Since last August, I have been doing a radio program on the tiny NPR affiliate WHDD with my fellow writer Peter Richmond. It is about our tortured New York Giants fandom, and it is called “Tangled Up in Blue.” Now that the New York Times has given it some attention, I’ve heard from a number of people who say, “How can you complain about a team that has won three Super Bowls and is playing in its second Super Bowl in four years?”
My answer: Easily. With the caveat that our Giants “miserabilism” is ridiculous. It was Peter’s idea to call the program “Tangled Up in Blue,” and mine to subtitle it “Radio’s New Home for New York Football Giants Miserabilism.” The word “miserabilism” is an evocation of my memories of kids my age who loved the Smiths and the Cure in the 1980s—kids who took a perverse pleasure in how mopey/sad the music of Morrissey and Robert Smith made them feel. Watching the Giants is an emotionally excruciating experience, but it’s also one of the experiences that Peter and I hold most dear.
Herewith, some ways in which Giants miserabilism is ridiculous and some ways in which it is sensible.
Giants miserabilism is ridiculous because the team has not had a losing season since 2004.
Giants miserabilism is sensible because it was only last season that, with the team leading the Philadelphia Eagles by 21 points at home with less than eight minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, the Giants surrendered four unanswered touchdowns and lost the game 38-31, effectively losing a division title and a sure playoff spot in the process. (Lesson: NEVER relax and assume a lead is safe.)
Giants miserabilism is ridiculous because the team has been in the thick of the playoff hunt until late in the season in nine of twelve seasons since the year 2000.
Giants miserabilism is sensible because even defensive captain Justin Tuck is prone to lie awake in his bed on Sunday nights, at a complete and utter loss to explain his team’s sometimes inconsistent play. He says things like “I mean, it doesn’t make any sense to me. Do I need to see a shrink?”
Giants miserabilism is ridiculous because it’s just a spectator sport, you can’t win ’em all, and we should count our blessings that each season offers the promise of renewal and pleasant surprises like Victor Cruz.
Giants miserabilism is sensible because even the team’s reigning patriarch, owner John Mara, totally “gets” the miserabilism thing, agonizing through every game, saying the team’s 8-8 finish in 2009 “felt a lot more like 2-14 to me,” and wistfully observing, just as Peter and I are wont to do after a close victory, “It would be nice to have an easy one, but I don’t think that’s in our DNA.”