white wine.

“So are the burgers really that good?” I asked him.

“The best in the city,” Joe said definitively.

“Is it like the other Piper’s Kilts?” I asked. The Piper’s Kilt Eugene raved about was in Eastchester. And I knew there was one other in the Inwood section of Manhattan.

“They do their thing, we do ours,” Joe replied with a sly smile.

“But the burgers are as good?”

“The best in the city,” he again said.

“It’s the grill,” the man at the bar next to Joe and who I was introduced to as the daytime “mixologist,” added.

“Yeah, the grill is like Archie Bunker’s chair,” said Joe. “It’s worn and old, but it’s comfortable. It’s got all his old farts in it.”

I didn’t know what to say. I pictured Archie Bunker’s chair and then tried to remember an “All in the Family” episode where he was farting in his chair.

“What I mean is that the grill is so old, it’s really seasoned. That adds to the flavor of the burgers,” Joe explained.

“ Gotcha.”

Zio walked in and I introduced him to Joe and then Gerry followed. The three of us sat at a high, bar table surrounded by pictures of New York Yankees.

We were only a few miles from Yankee Stadium and though there was a “David Wright” burger on the menu, the Yankee options were more plentiful. There was the “Derek Jeter,” the “Robinson Cano” and the “#7; the Mickey Mantle.”

"Hey, Mick, how come we all get plaques but Joe and I don't have a burger named after us at Piper;s Kilt?"

“Hey, Mick, how come we all get plaques but Joe and I don’t have a burger named after us at Piper’s Kilt?”

Gerry chose the “Cano,” a burger with Swiss cheese and Canadian bacon. Zio decided on the “Jeter,” bbq sauce and fried onions, while I went with the” #7, the Mickey Mantle:” a burger with cheddar, bacon, and onion rings.

While we waited, Joe graciously sent over beers for Gerry and I while Zio stuck to his usual Coke and lime. The burger platters arrived all with French fries, while the #7 included lettuce and tomato along with the chili and onion rings.

Cano, Mantle, and Jeter, clockwise from the top.

Clockwise from the top: Cano, Mantle, Jeter.

I took a taste of the chili before administering it onto the burger.  I didn’t think #7 would have approved. I decided not to harm the burger in any way by the sub par chili. The burger itself, on the other hand, would have made The Mick happy, as it did me.  I couldn’t say for sure whether it was the quality of the meat, the way it was cooked to order, or that grill—seasoned most likely by the millions of burgers that had come before mine—that gave it that distinctive burger flavor. And did it really matter what made it so good?

Zio enjoyed his “Jeter” while Gerry had no problems devouring the “Robinson Cano” though still was admittedly partial to the burger at the mysterious “Blazer.”

Thankfully Joe didn’t put me on the spot and ask me if I concurred with him that the Piper’s Kilt burger was the best in the city. I would have had to told him the truth; that it was not. But I would have told him it was real good and without a doubt, the best burger I’ve ever had in the Bronx, if that is any consolation.

Walking out I thought about Joe’s earlier analogy regarding the grill and it was beginning to make more sense to me. The Piper’s Kilt burger evoked the safe and familiar and eating it was probably as much as a comfort to me as Archie Bunker’s chair, which I believe now resides in the Smithsonian Institute, was to him, farts and all. And really, how much more can one ask of a burger than that?

"Sorry, Edith, I've got gas from that chili burger."

“It’s that chili burger again, Edith.”

Your Gravy is My Sauce: A Concession to the Dark Side

2 Apr

Sauce

Sauce

In the latter quarter of the previous century when I was in college, my dorm buddies and I had many bong and beer fueled discussions.  Subjects ranged from who was the better detective, Kojak or Baretta, what was the best bathroom reading—and why, Penthouse or Hustler, or which album, Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On,” Steely Dan’s “Aja,” or Earth Wind and Fire’s “That’s the Way of the World,” would make it into the top five of best albums of all time list (see the photo below for my pick).

Most of the time, the discussions remained semi-civil. When the subject was the Yankee-Red Sox rivalry, it could get very heated. In the hot category, though not as hot as the Yankees-Red Sox discussions, was the debate over sauce or gravy. For some reason, for the Italian-Americans I roomed with, myself included, calling tomato sauce gravy, or vice versa ignited personal passions that boarded on the irrational.

