Ask yourself, when was the last time you saw a professional sports team play for the love of the sport? Hard to answer, isn’t it? On Super Bowl Sunday I had the opportunity to witness such an event. I’m not talking about the Packers/Steelers game either. I’m talking about the new Jacksonville Giants. The game was at 1 PM and it’s the third game I’ve been to. While watching the Super Bowl it suddenly hit me, why I like this team. What hit me was all the grand standing, show-me-your-guns arm flexing, end zone twirling, primal screaming, that goes on in every NFL game. It always comes after someone who is paid millions of dollars to do a job, actually does their job. Then they act as if there’s only one reason for the fans to be there; to watch all the self-aggrandizement and self-promotion. Show me the money!
Did you know that the Jacksonville Giants are one of the most dominant teams in the relatively new ABA? They are certainly the most dominant team in their division, winning every game with huge margins. Super Bowl Sunday, for example, they outscored the Florida Makos 205 to 85. I didn’t see one instance of “look at me” showboating. What I did see was class, talent, determination and humility. I know, it sounds like a boring game to watch. It might have been too, except for the following.
No matter how much the Giants lead in any game, they play with intensity. Intensity, not born out of greed for the huge paycheck, but intensity born out of love for the game. There’s a real team brotherhood when they are on the court. Each player looks to the other for support and looks to support one another. The game is fast and can be frantic. If one player starts to slow a bit or let up, they are pushed to give 100% by their coach and each team member. Letting up is not acceptable. There is no grand standing after a dunk. There is no taunting after a 3 pointer that looks impossible and no one gets away with trash mouthing. I’ve watched each of these players improve their game skills and their strategy on the court, each time I’ve attended. The skill level continues to improve, even with such dominance over their opponents. I watched and asked myself, how do you stay motivated when you lead an opposing team by 50 points or more? There is only one reason these guys play their hearts out every time they take the court – they love what they’re doing, individually and as a team.
One other thing. I know I’m really dating myself now, but when I was a boy I spent some of my youth in Brooklyn, NY. Yeah, imagine that, a southern boy living in Brooklyn, but that’s another story. Anyway, the Brooklyn Dodgers were the heart of that town. I remember when they won the World Series. It was the only time they won it in Brooklyn and the entire borough shut down. Every business closed. Every shop hung a “Closed to Celebrate Dem Bums” sign on the door. My uncle Gabe cried, he was so happy. It was great they had won, finally, and inspiring to all us kids. What made it special was that we knew all Dem Bums. They lived in town or near by in the off-season. They didn’t make enough to support their families without second, off-season jobs. Because they were part of the community, we got to know them as people. It was like having an older brother win the World Series. They were all part of our family and we loved to watch ‘em play, because we know how much they loved the game.
My point is, these young Giants players are our neighbors too. You can see them about town and know they are part of the community. If you’ve ever felt that kind of connection to a team, or you never have and would like to, come see these young men at the Downtown Arena. Especially if you love winning teams, what’s not to like! Hope to see you there.
Written by—Mike Pilolla