After the NFC Championship, It Was a Locker Room Lollapalooza
After the final whistle blows, the trophies have been presented, and the network cameras have been turned off, there's still a lot going on. That's when players, reporters, and front-office types do their ritual dance in the locker- and pressrooms. After a conference championship game, that dance is much more ritualistic. Herewith, a look at some of those antics after the Giants' 41-0 shellacking of Minnesota on Sunday that probably didn't make the nightly news or daily papers.
From the I-Could-Use-a-Couple-of-Weeks-Off-in-January Department
The following exchange between a couple of NFL beat guys, lamenting the extra work that comes with covering a local team in the Super Bowl, was overheard:
Gary Myers (Daily News): "I know what you're thinking: 'I don't need this.' "
Steve Serby (New York Post): "I put the hex on the Jets two years ago and it worked."
Unidentified reporter-looking type: "You're losing your touch."
Tourists in the Locker Room
You know the never ending shots of players and coaches celebrating in the locker room after championship wins? You should see the media. For the record, the Giants didn't pour any champagne on Sunday, promising to save the party for Tampa. But some in the press took advantage of the postgame pandemonium to take pictures of themselves next to Giants Hall of Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor's old locker and hobnob with actor and Giants fan Danny Aiello, who was invited into the locker room by the his friend, head coach Jim Fassel. Almost every media outlet stopped to get his opinion on the NFC Championship Game and the Super Bowl.
A sampling: "I'm a New York guy and I live in Jersey now, so this is wonderful!"
Another celeb seen in the back room was rap star Sean "Puffy" Combs.
Even the ever polished and professional Pat Hanlon, the Giants' chief PR flack, seemed overwhelmed by the outcome of Sunday's game. In front of an overstuffed pressroom, Hanlon rapidly barked out instructions concerning postgame interview availability and the Super Bowl schedule, then exclaimed, "Where the hell's my gum?"
Seconds later, Hanlon, who loyally and vociferously roots for the Giants in the press box, was challenged by a reporter: "Pat, even you didn't expect 41-0." "No, I didn't," he responded. "Wouldn't have picked that number."
Giants linebacker Jessie Armstead wouldn't have either. He interrupted coach Jim Fassel's postgame press conference to announce that he had written a prediction for the game on a piece of paper, which he had hidden under the pressroom podium. After he retrieved it, he read his forecast: "Giants, 31-17." Flashing an I-told-you-so smile to the room, Armstead crumpled up the piece of paper and threw it into the crowd.
Looking ahead to Super Bowl Sunday, Fassel embraced him and asked, "You got a prediction on the next one? Are you going to hide that on me again or let me know next time?"
The Armstead incident wasn't the only unusual occurrence during Fassel's postgame press conference. As Fassel stepped up to the podium, he heard, for perhaps the first time during his four-year tenure as Giants coach, applause. Looking at the beat writers, he said, "I've done a lot of press conferences before. Never heard applause."
"It wasn't these guys," interjected PR man Hanlon, indicating the press.
"Thanks, Pat," Fassel responded, smiling. "Couldn't leave well enough alone, could you?"
Allowing the print media on the field for postgame celebrations is merely offering them a lesson in rejection. Players almost never want to talk to the press, but they like it even less when given the option of enjoying victory with their loved ones. Witness cornerback Jason Sehorn slicing his way through a gaggle of newspaper and TV reporters to hug fiancée and Law & Order star Angie Harmon as if he were hitting the wedge on a kickoff return.
Lots of Laughs
Not surprisingly, Giants players and ancillary personnel were in a good mood following Sunday's victory. Some sample locker room banter:
Armstead to running back Tiki Barber: "Tell your brother (Tampa Bay Buccaneer defensive back Ronde) I need to borrow his place next week."
Tight end Howard Cross, desperately seeking an official NFC Championship hat: "I ain't leavin' till I get my hat. If I don't get my hat, I'm takin' somebody else's."
Fullback Greg Comella, accused WNBC-TV's Len Berman of taking his official hat, and the latter didn't seem amused: "Which one of you guys took my hat? Len?" shouted Comella. Berman's only response, mumbled to another reporter next to him: "Do you think he caught me?"
Finally, a Giants locker room attendant was feverishly trying to pick up discarded ankle and hand tape from the floor when he finally got fed up with the crowd of media people in his way. As he wheeled his cart through the throng, he shouted, "I'm just a tape guy. I'm just trying to pick up all this crap and get home!"
So were we, pal. So were we.
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by Brian P. Dunleavy
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