My grandmother immigrated to the States when she was 22 and settled in New Jersey. The sauce she made each Sunday with braciole, meatballs, sausage or any other meats that were around was called sauce or, as she would say, “sugo rosso.” So  I am clearly in the tomato sauce corner and, really, until I got to college, never could have imagined that what my grandmother made each Sunday could be called anything but sauce, much less something so…um…earthy…as “gravy.”

When you call it gravy, it makes me wanna holla.

When you call it gravy, it makes me wanna holla, throw up both my hands…

In the gravy corner were my friends from Massachusetts and New Jersey. The sauce contingent seemed to be from Connecticut and New York, where I was from.  How, I asked when I heard it for the first time, can you put gravy on pasta? Gravy, I always knew as something brownish in color and layered on turkey, roast beef, or meat loaf. This was an affront to my Italian-American sensibilities. The corruption of a basic known culinary term. A gross misuse of nomenclature.

“If you’re really Italian, you call it gravy,” was the insult that was thrown back at me when I confessed my disgust at the vulgarity.

“All I know is that my Italian grandmother calls it sauce…” I insisted.

“You sure she’s Italian,” someone cracked.

At that, a bong might be tipped over. And beer was definitely spilled.

“Come to Worcester and my Nonna will make you a nice gravy,” someone from Mass joked.

“Should I bring the mashed potatoes?” I would shoot back.

Gravy

Gravy

The arguments were endless and had no resolution.

“Oh, and one more thing,” a bleary voice from the sauce crowd would chime in. “The Red Sox most definitely suck.”

And just like that, we were onto another of our favorite topics.

Since those days, I’ve still maintained my allegiance to calling sauce what it is…sauce.  But over the years I’ve mellowed. I am no longer appalled when I hear someone mistakenly label what my grandmother referred to as sauce as gravy. I get it. It’s what the ill bred were taught. It wasn’t their fault. They were just poorly misinformed about worldly culinary matters.

A gravy/sauce altercation.

A gravy/sauce altercation.

As I said earlier, my Grandmother made Sunday sauce with an assortment of meats; pork, beef, sausage, etc. But on a very rare Sunday when none of the above were on hand, she would make the sauce with chicken. Chicken in a Sunday sauce might seem like an anathema, but if you’ve never tried it don’t knock it. The flavor from the chicken, different from the usual meats, gives the sauce heartiness equal to what you might get from red meats but with a slightly smoother taste. It works and not only as an enhancement to the sauce, but also as a way to enjoy the chicken which, after slowly cooked, remains amazingly moist, the sauce practically absorbed into the meat itself.

As part of my willingness to be more accepting to those not as cultured as I, I’ve decided to make a concession by naming what most definitely is a sauce, as gravy. I hereby extend my magnanimity to those I spent countless wasted hours trading insults with and present here, as I sit on my hands so I don’t hold my nose, my recipe for—Pasta with Chicken Gravy.

Ingredients:

3 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes

4 chicken parts (I used two chicken thighs, and two drumsticks, skin on and bone-in)

6 cloves of garlic, chopped

Two tablespoons of olive oil

Quarter cup of red wine

1lb of dried pasta (rigatoni, penne, ziti, preferable)

Salt and pepper to taste

You can make this sauce on the stove top, in fact, it’s probably the best way. If you don’t have the time to stick around the kitchen for hours, a slow cooker works and that’s how I made mine for this recipe. The result, I learned, was equal to what you would accomplish on top of the stove.

In a large frying pan, heat one tablespoon of the olive oil.

Season the chicken parts with salt and pepper. Drop into the hot pan and brown on each side. About two minutes per side. Once the chicken is browned, put it to the side.

Browning the chicken.

Browning the chicken.

Pour the crushed tomatoes into the slow cooker

Throw the garlic into the same frying pan you used for the chicken and cook on medium heat until just lightly brown; two to three minutes. If the pan is dry, add the other tablespoon of oil.

Scrape the oil and garlic into the tomatoes in the slow cooker. Return the frying pan to the stove, turn on to medium-high heat, add about a quarter cup of red wine to deglaze the pan.  Cook for about five minutes tops or until the wine cooks down.

Pour whatever liquid and bits from the chicken and garlic remain into the tomatoes in the slow cooker.

Add the browned chicken to the slow cooker.

The "gravy" is now ready to be cooked very slow.

The “gravy” is now ready to be cooked very slow.

Turn on high for one hour and then set to low for about six hours.

After six hours, if the sauce is too thin for your taste, remove the top, turn to high and cook for another hour or so with the top off until the sauce forms your preferred consistency.

Remove the chicken pieces to a separate platter.

