Remarks Congratulating the New York Giants, 1987 Super Bowl Champions

February 13, 1987

The President. Well, it's wonderful to have you all here. Nancy was going to invite you to my birthday party last week, but when I mentioned the way you like to celebrate, she said she didn't think that wearing Gatorade was Presidential. [Laughter] So, next week in Washington we'll be addressing the critical issues of excellence and competitiveness in American life. And I can't think of a better kick-off than having the New York Giants here today. No one who saw your performance during those close games in the middle of the season and your overpowering victories in the playoffs and the Super Bowl can doubt ``The Jints'' are a great football team. [Laughter]

Now, I know Coach Parcells has a family commitment today and couldn't be with us, but I also know he's going to be a little upset with me for saying that. I read somewhere that he likes to keep everything nice and modest and humble and understated. I even hear that when, from time to time, great players like yourselves make mistakes, he issues only very gentle, low-key, even tender reminders like: ``Now, now, linebacker Carson, that's a no-no.'' [Laughter] I guess the truth is that Bill Parcells is a little more outspoken than that. But I also guess that coaches do have a right to take the game seriously. Not as seriously as the fans, of course, but seriously.

I can remember the old story told about one Notre Dame coach -- now, not the coach you're thinking of -- [laughter] -- believe me, if I start telling Rockne stories we'll be here all day. [Laughter] No, this story is about one of Rock's successors and one of his own players, Frank Leahy. It was in a game Notre Dame played back in 1946 and Notre Dame player Bob Livingstone missed a tackle. And his teammate, Johnny Lujack, screamed, ``Livingstone, you so-and-so, you!'' -- and he went on and on about that. And then Frank Leahy said, ``Another sacrilege like that, Jonathon Lujack, and you'll be disassociated from our fine Catholic university.'' Well, in the very next play Livingstone missed another tackle. And Coach Leahy turned to the bench and yelled, ``Lads, Jonathon Lujack was completely right about Robert Livingstone!'' [Laughter] But the serious side of football is something the Giants and their fans understand. After that famous play in 1978 against the Eagles, one loyal Giant fan, Mike Taubin, put it this way: ``My seats are in the end zone and I can still see Herman Edwards coming straight toward me. My life was over!'' [Laughter]

Well, as both stories suggest, football is more than just serious business -- and being successful at it means realizing that. Harry Carson and the Gatorade bucket proves my point. The New York Giants played great football this year, but they also had fun. That kind of spirit has always marked the great Giants teams. That's why our fans have been so -- or your fans, I should say, have been so loyal and for so many years. I don't have many fans anymore. [Laughter] Well, they knew that someday they would have a great team again and that such a team would mean more than just great athletes, it would mean a team with a heart -- a team that liked each other and a team that loved fun, but loved winning more.

So don't forget, you're continuing one of the best traditions in football history. Some say those Baltimore Colts versus New York Giants games in 1958 and '59 were the greatest ever played. And who can ever forget the offense of Conerly, Gifford, and Rote and the great defense of Huff and Modzeleswki and Grier. Today's Giant organization -- Wellington Mara, Tim Mara, George Young, Bill Parcells, and, above all, this team is marked by that tradition and that spirit. It's a tradition you've continued and ennobled. I know what a moment it must have been for you, well, Mara, when Charley Conerly walked over and hugged you after the Super Bowl.

You know, I was going to mention some names now. I wanted to single out Joe Morris as the courageous sparkplug who, in almost every game, got the offensive weapon going. And then there was Brad Benson's war with a great opponent named Dexter Manley. And all of you on that tremendous Giants offensive line. You see, fellas, I used to play guard -- [laughter] -- right guard, that is. [Laughter] I'm sympathetic -- and then receivers like Mark Bavaro or Phil McConkey. Phil, as you know, I'm partial to flag-wavers. [Laughter] Of course, the defense -- sportswriter Paul Zimmerman said that, ``Coach Parcells likes to collect elephants. Also linebackers. And sometimes it's hard to tell them apart.'' [Laughter] I'm glad he didn't say donkeys. [Laughter] That took a minute, didn't it? [Laughter]

All I can say is I'm awful grateful the Gipper played before your time. But Lawrence Taylor, Harry Carson, Carl Banks, Byron Hunt, Andy Headen, Gary Reasons, and the rest of you -- you were all superb this year. And so were the men in front of you, from Jim Burt to George Martin; and those behind you -- a secondary that took some critical losses this year but came right back at the opposition. And finally, I wanted to single out Phil Simms, not only for his great play on the field but for his character as a leader. But it's hard to single out people on this team. It wasn't just Phil or Joe or L.T. or Harry. The one thing everybody noticed about this team is that it was a band of brothers, a team forged by one undeniable bond -- the will to win.

You know, a young boxer in New York once asked the Westside Y's boxing coach Bob Chiocher what made a good fighter. And Coach Chiocher didn't answer with, well, quick hands or fast feet or punching power or any of the number of other answers that you might expect. He said instead, ``A good fighter is a hungry fighter.'' Well, it's the same with football teams or in any sport. And this year the Giants were hungry for victory -- victory for their owners, for their coaches, and for their fans; hungry to excel and to be the best; and hungry to prove that they were true representatives of a great and grand football tradition. That's what the Super Bowl victory meant. As George Martin said after the game, ``The Giants of yesteryear have passed the torch.''

So, I want to congratulate all of you -- George Young for playing such a crucial role in developing this team, Coach Parcells, the Maras. All of us today, all of America, salute you. And we salute you as the best.

Thank you all, and God bless you.

Mr. Young. It's nice to be here surrounded by the Secret Service instead of by the Redskins. [Laughter] It's a privilege for me to represent the Giant organization in thanking the President for inviting us to meet him and also for inviting us to visit the most famous home in all the world. But before we do anything more, we have some presents for Mr. President from three of our captains -- Phil Simms, George Martin, and Harry Carson. But Harry Carson, you'd better be careful of -- he's a little sneaky. [Laughter] Phil Simms will be first.

Mr. Simms. On behalf of the Giants, Mr. President, I'd like to present you with this jersey. We would like for you to be part of our team. And of course the number, I think, is very suitable for you.

Mr. Carson. Mr. President, I had to talk some of my teammates out of dunking you because that's what they wanted me to do to you. [Laughter] But instead, I would like to present to you this visiting team jersey so that whenever we come to RFK, you can sit in the stands and root for the best team.

Mr. Martin. Mr. President, all of the ballplayers of the New York Giants voted unanimously to make you an honorary ballplayer of the New York Giants. They did so only because they said that you and I were very close in age. [Laughter] I quickly informed them that as a senior member of the New York Giants that that grants me the veto power. [Laughter] And in doing so, sir, I would like to give you a replica of our Super Bowl ring and make you an honorary coach of the New York Giants.

The President. I thank you all. I once played opposite a fellow that could've worn that ring. [Laughter] He outweighed me 100 pounds. And I decided I wasn't going to go under him. And I couldn't go over him. I decided to go around him, and I almost got killed. I met our tackle coming around the other side. [Laughter] But when do I report? [Laughter] Well, thank you all. God bless you all for being here. We're all proud of you.

Note: The President spoke at 3:05 p.m. in the East Room at the White House. In his remarks, the President referred to former New York Giants players Charley Conerly, Frank Gifford, Kyle Rote, Sam Huff, Richard Modzeleswki, and Rosie Grier.