For Hope and Freedom:The Greatest Game Ever Played

NYDawg looks at the "greatest game ever played" in this unique Commentate-Off 2K2 entry.

When you have been a football fan for many years inevitably you have to ask yourself, what was the best game I ever saw.  As a Browns fan who missed the glory days of Graham, Ryan, even Sipe, my list is regrettably short, there was the comeback against the Jets, the hail Mary against the saints, the last game at the old stadium against the Bengals, and one of my favorites the first home win against the Steelers since I was sitting in the end zone where Courtney Brown got the sack as time expired.  I had waited many years to witness a Browns win in person and the fact that it came against the hated Steelers made it sweeter. 


But the greatest game I ever saw didn't involve the Browns, it didn't involve professionals, or even college players.  The greatest game ever played occurred a few weeks ago at Giants Stadium, it was the annual NYPD-FDNY matchup.  New York's Finest vs. New York's Bravest.  This is an annual event for the last 30 years, but this year it had special meaning and New York's Hero's were given the chance to play there game on grandest stage New York has to offer. 


As the broadcast began reminders of 9-11 were everywhere.  In the NYPD locker room they read the roll call, but not guys on the team.  They read the roll of the police officers who died on September 11, and when each name was read the team shouted "present" as a way of showing that the officers who died were still with them.  You can't make this stuff up.


Then we go to the FDNY locker room and the FDNY coach gives the team a pre-game pep talk that Vince Lombardi and Knute Rockne would be jealous of.  "There were three towers in the city of New York before September 11th, two of them went down and the third one is in this locker room.  If you go out on that field and show the same guts you showed on September 11th you're going to take it home."  Can you think of a more inspiring speech?  This wasn't "Win one for the Gipper", the guys weren't going to play for one guy, they were going out there for 342 firefighters who died on 9-11, including the teams first and second string quarterbacks and several other members of the team.  Think about this for a second you're going up against a team you have lost to nine years in a row and you are doing it with your third string quarterback and without several key members of your team.  But there were no excuses.  You didn't hear anyone saying "This matchup is going to be tough without our full squad."  Or "We're really going to miss our starters today."   No excuses, just play the game.  That's how it should be.  I am amazed by these guys every day, can't we name a stadium after them or something.  Something about FDNY Stadium that really has a nice ring to it.


Much has been said and written about the courage the police and firefighters showed that day last September, but I can't say enough about the courage they showed playing this game.  They could have not played and said "this is not the year to be playing games." No one would have said anything about it.  But these guys went out and played with the audience filled with widows and orphans.  Playing for themselves and their fallen comrades. 

Before kickoff we had the rendition of the national anthem and then and FDNY officer came out first to sing "God Bless America" and then this other song I had never heard before, the main chorous was "I love hope I love freedom."  This guy was damn good.  Its been days since I saw this and hearing him sing "I love hope I love freedom" still brings tears to my eyes.  Someone get this guy a record deal.  If Kelly Osborne can get one this guy should have one too.  Allow me to go off on a tangent, did anyone actually feel the need to revive "Papa Don't Preach", did anyone upon hearing that song on some 80s station say to themselves "you know that song really needs a no-talent daughter of a has-been to pump fresh life into it."  Anyone?  Anyone?  I didn't think so.


 So then the actual game starts.  The FDNY, a severely shorthanded underdog battles gallantly, trailing 3-0 for most of the game.  The offense couldn't really muster any sustained drives.  Did I mention that they were playing with there third string QB.  Couldn't they have signed Vinny Testeverde as a volunteer firefighter for a week have him be a ringer or something?  OK I know that goes against the spirit of the game, but I have walked by many firehouses in NYC seeing memorials to the fallen heroes I really wanted FDNY to win this game.  Although I know its hard to root against the police officers but you gotta love the underdog.


Fast forward to the fourth quarter, the Bravest's best offensive drive stalls.  They turn the ball over on downs and the Finest drive down the field on a tired FNDY NY defense and score an insurance touchdown.  Final score: Finest 10 Bravest 0.


But if there was ever a game when you can say everyone was winner (even though I hated that cliché when I was in school) this was it.  This was a game where the final score was inconsequential, the teams won just by showing up.  The very fact that they played this game was an inspiration.  In all that we have gone through in this area the past 9 months this game reminds us that we can and will go forward.  I love this game, but most importantly I love hope.  I love freedom.

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