Chicken Gravy (3)

Serve the sauce…I mean gravy…over your favorite pasta.

Top with grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano.

Enjoy, take a look at what’s in the bowl and keep repeating to yourself: “I am eating gravy. I am eating gravy. I am eating gravy.” Say it enough and you might even believe it.

Pasta with chicken gravy

Pasta with chicken gravy

 

The Caffeine Chronicles: A Cuppa Joltin’ Joe

27 Mar

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Yankee legend Joe DiMaggio was known for his frugality. One story has it that after ordering a double-scoop ice cream cone and just before taking a lick (maybe it was after the lick) being told it was $5, DiMaggio was outraged and handed the already scooped ice cream cone back to the surprised server.

So when I noticed the posters for the  Arizona brand, Joltin’ Joe Sparkling Espresso, his picture with a USA cap on his head, not a N.Y. Yankee cap (there is no mention of the Yankees in any of the DiMaggio memorabilia on the can), outside my local bodega, I thought I should explore this new, to me, caffeinated beverage. Since Opening Day was less than a week away and seeing that the 15.5 ounce can was listed at a mere $1.99, I thought it a fitting tribute to Joltin’ Joe that I indulge.

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After shaking it a bit to combine the ingredients and then pulling the tab to open it, I hadn’t realized that the beverage was “sparkling.”

Look, there are bubbles.

Look, there are bubbles.

I thought a bodega special: a small packaged slice of Sara Lee pound cake, might offset the harsh saccharine sweetness of the caffeine infused beverage.

I was wrong.

Joltin' Joe

One sip of Joltin’ Joe was all I could stomach. I did, however, finish the Sara Lee pound cake with no difficulty.

Baklava in the Bleachers

16 Oct

As I said in these pages about a month ago (New Year’s Penicillin), I’ve been spending a lot of time just off the 230th Street exit of the Major Deegan, sitting on crooked aluminum bleacher seats watching baseball on a small field. The field borders the Deegan and the hum of traffic is a constant.

The bleacher seats: no admission charge.

In between games or while waiting for the games to begin, I’ve become very familiar with the Kingsbridge neighborhood that surrounds the field.  A café con leche at Malecon Restaurant has become a weekly treat and as I reported here, I “discovered” a 50 year old Kosher deli named Loeser’s where the penicillin includes chicken broth, noodles, or maybe a matzoh ball.

More recently, as I waited for the games to begin, I happened on another place. Just a few paces from the 50th police precinct and across the street from the Nice Guys Car Wash, I found a small, shed of a diner called Christos Gyro & Souvlaki.

The souvlaki of Christos.

Christos, I learned, has been at its tiny location on Kingsbridge Road the past eight years—at least that was what the owner, Christopher, a.k.a Christos, said to me as he also proudly handed me a laminated Daily News article about his restaurant where that newspaper rated his gyro the best in the city.

The weather was changing. An Indian summer day was quickly turning into a brisk autumn one. I’d have to take the Daily News’ word on the gyro. I wanted something else. I didn’t need New Year’s penicillin, but the close Greek equivalent would do very well.

“You want the avgolemono?” Christos asked.

“Yes I do,” was my definitive response.

“Anything else?”

“Moussaka,” I said, not caring that I might miss the beginning of the game.

“Very good choice.”

The bowl of the yellow-tinged, lemon chicken soup was steaming. Spherical dots of orzo floated within along with slivers of chicken. The distinct citrus snap of lemon meshed magically with the hearty, comforting chicken broth.

I crumbled a few saltines into the bowl and slurped. It wasn’t long before the bowl was empty.

Christos’ avgolemono

Moussaka awaited, paired with a simple Greek salad, pita bread and a generous bowl of tzatziki. I dipped the pita into the creamy, garlicky yogurt…and then I double dipped.

The half inch of béchamel sauce on top of the ground beef and eggplant was airy, the filling scented with cinnamon. I alternated between bites of the moussaka and dips of the tzatziki until all was gone.

Moussaka, Greek salad, tzatziki

Christos came to clear my table. “You did good,” he said.

“I know,” I answered, happy to have made him proud.

As I waited to pay, I noticed a tray of baklava and remembered reading in the Daily News piece that Christos’ wife made them fresh daily. I pointed to it. Christos’ son was working the cashier—Christo’s was most certainly a family affair. “To go?”  he asked.

I nodded and took the bagged baklava back to the ball field. I devoured it watching baseball on the bleacher seats while like a continuous loop, the music of the Major Deegan played on and on.

