Après the Super Bowl, Giants' Giant Harry Carson Plans to Treat His Mildewed Coach to Le Déluge
Carson, a man of philosophic mien and homicidal hits, smiles. The circuits haven't been shorted completely, and Carson has good things to remember. An eight-time Pro-Bowler, he is the leader of the Giants' linebacking corps—human sledgehammers in businesslike blue—and captain of a devastating defense that has allowed only a single field goal since the playoffs began. And he is more. Much more. "He's the soul of the entire team," says George Martin, the Giants' veteran defensive end. "He sounds the rallying cry—and we rally."
Of course Carson is also knight of the bath. When the Giants win, he is the one who, regardless of windchill, douses coach Bill Parcells with a mammoth cooler of Gatorade. The day before, soaked but still playful, Parcells had whipped out a water gun and struck back. Suddenly, it all comes back to Carson and he laughs. "This whole thing," he says, shaking his head, "it seems like a dream."
To Giant fans, it is a dream, but don't wake them before Super Bowl Sunday. The team won its last NFL championship in 1956, when Frank Gifford was a pup and the league had 12 teams. The Giants played their last title game in 1963 and since that time have been a masochist's delight. No need to be specific; it would be too painful to dredge up memories of the first-round draft choice from Bermuda or the 1978 miscue known economically in Giant lore as The Fumble. (The Fumble occurred when quarterback Joe Pisarcik, sitting on a lead with only seconds to play, inexplicably dribbled the ball to a Philadelphia Eagle defender who ran it in for the game-winning touchdown. Giant fans still refer to the play during therapy.) But Harry Carson understands what the fans have gone through.
"I have suffered also," he says. In fact, that's probably an understatement. "The losing seasons almost destroyed Harry," says Martin. "They really tore him up." After all, before coming to the Giants, winning was all Carson had known. The son of a domestic and a railroad worker, Carson grew up in Florence, S.C. and won a scholarship to South Carolina State. The Giants took him in the fourth round of the 1976 draft. "In my rookie year," he recalls, "we played so badly the fans pelted us with oranges, apples and golf balls. It was better to play on the road than at home. That hurt."
Carson was one of the few bright spots in what was otherwise a black hole of a franchise. "After a loss I would be depressed for days," he says. "It's not a depression where you want to kill yourself. You just want to crawl into a hole, you don't want to go out of the house. You know, at the market the cashier looks at you kind of funny—you loser." Carson pleaded with the Giants to trade him, and in 1980, after playing badly in a Monday night game he even tried in vain to give back a week's salary. "I didn't want to take the paycheck because I didn't feel I deserved it," says Carson, who now earns more than $350,000 a year.
The turnaround began in 1979, when George Young became the Giants' general manager. But it wasn't till 1983 that Bill Parcells replaced Ray Perkins as head coach and brought emotional stability to the manic-depressive—mostly depressive—Giants. "You don't get too high if you win or too low if you lose," says Carson. "That's something that Bill has instilled in all of us." So today, feeling neither too high nor too low, but just right, thank you, Carson gets up from the table and walks downstairs at his Washington Township, N.J. triplex. He throws open the door. He is not pelted with apples or oranges or golf balls. The courtyard of his condo is festooned with Giants banners, pennants, replicas of his jersey. "Everyone is in love with the players and coaches now," he says. "That's the way it is when you win. A dream. They say," he adds, with the grin of a man no longer embarrassed to go to the market, "that good things come to those who wait."