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“Once a Giant: A Story of Victory, Tragedy, and Life After Football”

Jim Campbell of WGCH interviewed Gary Myers about his research into the lives of the 1986 Giants decades after they won Super Bowl XXI.

By Kris Bratberg

At the June 5th meeting of the Retired Men’s Association Steve Boies introduced the speaker, Gary Myers, author of “Once a Giant: A Story of Victory, Tragedy, and Life After Football.” Steve also introduced local radio host Jim Campbell who interviewed Gary Myers during the presentation. Jim is the host of Business Talk with Jim Campbell on WGCH. Myers’s book details the brotherhood formed by the 1986 Giants during the season that culminated in their winning Super Bowl XXI. What makes this brotherhood unique, is that nearly 40 years later the bond remains as strong as ever. Myers began by showing a video highlighting the Giants’ victory in Super Bowl XXI, where they overcame a halftime deficit to defeat the Denver Broncos 39-20. Quarterback Phil Simms had an impressive 88% pass completion rate in that game, contributing to the team’s dominant second-half performance.

Myers explained that his motivation for writing the book was not just the game itself but the relationships and experiences of the players over the years since the 1986 season. While some stories in the book are tragic, involving injuries, drug addiction, and depression, others are heartwarming and uplifting.

One of the players Myers discussed was tight end Mark Bavaro, known for his toughness on the field. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Bavaro contracted long COVID and was hospitalized. Myers believes that the traumatic head injuries Bavaro suffered during his football career made him more susceptible to the virus’s effects on his brain, leading to anxiety, paranoia, and depression. Bavaro even contemplated suicide, as some of his former teammates, including Junior Seau, had done. However, with the support of his teammates, medical professionals, and proper treatment, Bavaro eventually recovered.

Myers highlighted the generosity of former Giants head coach Bill Parcells, who has provided approximately $4 million of his own money to help players in need, including those from the 1986 team. Parcells acknowledges that the culture of intense, full-contact practices he fostered, while contributing to the team’s success, may have also played a role in the head injuries many players suffered. He has been generous in supporting players who lost their health insurance shortly after leaving the NFL.

The discussion also touched on Bill Belichick, who was the Giants’ defensive coordinator under Parcells before becoming the highly successful head coach of the New England Patriots. Myers speculated that Belichick’s motivation to return as an NFL head coach stems from his desire to surpass Don Shula’s record for most wins and to prove himself after Tom Brady won a Super Bowl without him in Tampa Bay.

Myers provided insights on the current state of the New York Giants and Jets, emphasizing the importance of quarterbacks Daniel Jones and Aaron Rodgers, respectively, for their teams’ success in the upcoming season.
He also shared his perspective on Lawrence Taylor, considered one of the greatest defensive players ever, and how his career could have been even more remarkable had he taken better care of himself off the field.

The presentation highlighted the significant financial changes in the NFL since 1986, with player salaries and franchise values increasing dramatically. Myers also discussed the league’s efforts to protect players from traumatic head injuries, including changes in practice routines, improved helmets, and increased player awareness of the long-term risks associated with repeated concussions.

The talk can be viewed by going to the RMA website at https://greenwichrma.org, and clicking on “Speakers.”

The RMA’s upcoming presentation, “The Representative Town Meeting: An Overview of Greenwich’s Local Legislative Body,” by Alexis Voulgaris, is scheduled for 11 AM on Wednesday, June 26, 2024. Alexis Voulgaris, who is the moderator of the Greenwich Representative Town Meeting, will explain the purposes of the 230-member RTM, her goals for the next two years, and answer questions from the audience. Upon her reelection to the post in January 2024 she said “This term, I would like to see the RTM promote itself so we aren’t simply something people think about a few weeks leading up to the November election. To that end, I’d like for the RTM to become more active in educating the public about what the RTM is, why it’s important, and why everyone should know who we are and what their local legislative body is and how we work.”

Alexis was elected to serve as the seventh moderator of the Greenwich RTM in January 2022, and reelected in 2024. She is the first woman to hold this position in the ninety-one-year history of the organization. Alexis has served on the RTM since 2005, and has held numerous leadership roles. Prior to being elected moderator, she served as the moderator pro-tempore, chair of the Health and Human Services Committee, and chair of the RTM Governance Committee. In addition to serving as the moderator, Alexis also serves as the current chair of the Community Block Grant Advisory Group and the chair of the RTM’s Claims Committee. Alexis represents District 6, Old Greenwich.

Alexis and her husband moved to Old Greenwich twenty-two years ago from Park Slope, Brooklyn. She has two college age boys, who attended Greenwich Public Schools. Alexis graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and professionally, she is a licensed clinical social worker, with over thirty years of administrative and clinical experience. When she’s not moderating RTM meetings, she can be found volunteering at the Holly Hill Book Swap, playing tennis, curating her music collection, and rooting for the Red Sox.

To stream the presentation by Alexis Voulgaris at 11 AM on Wednesday, June 26, click on https://bit.ly/30IBj21. This presentation will also be available on local public access TV channels, Verizon FIOS channel 24 and Optimum (Cablevision) channel 79.

Note: The views expressed in these presentations are those of the speakers. They are not intended to represent the views of the RMA or its members.

RMA speaker presentations are presented as a community service at no cost to in-person or Zoom attendees, regardless of gender. Any member of the public who would like to receive a weekly email announcement of future speakers should send a request to members@greenwichrma.org. The RMA urges all eligible individuals to consider becoming a member of our great organization, and thereby enjoy all the available fellowship, volunteer, and community service opportunities which the RMA offers to its members. For further information, go to https://greenwichrma.org/, or contact members@greenwichrma.org.

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