Music to eat baklava by.

The Happiest of All Hours: Malachy’s Donegal Inn Edition

24 May

When I first moved to New York back in the good old dirty days, there was a neighborhood bar that became my local hangout called The Donegal. I frequented the place, on the corner of 72nd and Columbus, with my team after softball games on the Great Lawn, when the Great Lawn was a much used dust bowl, not the fenced-in grass museum it is now.

And since it was close to my apartment, I would also spend time by myself there watching numerous sporting events; the Yankees, boxing, and especially the New York football Giants. This was well before satellite television and when all we in New York got to see on Sunday was either the Giants or the Jets no matter how bad both teams were.

There was a white-haired, bespectacled Irish bartender named Timothy who knew me as a regular and treated me well, buying back frequent rounds for myself or whoever I was with.

The place was dark and dingy; the tables and chairs rickety. There were relics on the walls; photos of old baseball players, movie stars, and other dusty mementos. It was a gathering ground for a number of older gentlemen and a few ladies who still lived at the nearby SRO’s that, at the time, were a big part of the neighborhood. There was food; burgers, fries, eggs, chicken wings, and a few sandwiches. It was a dive, which was, of course, an attraction to me.

Malachy’s Donegal’s fine furnishing, just like I remembered it.

The Donegal also had what we used to call a “big screen” television. The picture, projected from the front, was usually blurry and had a bluish tinge to it. But we liked its unique “bigness.”

I remember watching a Monday Night game where the Giants were playing the Dallas Cowboys that resulted in a close loss for the Giants and then a shoving match with a loud Cowboys’ fan. With respect to the Donegal, we took the shoving outside.

I moved away from New York for awhile and when I returned, the Donegal was not quite the same. Timothy had disappeared. The neighborhood was changing. And I found other dives more appealing. After awhile, I noticed that the Donegal was renamed Malachy’s. I never returned to Malachy’s until recently, when I found myself in the neighborhood during the Happiest of Hours. I wondered if there would be anything I would remember about the place.

Though the name was changed to Malachy’s,  when I returned from my happy hour there , I did a search online for the Donegal and discovered that Malachy’s official name was actually Malachy’s Donegal Inn. So the bond had not  been totally severed.

Malachy’s Donegal Inn

103 W. 72nd St

As soon as I entered, I was pleased to notice that, despite the many years I had been away, not much had changed, with the exception, most prominently, of the numerous flat screen television as opposed to the one “big screen” I remembered. But that was to be expected.

The day’s specials.

There were plenty of seats at the bar and the tables were all empty. A few gentlemen were drinking beer from bottles and talking loudly in the otherwise quiet bar. They reminded me of the patrons I used to know at The Donegal and I wondered if any of the same SRO’s still existed around the now very lofty real estate of West 72nd Street.

From where I sat, I could look up and see The Babe.  It was nice to know he hadn’t moved from his spot in over 25 years.

The Babe surrounded by Christmas lights, circa 1983.

Roberto Clemente was in his same place as well, but the wings’ special was a new and welcome addition.

Gary Cooper and the Brooklyn Dodgers had always been part of the Donegal’s scenery.

As had The Duke.

I ordered the only “exotic” beer I remembered from when I used to visit: a Bass.

Getting $15.50 back from a $20 made me “happy.”

While I drank the cold beer, I overheard the gentlemen at the bar discussing old movies. “Wasn’t Cagney in a picture where he was in AA?” one of the gentlemen asked the others.

No one answered him.

He took a sip from his bottle. “Or was it Alan Hale in that picture?”

“Junior or Senior?” someone asked, but that pretty much ended the discussion.

A man with a cellphone to his ear took the seat next to me. The bartender came over.  The man ordered a beer and asked to look at a menu. After giving him a few moments, the bartender returned.

“What’s good?” the man asked.

“The specials, brisket or the pastrami,” the bartender replied.

“What do you suggest?”

“Apples or oranges,” the bartender said, a look of impatience on his face.

“Pastrami,” The man said. The bartender nodded and took the menu back.

Peanuts or pistachios are always a good go to option when hungry.

A few minutes later, the bartender returned with the man’s sandwich. I glanced at it. The pastrami looked lean, juicy; the sandwich surrounded by fries. I had to admit, it looked damn good.

I finished my beer and thanked the bartender. Just because Malachy’s was no longer The Donegal, was that really a good reason to desert what had been a comfortable refuge for me? Had I been a bit too hasty in my split with the place?

