You never forget the moment when all the blood, sweat and tears you shed and all the sacrifices you made brought you to a satisfaction and unbridled joy you first imagined as a boy with a dream and never stopped chasing.
There have been four Giants Super Bowl championships and one Jets Super Bowl champion squad, and they can tell the Rams and Bengals what it meant to them on that Sunday, and long after that Sunday, to stand on top of the football mountain.
Even 53 years later, Joe Namath can recall the feeling inside him when the gun went off and the AFL Jets had shocked the NFL Baltimore Colts, and the world as well, in Super Bowl III.
“It was like, ‘Yeah!’ ” Namath told The Post. “The last six minutes of that game you didn’t take for granted that you’re gonna win. It was almost too good to be true until that gun went off. I guess a sense of relief that we did it! When it was finally over, it was like that adrenaline just relaxed. … It was really the finality of that dream come true as an athlete.”
A life changed forever and lives he was able to impact everywhere — smiles on the faces of military burn victims in a Far East hospital during a USO tour, the pride in his native Beaver Falls, Pa., and east and west of Broadway, of course.
“My head would pop up, a smile would come up. … It was always a good vibe,” Namath said, “and it is to this day.”
Lawrence Taylor won twice, first in Super Bowl XXI at the end of the 1986 season.
“We felt that we were the best team in the NFL, and it was just great for us to have it reconfirmed to us that we were the best team in the NFL,” L.T. told The Post. “I think it’s better if you can win a Super Bowl and back it up the following year.”
The Bill Parcells Giants backed it up four years later.
“The first one was my favorite one because it was my first one. … It was more fulfilling, the second one, because we had to go play at other people’s houses,” Taylor said.
The ring is the thing.
“It goes to show you how hard it is to get them bad boys,” Taylor said. “Because you can have a great year and … you could be Dallas — keep having great years, and doggone they can’t do nothing. I cherish my rings, and I’m glad I had the chance to play with the teammates I played with, and we made it work, simple as that.”
An unbreakable bond lasts forever.
“You remember everybody, you’re all on the same page, and we get to throw Super Bowl parties, OK?” Taylor said.
Mark Bavaro won two Super Bowls with L.T.
“It’s a huge, huge, huge sense of accomplishment,” Bavaro told The Post. “Then you know that you just did something that’s gonna last, for as long as there are football fans. You’re always gonna be in the book of Super Bowl champions.”
A book none of them ever wants to close.
“It meant everything,” Bavaro said, “and it changed my life in ways that I never imagined. I wouldn’t be who I am today if we hadn’t won. It’s sad to say, if we had lost both times, my life would be very, very different. Getting there was so hard, and to get there and lose it, would have been devastating. I don’t know how the Bills got through it. Even the Broncos in the first phase of [John] Elway’s career … and the Minnesota Vikings. … I mean, to get there and lose it, I think you walk away from that as one type of person, and the person who’s on the winning team becomes a different type of person.
“I’ve come to be identified with the New York Giants, as we all have. People still remember those Giant teams. But I don’t think they would have remembered if we had lost. So you walk around, and you get that respect from people because we won. And not only would you not get that respect, but I don’t even think you would get the remembrance if you had lost. Unless you were like one of the superstars. But a majority of us, I think we would have been forgotten pretty quickly.”
Ottis Anderson was also a two-time champion with the Giants and was MVP of Super Bowl XXV versus the Bills.
“What it has done is given me a chance to definitely do more things in the community … develop better business relationships,” Anderson told The Post. “I’ve been able to just create all sorts of income revenues from not only winning a Super Bowl but being an MVP of a Super Bowl.”
Anderson, who had predicted that he would win MVP, can’t forget the joy and jubilation in the immediate moments after Scott Norwood missed wide right in Super Bowl XXV in Tampa, Fla.
“Guys on my team jumping, screaming, high-fiving, chest-bumping … crying,” he said. “Laughter. We never felt that agony of defeat of a Super Bowl. That never goes away. It’s always like being a bridesmaid and never a bride, you know? That never goes away that you were second best. All they remember is who won the game. For a whole year, you’re the best in the world.”
The sights and sounds in the winning locker room remain vivid to him. Parcells reminded them that no one had given them a chance, and told them to enjoy it.
“People fall on their knees, man, pray to God,” Anderson said. “There were tears, but they were tears of joy. Rolling on the ground in disbelief. Nobody wanted to take their uniform off. People who never had it can’t explain it to you. They could tell you, ‘Well I can imagine.’ No you can’t imagine.”
Leonard Marshall was also a two-time Giants Super Bowl champion.
“I said, ‘There’s 30 million people that are watching this game. … There’s 150 million people that wish they could be in my position right now,” Marshall told The Post. “Here I am, I’m a poor kid from Franklin, La. … I got a chance to come to New Jersey, New York, to play football for a living. I got a chance to play a kid’s game for a king’s ransom, for as long as I could possibly do it. And now I’m standing here, I am one of the best athletes in the world at what I do. I was absolutely speechless.“
Right before Norwood’s wide-right, Marshall’s father, Leonard Sr., seated behind the Giants bench, had moved closer to the sideline.
“ ‘Daddy,” his son recalled shouting from the sideline, “ ‘he misses this goddammit kick, we’re gonna go have one helluva party at Disney World, and I’m buying you a new Cadillac. If he makes it, you don’t even want to know me tonight.’ And that’s how it is when you play for a championship like that. You’re the happiest kid you could be, and if you have any competitiveness in you, you’re the saddest kid on the block if you lose.”
Carl Banks was in his third year when he won his Super Bowl XXI ring in Pasadena, Calif., on Phil Simms’ magical night against the Broncos, and he collected his second ring with the underdog 1990 Giants.
“I don’t wear them often,” Banks told The Post, “but I do wear them during this week.”
Every morning on Super Bowl Sunday, for as long as Banks can remember, his phone will ring and a familiar voice will be on the other end, so eager to reminisce about one or both of the greatest days of their football lives.
“Banksy, we did it!” Parcells will say.
“Yes we did,” Banks will reply.
Joe Burrow and the Bengals, or Matthew Stafford and the Rams … who will be champions forever?