For the last 64 years, in all sorts of weather, nonagenarian Francis Ryan watched as his New York Giants play like both Super Bowl champs and stumblebums.
And he’s not about to stop now.
“I like the Giants, what can I tell you?” said Ryan, who will be honored at MetLife Stadium during Sunday’s home game against the Carolina Panthers as a season ticket holder for more than six decades.
The 94-year-old World War II veteran has attended almost every home game since 1957, when Ryan, longtime friend Ron Herald and eight other New York Telephone Co. employees shelled out about $40 apiece to buy a row of season tickets.
“I worked with Ron in Flushing,” Ryan remembered. “We gave him the money and he’d get the tickets, but the only guys I knew was him and his brother. Everyone else worked for different parts of the phone company.”
At the time, the Giants were playing at Yankee Stadium. Jim Lee Howell coached the G Men and wide receiver Frank Gifford carried the team to a second-place spot in the NFL Eastern Conference with a 7-5 record — a much more palatable season than current one.
“The Giants’ defense this year is awful,” Ryan said about the team’s current 1-5 record. “Their offense is OK but the defense? Good God!”
The Brooklyn native’s love affair with the Giants began about a decade before he became a season ticket holder. In the 1940s, Ryan was a fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers — the football team, that is, not the baseball franchise soon to abandon the borough.
In 1944, a year before Ryan was drafted into the U.S. Army, the Dodgers renamed themselves the Brooklyn Tigers before merging with another team and closing up shop.
Ryan, who served in the Panama Canal Zone during the war, followed a few of the former Dodgers players to the Giants, and has remained a fan ever since. But his first set of season tickets weren’t the best, Ryan remembers.
“There was a pole right in front of my face,” he said. “I had to lean to the left and lean to the right just to see anything.”
When the Giants moved to the Meadowlands in 1976, Ryan followed, securing season tickets on the 35-yard line. In 2010, MetLife Stadium opened and Ryan managed to get seats at the 20-yard line behind the Giants bench, but at great cost: Before buying the $3,500 season passes, he had to pay $10,000 a pop for a Personal Seat License.
“I couldn’t afford it, but one of my sons helped me buy the PSLs,” he said. “[Other season ticket holders] dropped out like crazy, but my seats are two seats away from the next section, and they went for $20,000 for each PSL!”
Today, Ryan usually watches the games with one of his four children, sporting one of his favorite New York Giants or World War II veteran hats. No matter what the score, he’ll be in his seat, watching until the bitter end.
“If it’s raining or anything I’ll get up to get out of the rain, but I’ll still be watching,” said the resilient Long Island resident, who played both ice hockey and baseball until his mid-60s.
“Last week the Giants got shot down like 40 times, but I sat through the whole thing,” he said, recalling the 38-11 loss to the Rams.
Ryan’s hoping for a better outcome Sunday.
“I don’t know what to expect,” he said. “So far, I prayed the rosary like 15 times.”
The only way he’ll give up his seat is if one of his his three sons, daughter or son-in-law wanted to see one of their favorite teams huddle up against Big Blue. One of Ryan’s sons is a Cowboys fan and his son-in-law is an Eagles fan, but there’s no accounting for taste.
Health issues also forced him to give up a few home games this season, but the long-suffering fan still watched the Giants on his hospital TV. And, as soon as he was discharged, he was back on the 20-yard line — and he doesn’t plan to give up his season tickets anytime soon.
“I’ll let you know when I’m in my casket,” he joked.