The regret I was feeling as I walked out was cut short by the realization that I could always return, preferably on a Sunday, where along with an unlimited dose of NFL action, I could take full advantage of the 20 cent wing special.

“I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

Today’s Special: Corned Beef and College Hoops

16 Mar

The problem with the Blarney Stone is that there are too many specials.

At first glance, a double stack burger is a temptation, but then I go inside and I find myself staring wide-eyed at the treasures of the sacred steam table.

These days, the Blarney Stone has incorporated an international flair.

Jerk chicken at the Blarney Stone? Who knew?

The choices are dizzying, yet I always return to what I know is reliable.

Corned beef on rye.

And I have no regrets.

Let the madness begin.

The View From the 26th Floor

3 Feb

It’s Friday and on Sunday the Super Bowl will be played. I could work up a Super Bowl menu for the big game, but why would mine be any more interesting than the half a million others that have been blogged over the last two weeks? I could quip on a history of Super Bowl eats I’ve experienced over the many Roman numeraled years the game has been played, but that would only make me look very old; and do you really care?

  So today I will digress a bit from things food—mostly. Instead I’m sharing something a bit different, at least from a Fried Neck Bones perspective.

Since the Giants and the Patriots clinched their conference titles two weeks ago, the blather has been incessant regarding how this is a “rematch” of the memorable Super Bowl the two teams played four years ago. And, in particular, how the current Giants stretch run practically mirrored what occurred in 2007/08. There have been numerous reminisces of that dramatic game replayed by sports’ writers, fans, and former players.

   Not long after the 2008 Super Bowl, I scribbled an account of my experience watching that game and how, in some ways, it reminded me, on a much different scale, of what occurred when I witnessed a big game thirty years earlier. So here, on Fried Neck Bones…and Some Home Fries, is my Giants/Patriots Super Bowl story. You see, there really is no escape from it.

On the first Monday of October, 1978, I was in a rickety motel in New Hampshire on a mountain climbing/hiking trip with a friend. Looking back, I still wonder why I would agree to such an endeavor. The trip, however, coincided with the end of the baseball season that year; one that had seen the New York Yankees, my team, come from a 14 and a half point deficit to leap over the rival Boston Red Sox into first place. But on the last day of the season, while I was attempting to enjoy a hiking trip, the Yankees lost and the Red Sox won putting them in a virtual tie. There was to be a one-game playoff at Fenway Park the following afternoon to determine who would win the American League East.

My friend, also a Yankee fan, though a much more avid climber of mountains than I was in a quandary—or maybe he wasn’t. He knew what I was thinking.

“We came here to go climbing,” he said. We were close to the Mount Washington range in New Hampshire where we planned to hike. It was a sunny, crisp day; the foliage in the mountains was glorious. It was the last day of our trip. He looked at me knowing I would be unmoved.

Idyllic Mt. Washington in early October; a perfect day to stay inside and watch baseball.

“Well, I’m not staying in a motel room watching TV on a day like this,” he huffed as he grabbed his gear and headed out.

The television in the motel room was an old color set with rabbit ears. The game was broadcast on local network television and with proper manipulation of the rabbit ears, I was able to pull it in with only minor interference. In the small room I kept the shades drawn; the glare of the sun made it even more difficult to see the screen. I paced and cursed loudly throughout the game. When the Red Sox took the early lead, I was thinking maybe I should have gone mountain climbing sparing myself potential agony. And watching with only my own voice as my companion was torturous.

But in the seventh inning came Bucky Dent’s legendary home run. I let out a thunderous roar. I thought I was alone in the motel—who else would actually be in this fairy tale-themed, Snow White or Rip Van Winkle, I don’t remember which, motel on the first Monday in October? But there was someone here and he (or she) was most likely a Red Sox fan and banging angrily at the walls either, telling me to keep it down or in disgust at what had just unfolded on the field.

Deep to left…Yastrzemski…will not get it…

As the game progressed, I continued to pace the small room, moving from the bathroom and back out again in between pitches. I was talking to myself, occasionally yelling at the blurry screen and when Graig Nettles caught the final out, I hollered. This time there was no banging in return.

Almost thirty years later, on the first Sunday in February of 2008, I was in a luxurious two-bedroom suite on the 26th floor of a sleek Midtown Manhattan hi-rise hotel. There were high definition flat screen televisions in each of the bedrooms and a huge, 40 plus inch screen in the living room area. In little over an hour after I checked  into the hotel, a New York team was scheduled to play a team from New England; the underdog Giants going against the undefeated Patriots in the Super Bowl.

