It’s been a long time since both the New York Giants and New York Jets have been relevant football teams during the NFL season.
This fall, local gridiron fans felt a renewed sense of energy around Big Blue and Gang Green. They actually make time to watch football on Sundays in addition to picking pumpkins, sampling apple cider, and of course attending Mass!
The Giants (6-2) and Jets (5-3) entered the game last weekend only to lose. But both teams have already trailed their winning streak in 2021 – remember, that’s still only November.
Some local priests jumped back on board with their team.
Father Ralph Edel, St. Francis Prep, Fresh Meadows, Holy Family, Flushing, has been a die-hard Giants fan since birth. Every Sunday, even with his busy schedule, he tries to block off an afternoon to watch G-Men at his mom Angela’s house, which has been a family tradition for years.
Father Edel is also a fan of the New York Knicks, New York Mets and New York Rangers. Generally, it means experiencing many losses. And as a Giants fan, he has seen two Super Bowl games in 2008 and 2012.
As a senior at Cathedral Preparatory and Seminary in Elmhurst, Father Edel had a memorable day in 2008 watching the Giants tape parade in the Canyon of Heroes. “Parade Day was the only day my mother was allowed to miss school in her entire life,” she said.
This season, Father Edel impressed new Giants head coach Brian Daboll, bringing a fiery presence not seen since the glory days of the great Tom Coughlin. The Giants are playing a lot of close games, but they are on the winning side.
“Talent-wise, this is the bottom five roster in the NFL,” Dad Edel said. “Daboll is getting the most out of them. The energy around this team is so much better.”
Admittedly, Ata Edel isn’t a big fan of Giants quarterback Daniel Jones. In fact, while watching a live stream of the 2019 NFL Draft on a plane from the Chicago Catholic Education Conference, the young priest was not happy because the Giants drafted Jones with the sixth overall pick.
But he’s starting to trust Jones, especially after seeing how the team has rallied around their quarterback. It certainly helps that star running back Saquon Barkley — whom his father, Edel, called one of the most talented players he’s ever seen — is healthy and in fresh form.
The Giants still have some tough games ahead of them, mostly against their division rivals. For now, Big Blue has put itself in position to compete for a playoff spot and a division title.
Meanwhile, Father Bill Sweeney, pastor of St. Francis de Sales, Bell Harbor and former St. Francis Prep priest, knows loss well as a Mets and Jets fan. He experienced at least some form of Jets success, as he was an eighth-grader when Broadway Joe Namath led the Jets to an upset victory in Super Bowl III.
Since then, it’s mostly been a layoff for Jets fans. “I really think Namath sold his soul to the devil for the future of the franchise,” said Father Sweeney, who was a Jets season ticket holder before becoming a pastor. He remembers the exact seats he and his sibling at the Meadowlands: Section 47, row K, seats 10-11.
“It was the coldest place I’ve ever been!” he said, but playoff appearances for the Jets were few and far between.
Despite the hot start, rookie running back Breece Hall’s season-ending ACL injury brought some Jets fans back down to earth. “I’m one of those Jets fans waiting for the other shoe to drop,” Father Sweeney said.
Still, the Jets have had some solid wins this season. Young quarterback Zach Wilson is healthy and making key plays, which is exactly what happened when the team drafted him with the No. 2 overall draft pick last year.
“I think Wilson still has a lot to learn, but right now he’s winning,” Father Sweeney said. “That’s the key in the NFL. It doesn’t matter what it looks like when you win.”
It’s amazing how a few wins can completely change the mentality of fans, especially when expectations are so low during the season.
“Honestly, I was looking at the schedule and I said the Jets could be 0-7 or 0-9,” Sweeney, the father, said. “I’m very impressed and very happy with the outcome of everything. I would like them to make the playoffs.”
The great thing about the NFL is that it’s so unpredictable. The Giants and Jets are off to a rough start, but both teams could be unpredictable in the second half.
There’s still a lot of season left, so we’ll wait and see if the prayers of Father Edel and Sweeney can convince the football gods that their team deserves a playoff spot.
the connection Jim Mancari via email firstname.lastname@example.org.