In a really early draft of Boy @ The Window, I wrote the following about my ’85 New York Giants:
My football Giants had a chance to win the NFC East. But on a night in mid-November, after LT ran over Redskins’ quarterback Joe Theismann’s leg, which made a popping noise for all the world to hear on Monday Night Football, their season slowly slid south.
That was thirty years ago on this date. My Giants finished 10-6 that year, but had lost the division to the Cowboys, and would later get shutout by the Bears in a frosty cold day at Soldier Field that January. Thank you, Sean Landeta!
But the main story on November 18, 1985 was the ending of Joe Theismann’s roller-coaster career. Until this morning, I hadn’t seen Lawrence Taylor’s knee drive through Theismann’s right leg while twisting the rest of him around in at least twenty years. It somehow looked more gruesome today than it did to me in ’85. Maybe that’s because of tendonitis in my right knee or the hairline fracture I had in my left fibula on MLK Day ’10 while playing pickup basketball. Or probably because my life was much more painful in ’85 living in Mount Vernon, New York than it is now. One sympathizes. Taylor-to-Theismann proved the much-used cliche, “We’re all just one play away.”
We still lost the game, to Jay Schroeder no less, 23-21. The biggest story coming out of the game, though was Theismann’s crushed right leg. Over and over again, starting with ABC and Monday Night Football, they showed the play that ended Theismann’s career. And with each showing, I got to hear the pop that went with Theismann’s compound break.
By the next afternoon, I learned that this station called ESPN was showing highlights of my Giants loss. They, too, played the replay of Theismann’s demise over and over and over again. We had the sports channel as part of our cable package, so I watched. After years of watching stations with W’s as part of their name, I couldn’t understand why this one was called ESPN. By the time I’d hit bedtime that Tuesday evening, I’d seen and heard Theismann’s leg break nearly a hundred times. My love/hate affair with ESPN and SportsCenter had begun, thanks in part to the end of Theismann’s professional playing days.
Theismann waited a bit more than twenty years to look at the replay of the last moments of his NFL career. Good thing he did. He probably would’ve gone into shock after seeing his leg break 10,000 times in the course of a week.