At GMEN HQ, we love football passion, we love statistics and we love NFL history. Most of all, we love that some of the greatest coaches in NFL history have built those careers by way of the New York Football Giants.
Legendary football names like Tom Landry, Vince Lombardi, Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick blossomed their careers in Jints BLUE. Speaking of legends…
What about the life of Benny Friedman?
The Giants Hall of Famer vanquished success at a time when the Mara’s could buy the Giants for $500. Heck, Benny Friedman actually coached two NFL games with a .1000 winning percentage. Giants fan or not, that’s pretty damn cool.
There’s a book out there called: From Sandlots to the Super Bowl: The National Football League, 1920-1967. It features this passage, found here:
After 1928, Mara decided that headliners were the best way to sell pro football in New York, and he wanted the Detroit Wolverine’s Benny Friedman. In Friedman’s two appearances at the Polo Grounds, the Giants had drawn crowds that were two-thirds larger than any other game, and the New York press had given their star athlete a considerable amount of coverage. Realizing Detroit’s management was not about to trade their only headliner, Mara purchased the entire franchise just to obtain Friedman and gave him a $10,000 contract. In 1929, the Giants promoted themselves as “Friedman’s Eleven,” and Mara made a small profit for the season. The following year, Friedman and a great team, alone, were not enough to turn a profit, and additional headliners were needed. Over the next few seasons, the Giants were able to break close to even only by fielding a very good team and providing customers with a continual infusion of former collegiate stars such as Red Cagle, Shipwreck Kelly, Harry Newman, Ken Strong, Bo Molenda and Ed Danowski.”
Benny Friedman? An original real football player so good, the Giants actually bought a Detroit franchise just to get his rights. Imagine that–That would be like Mark Cuban buying the Heat, just so he could sign LeBron James. Talk about screw your policies and saying, “it’s my way.” Perhaps stories like this helped originate the phrase, “Only in New York.”
Now personally, I don’t know anything about Benny Friedman’s real true story and life tribulations. Those stories unfortunately died only two years after my birth in the ’80s. Tragically, Benny didn’t just pass away–he took his own life–Suicide.
A man with a perfect legendary NFL lore, HOF Giant and seemingly memories galore, couldn’t take it anymore. It’s the reality of life personified over what we make important in day to day humanity. To read more on the life of Benny Friedman, check out this intense/tragic read from the Washington post in 2005:
It was Nov. 23, 1982, and Benny Friedman didn’t want to live any more. His left leg had been amputated, his heart was bad and he was feeling, at 77, forgotten, irrelevant, useless. Half a century before, he’d been one of the nascent NFL’s main attractions, the Dan Marino of his day. But the ravages of age had – to his horror – turned him into “the old man on the park bench,” he said in a note later found by his family.
What a tragedy. Outside of being a fan of a specific team, what I love about the NFL is you can look at a teams history and find traces of human narratives.
Football isn’t just armored warriors violently smashing into each other in vanity’s day-to-day pursuit to be the greatest. It’s about fanatics loving their team. It’s about old players being honored for their days long since past. It’s about players like Benny Friedman, long laid to rest by his own hand, still being remembered today, even if you never knew him. Football is a great game, a game easily linked to war analogies, that sticks with individual players for the rest of their lives.
I didn’t make many plays in football in my playing days, I sucked. But the plays I did make stand out in my mind like they happened a moment ago. The adrenaline, the feel of the pads, the shake of your helmet when you run… It all stays with you.
You look at this list of Giants coaches and you think of all the lives they touched. All the fans that paid to be in the stands. All the beers drank at bars around New York City as Big Blue Nation formed throughout the years since the 1920’s.
It’s this kind of sentiment that can make your head spin and your mind drift. Football effects lives, GIANTS fans enjoy talking about their fandom. And we, at GMEN HQ love learning about your individual passions. Recently, we received an comment from Kevin Boliard, a columnist for Bleacher Report, who said:
My grandfather was an advertising agent in the late 1950s and early 1960s, when the NFL was just beginning to take off. He lived in Connecticut and worked with players from the Giants, Jets, Eagles, Colts and Patriots. Although his favorite player to work with was Joe Namath, he became a fan of the Giants – probably because they were winning a lot during that time (six NFL championship appearances from 1956-1963). Anyway, my dad became a fan from watching the games with my grandfather, even through the terrible 1970s decade. My father and mother married in August of 1986, perhaps helping break the 30-year championship curse that the Giants finally shook with their first Super Bowl victory the following January. Then, things get weird when I was born – January 27, 1991 at halftime of Super Bowl XXV, which the Giants won by a point thanks to a kick that sailed wide right. I like to think that it was my coming into existence that threw of the balance of the universe just enough to make Scott Norwood’s game-winning kick attempt fail. I’ve been a Giants fan ever since. Not by choice, but by destiny.
Not by choice, but by destiny.
Powerful words to end an amazing tale of how one man became a Giants fan. Adding that to the other worldly lifetime of Benny Friedman and you have unstoppable NFL intrigue.
I love this game.
Tell us, Giants Nation. Why are you a New York Football Giants Fan?