The NFL team that inspired me to be courageous on my health journey

The 2007 New York Giants helped this columnist navigate a health setback

William Ryan avatar

by William Ryan |

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It’s 2006, and I’m with my uncle and cousin at the ESPN Zone in New York’s Times Square. My uncle and I are watching the New York Giants have yet another meltdown at the end of a football game against the Tennessee Titans to continue a losing streak.

The team was about as dysfunctional as dysfunctional gets. Head coach Tom Coughlin was seen as being stubborn, there were questions about whether Eli Manning could actually perform at the position of quarterback, and Pro Bowl running back Tiki Barber had one foot in the door of retirement. My uncle has been a Giants season ticket holder since the 1970s, and we were both disappointed.

In the summer of 2007, leading into training camp, the Giants were predicted to finish third or fourth in their division, partly because of the previous year’s meltdown. It was also due to lingering questions about Manning, and it didn’t help his case that his older brother Peyton had just won the Super Bowl and cemented his place as one of the NFL’s best players.

And that running back? Barber had retired and was now a member of the media, sometimes using his platform to criticize his former teammate. Additionally, if the Giants didn’t achieve playoff success that season, Coughlin might have been fired at the end of the year.

Why does everything have to be a bunch of nonsense? And why do I remember all of this so vividly?

It’s partly due to being a young teenager at the time and a football nerd. I also had a lot of time on my hands.

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The comeback

At the beginning of my freshman year of high school, I was hospitalized due to cystic fibrosis-related diabetes. My dad and I would listen to a lot of “Mike and the Mad Dog,” a sports radio show, on our way to numerous doctor appointments, and the show’s hosts, Mike Francesa and Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo, would effortlessly recount the games and respond to the frustrations of Giants fans. It was a time of great bonding for my dad and me.

But during that stretch, I had lost 15 pounds and my glucose levels were frenetic. Since my health was so up and down, I also struggled in school. Every day at lunch, I would go to the nurse’s office and receive my dose of insulin before I could eat.

The previous year, I had struggled mightily with asthma and cystic fibrosis. Between the diabetes and my lung function, it felt like everything was caving in.

At the end of 2007, the Giants were heading into the playoffs for a third straight season. During the final week of the season, they narrowly lost to the New England Patriots by a score of 38-35. That year, the Patriots became the first NFL team in history to reach a perfect 16-0 regular season record. They were, for my money, the greatest team I have ever seen play football.

While the Giants were making their playoff run, I was finally getting control of my blood sugars. I was motivated by the team. If they could make a run and win it all, then why couldn’t I get my blood sugars under control? If they could overcome adversity, then why couldn’t I?

Fast forward to Super Bowl XLII. The Giants had made it! And their opponent? The Patriots. If the Giants were going to win, it would take the ultimate miracle of miracles.

My parents and I were huddled around the television set watching a hotly contested, tight, back-and-forth game. With about two minutes left, the Giants were down 14-10. It would take a miracle by … Eli Manning? The bad half of the Eli Manning experience usually rendered its ugly head toward the end of games with the most poorly timed interception. You could almost count on it!

The Giants were driving down the field with 1:15 left in the game and were down to what could be their final two plays. The center snapped the ball to Manning, who was swarmed by Patriots defensive linemen. Somehow he managed to escape and throw the ball to the middle of the field, which is no man’s land for wide receivers. Wide receiver David Tyree, to everyone’s amazement, caught the ball against his helmet with one hand. Is that even legal? Did they just do that?!

The Giants won that Super Bowel by a score of 17-14. The ultimate underdogs had done it. They had overcome everything.

As for me? I was able to fight off full CF-related diabetes for another 13 years. I somehow finished my freshman year of high school and eventually graduated from school. My uncle? He’s still a season ticket holder and an avid Giants fan.

The 2007 Giants still motivate me today. Anything is possible if you believe you can do it.

Note: Cystic Fibrosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cystic Fibrosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to cystic fibrosis.


Anthony M Palmiero avatar

Anthony M Palmiero

Remember that game like yesterday.Go Steelers

William Ryan avatar

William Ryan

Giants and Steelers are owned by the same family so, that's alright by me!

Helen Palmiero avatar

Helen Palmiero

Will, you are a master of analogies with a great sense of humor to soften any blow. Indeed anything IS possible if you believe you can do it, and there are miracles happening every day - I know - I've seen them over and over. Keep up the great work. I'm already looking forward to next week's column. Love, Helen

William Ryan avatar

William Ryan

I'm looking forward to your comment! Love you Helen!


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