Do the words Yelberton Abraham ring a bell?
How about Yelberton Abraham Tittle, better known as Y.A. Tittle, quarterback for the New York Giants, after playing for the Colts and the 49ers?
Yeah, that guy.
Do you know Bill Sternberg? Not the newspaper guy, my friend Bill Sternberg. No, you probably don't. But if it wasn't for Bill Sternberg I wouldn't know about Y.A. Tittle and would have had to wait nearly a generation before becoming a Giants fan.
Bill was a classmate and friend at Wynantskill Elementary School in Wynantskill, New York. We also attended Troy High School together and both joined the Marines after graduation.
Back in elementary school Bill was so knowledgeable about football and so passionate about the game that football really captured my interest for the first time, even though family members had long been fans. It was through Bill that I first heard of Y.A. Tittle.
Although he was playing for the 49ers when I first met Bill, Tittle was traded after the 1960 season. Tittle then joined the New York Giants, where he would have some of his best seasons including 1963, when he threw 36 touchdown passes, an NFL record at the time.
In his 17-year career, Tittle passed for 33,070 yards, 242 touchdowns, and was named the NFL Most Valuable Player. In 1971, he was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
But even though he was one of pro football's greatest quarterbacks Tittle never won the NFL Championship.
Next let's talk a bit about Fran Tarkenton. Tarkenton played for the Minnesota Vikings from 1961 to 1966, but despite his enormous talents he didn't see eye to eye with head coach Norm Van Brocklin.
Tarkenton had this annoying habit of not standing still to let onrushing linemen flatten him, but Van Brocklin was an old school kind of guy who didn't really appreciate "Scramblin' Fran."
So Tarkenton was traded to the Giants where he played from 1967 until 1972 when he was traded back to the Vikings!
Tarkenton won the NFL's MVP award after the 1975 season, capturing All-Pro honors in the process, and was in nine Pro Bowls.
In his 18 NFL seasons, Tarkenton completed 3,686 of 6,467 passes for 47,003 yards and 342 touchdowns, with 266 interceptions. He also racked up 3,674 rushing yards and 32 touchdowns on 675 carries. During his career, Tarkenton ran for a touchdown in 15 different seasons, an NFL record for quarterbacks.
After returning to the Vikings, Tarkenton, who also has had tremendous post-football success as a television commentator and businessman, led Minnesota to three Super Bowl appearances.
He didn't win any of them.
The Giants have had good years, and bad years, up times and down times, like any other team. They have won six NFL titles over the years including four before the Super Bowl - 1927, 1934, 1938, 1956 - and two since it became our real National Pastime - Super Bowls XXI and XXV.
But none with Tittle or Tarkenton.
Historically, Connecticut's Nutmeggers have reason to side with anyone except the Giants who played their first game against All New Britain in New Britain, Connecticut, on Oct. 4, 1925, winning 26 - 0 in front of a crowd of 10,000. If we were the type of people to hold generations-old grudges, then of course we would want any Giants opponent to win.
But when the Patriots shamelessly led Connecticut into believing we really had an opportunity to build their stadium here, rather than in Boston, or thereabouts, then callously pulled the rug out at the last minute - well, that is the kind of stuff that creates feuds.
To bring this all to a head, I would point out to Giants Quarterback Eli Manning that today he has two opportunities, to either be one of the few who have led an underdog to win the Super Bowl, in a franchise that has come agonizingly close so many times, or he can be one of many also-rans.
All the analysts can say all they want but Manning can do this if he puts his mind to it, and the rest of the team plays as well as it did in their last meeting with the Patriots. The Giants with Eli Manning quaterbacking can win this Super Bowl. I have faith in him, I have faith in the team, I have faith in the coach.
They can do it. Manning can do it.
So long as he doesn't choke.
Sunday, February 03, 2008