Monday, December 20, 2010

Breakfast of Champions

As children, my sister and I were “picky” eaters. It almost drove our parents crazy….trying to get us to eat. Fortunately, we never had that problem with our children OR grandchildren!

Watching my 5 grand kids woof down Thanksgiving dinner was a sight to behold. No doubt, Christmas dinner will be a repeat performance.

I told them I hadn’t seen anyone enjoy food as much as they did since my pre game breakfast with the New York Giants just before a Sunday afternoon game against the Washington Redskins.

“Oh no, Grandad. Not another one of your tall tales! You didn’t play in the NFL,” they said, almost in unison.

“Now be patient, boys," I said,  "and let me finish another one of my amazing, but true stories from the past."

I continued:

"I was having breakfast with Hall of Fame linebacker Sam Huff and the rest of the New York Giants team in the private dining room of the Saddle Brook Marriott Hotel in New Jersey, not far from the Meadowlands where the team would be playing the Washington Redskins in a few hours. We would be taking the field first…….

(Well….there they go. For some reason my grand kids never stay around for the end of my stories. I’m concerned that they might have SASS. (short attention span syndrome.)

Anyway, Sam and I would be taking the field before the team did…since we eventually had to work our way  up to the press box at the top of the stadium where Sam was going to be broadcasting the game.

Sam Huff broadcasting game for WMAL Radio 1976
This was in October of 1976 and the reason I was there was to snap pictures of Sam for my radio station at the time, WMAL, as well as some promotional pictures for the J.W, Marriott Company. (Sam’s full time job after retiring from football was as a Vice President for Marriott…in charge of arranging for NFL and other major sports teams to stay at Marriott Hotels when traveling.)

I had gotten a pretty good reputation around the station as a photographer, which had been my off and on hobby since Junior High school.. At night our laundry room became a dark room. I don’t think Linda was crazy about that, but, good wife that she is, she didn’t complain.

Marriott Chef
Anyway, back to the breakfast. What a feast! There was the standard fare such as eggs and bacon, which is what I had, but the players all had steak and eggs. Correction: steaks and eggs. Not one of the players I saw had just one steak. They all had at least 2…..and in some cases 3. I have no idea how many eggs it took to fill those hungry athlete’s plates, but my guess is 4, maybe 5.

But even stranger than that was the fact that there was hardly any conversation going on. If it hadn’t been for typical silverware and plate noise……the room would have been deathly silent.

 I asked Sam about that and he said that was not unusual at all. He said that very few words would be spoken until game time. It was their way of concentrating…and psyching themselves up for the game.

And sure enough, later in the locker room, I noticed that the silence continued.

40 players dressing for the game, and not a word was spoken. Sam got the “game time injury report” and then he checked out the condition of the playing field and finally we started making our way up to the press box.

I won’t even try to describe what it was like walking with Sam Huff through a stadium full of New York Giant fans.

But I’ll never forget it.

Nor will I forget the happy celebration in the locker room after the Giants defeated George Allen's Redskins that day with a last minute field goal. ..and all the reporters (half of them women) scrambling to talk to the players as they showered and dressed!

Sam Huff, Marriott Sports Teams VP

I'm all for equal opportunity and all, but  I’m sure glad they didn’t do things that way in 1953." -Ed