I was at the hotel on assignment for a guide book I write on New York City. Usually I visit the hotels I review alone, but on this occasion I was with my seven-year-old son, L. The previous year, L wept when the Philadelphia Eagles eliminated the Giants in a wild card playoff game on a last second field goal. As I tried to console him, I told him he had officially been initiated into Giant fandom—that as a Giant fan, losses like the one he just experienced become part of your lifeblood. That didn’t make him feel any better.

Two weeks before the Super Bowl, as the Giants and Green Bay played into overtime in the NFC Championship game, I worried that L, watching well past his bedtime, would suffer through a similar result and wondered what kind of toll that might take on his young psyche. But, thankfully, Lawrence Tynes’ field goal eliminated that concern and sent the Giants to the Super Bowl.

Gourmet Super Bowl fare.

I had already scheduled my visit to the hotel well before I had any inclination the Giants would be a participant in the big game. My usual Super Bowl tradition is to gather with a few buddies at a friend’s studio apartment downtown, watch on a 15-inch television, boil hot dogs, drink beer, and consume absurd amounts of Crunch & Munch. But on this year, I wanted something a little different.

I gave L the option of watching the game with his friends at a neighbor’s apartment or coming with me to the hotel. “I want to go with you,” he said.  So we packed L’s clothes and homework for school the next day and checked into the hotel; L layered in a Giants’ #27 “Jacobs” jersey, a “NY” blue and red sweatshirt, and a blue Giants’ winter coat.

We ate pastrami sandwiches and hot dogs from the nearby Carnegie Deli while the seemingly endless pregame show droned on. Finally, after the introductions were made, the National Anthem sung, the game began.

Super Bowl take out.

L watched squirming from my lap to the floor to a chair, incessantly talking—his way of releasing nervous tension. At halftime with the Patriots leading 7-3, he showered and got in his pajamas. His squirming slowed in the third quarter and then he got very angry and teary after the Patriots won a challenge and he used the familiar 7-year-old lament, “that’s not fair.”  I could tell he was getting tired.

He revived a bit early in the fourth quarter, when the Giants scored and took the lead 10-7. But as soon the Patriots got the ball back he began rubbing his eyes and I asked him if he wanted to watch in bed. He nodded, got under the covers and I turned on the television in his bedroom. The Patriots, as I had no doubt they would, immediately moved the ball down the field. I looked in on L; he was turned away from the game. I asked if he wanted me to turn it off so he could sleep. He nodded. I wanted to make sure and asked again. He nodded again.

As I returned to the living room, I wondered if L just wanted to spare himself the heartbreak of a Giant loss or if he really was exhausted. He had gotten up very early that morning, excited about the day, and spent a good portion of it ice skating in Central Park. Looking in on him a few minutes later, he was sleeping soundly.

I retreated back to the big screen, lowering the volume and watching the Patriots score to take the lead 14-10 with two and a half minutes left. I grumbled quietly. Though my son was asleep close by, I was watching one of the biggest games of my life in a hotel room by myself as I did thirty years earlier.

And a scream was  stifled.

When Eli Manning impossibly escaped a sack heaving the ball to David Tyree who caught it off his helmet while falling backwards, I jumped out of my chair, but I caught myself from yelling. Over the past few years, I had learned not to holler loudly at the television with my children around. The few times I have, I either frightened one of them into tears or had them look at me as if I were a lunatic. But on this night, though it wasn’t easy, I was able to restrain myself. I jumped up again and let out a yell I immediately stifled when Manning hit Plaxico Burress for the winning touchdown for the Giants and then glanced into the bedroom. L had not stirred.

A few moments later Tom Brady let go with a final fruitless heave.  The Giants were Super Bowl Champions.  And my son missed it.

The next morning L wandered into my room and woke me up.

“Who won?” he asked with a hopeful, yet wary look on his face.

It was my pleasure to tell him.

The seven-year old is now 11 and has a younger brother who is the same age he was when he watched Super Bowl XLII.  Like the older brother did before him, the younger brother will now squirm and talk incessantly throughout the game. If a call goes against the Giants, he will say “it’s not fair.” And he might cry if the Giants lose. He will be watching with a big group of friends and family, including his father who won’t have to converse with the walls for this big game. The view for Super Bowl XLVI, however, will not be from the 26th floor. But there will be a view.

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