Dick Lynch has been a fixture at Giants games over the past 40 years, first as a player (from 1959 to 1966), then as an announcer (since 1967). Still, no one would have blamed him if he had decided to stay home from Big Blue’s games in the wake of the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center. The former defensive back’s 31-year-old son, Richard Lynch, was on the 84th floor of 2 World Trade Center when the planes hit. He has been missing ever since.
“A lot of people are asking why I am here today,” Lynch told WFAN listeners before the Giants’ 13-3 victory at Kansas City on September 23. “But I’m part of the Giants family. They’re here, so I’m here.”
Those who regularly listen to Lynch’s radio broadcasts know just how important his family—wife Roz and five children—is to him. In the best tradition of the Phil Rizzuto/Harry Caray School of Broadcasting, he has always peppered his game commentary with anecdotes about his neighborhood (“Douglaston—the best place to live in the world,” he told listeners last year) and his home life (“I told Roz to have the dogs waiting for me when I come home,” he said during a preseason game last month. “Puppies are the best”), as well as updates on his beloved Notre Dame Fighting Irish (for whom he played from 1954 to 1957) and his golf game.
The Oceanside, Long Island, native’s charm and passion for Big Blue have made him a favorite among Giant diehards (“I always say we have 20,000,001 listeners—one more than Rush Limbaugh,” he has said during games), who call him “old number 22,” in honor of the jersey he wore as a player. But even the casual fan couldn’t help but be moved by his emotional pleas for peace and unity on the air the past two weeks, as well as his show of faith that “Richie found one of those air pockets down there.”
“Dick’s a popular guy, and a lot of Giants fans feel connected to him because of the way he is on the air,” Lynch’s broadcast partner for the past seven seasons, Bob Papa, told us last week. Papa, in fact, had two on-air partners directly affected by the tragedy—Teddy Atlas, with whom he works on ESPN’s “Friday Night Fights,” lost his nephew, a New York City firefighter.
“Dick told me before the Kansas City game that he played football with all kinds of physical injuries, and that he was going to go on the air, even if he had a broken heart,” recalled Papa. “Dick’s a tough, old-school guy. He’s also a New York guy, and I think he feels by doing the games he’s telling people in the New York area to keep going, to not let their lives get disrupted.”
THE COLOR OF MONEY
On October 13, Mike Tyson, former heavyweight champion of the world, will be in the news again, but it won’t be for the usual reasons you would expect, like biting off someone’s ear or threatening to eat somebody’s kids. Nor will it be because he drove his car into a tree or because someone charged him with rape.
No, this time around, Tyson will be getting ink because he actually has a fight coming up after a year off from boxing. When Tyson steps into the ring with someone named Brian Nielsen, a Danish heavyweight with a record of 62-1 (44 KO’s), it will mark the fourth time in six fights that he’s faced a white heavyweight, and this is a point that shouldn’t be overlooked.
White heavyweights are as hard to come by as winning lotto tickets. For some reason, they capture the imagination. Is it the Rocky syndrome? Do white fans project themselves into the ring, hoping to beat an Apollo Creed? Early last century, a promoter couldn’t sell a fight between two black fighters because the racist public didn’t care. Who knows how much of that lingers?
In any case, Tyson has pulled this jackpot lever quickly and often. It took Tyson a total of nine rounds to dispatch Peter McNeeley, Andrew Golota, Francois Botha, and Lou Savarese, and he made millions of dollars doing so. Why does Tyson fight these mediocre white heavyweights? Because it’s like taking candy from a baby. Typically, promoter Don King milks the matchups for all they’re worth, as he did in the case of McNeeley, a slow-moving pug from a family of fighters. King turned McNeeley into a human-interest story, tantalizing fans into thinking, “Gee, I wonder if this average Joe could really beat Iron Mike.” Yeah, right.
These days, Tyson doesn’t have to prove anything to anyone. We all know how good he was when he was taking the sport seriously, so his legacy is intact. But now the man doesn’t seem to care anymore. He has fought just six times in the past four years. He has one leg in retirement and the other in the ring. Now he is facing an opponent who accomplished more in the amateur ranks than he has as a pro.
The truth is, Tyson can make good money fighting a nobody like Nielsen and still be regarded as a future opponent of Hasim Rahman or Lennox Lewis. Fighting a tough challenger won’t do anything to enhance his ranking, so why take the risk? Based on his earlier reign of terror, Tyson still remains the measuring stick for all heavyweights in his division, even while wolfing down cream puffs—or a Danish.
Contributors: Brian P. Dunleavy, Mitch Abramson
Sports Editor: Ward Harkavy