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Giants memories comfort ESPN’s Dave Rothenberg after father’s coronavirus death

Arthur Rothenberg was a Giants fan, and he was also married to Nancy for 61 years, so there came a time when he was talking to his son, Dave, about the seminal year of 1958.

Dave Rothenberg is one of the hosts of “Humpty, Canty and Rothenberg,” the midday show on 98.7 ESPN radio. He is also a Giants fan of some renown, though that often feels like an understatement. Some of the most entertaining rants and monologues you’ll ever hear are Rothenberg living and dying about the Giants on both FM and AM. He and his father shared that passion for many years.

In December 1958, of course, the Giants had lost what many still consider the Greatest Game Ever Played, the Colts beating them 23-17 in the NFL Championship Game in overtime at Yankee Stadium. It’s the kind if loss that stays with a fan for a while, like for decades. But Arthur and Nancy also had gotten married that year, back in September.

And so it was that father conceded to son, “You know, I still consider 1958 to be a pretty good year.”

Rothenberg laughs at that story, and he has a few more he’s ready to share, because talking about Arthur for a few seconds temporarily lessons the sting of his loss. Arthur, 88, was in an assisted-living facility on Long Island when, on March 25, he became ill. That was Wednesday. By Friday, positive for COVID-19, he passed. Dave was able to call him once before then, but like so many of these terrible tales, when Arthur died he was all alone.

Only immediate family was allowed to attend the funeral last Sunday. At some point, when a semblance of normalcy returns, there will be a memorial service. The family was able to assemble a minyan — in Judaism, a 10-person quorum to properly observe religious obligations — via Zoom. That, after all, is tradition.

ESPN
ESPN radio host Dave Rothenberg and his father, Arthur.Dave Rothenberg

But as Dave Rothenberg has discovered, as too many of our friends and family and neighbors and fellow citizens have discovered, there is nothing traditional about saying goodbye this way, in these days. In these days, more than any we’ve ever known, memories are what nourish us, sustain us, allow us to heal.

And memories of Arthur Rosenberg — accountant, husband, father, Giants fan — nourish and sustain his son. It is something. In some moments, it is everything.

“When I was growing up, my father worked so hard, we really didn’t get a chance to see him as much as we wanted,” Dave says. “But Sundays were for us. Sundays, we’d watch football all day. When we watched the Giants, we’d pick a side: offense or defense. If I had the offense then I’d stand up in front of the TV and cheer and yell and holler at the screen and he’d rest on the couch. Then when it was defense, we’d switch places.”

Once, Arthur asked Dave if he’d mind if a close family friend joined them. Of course Dave said yes, but he knew they’d have to tone back the two-platoon, father-son ritual. The Giants lost the game. The friend left. Arthur turned to his son.

“Let’s not ever do that again,” he said.

Dave remembers Arthur asking him once if he was interested in joining the family business and Dave laughed, because for as long as he can remember his lone goal was to work in sports. Sometimes, that meant he wouldn’t necessarily hit the books with the ferocity of Lawrence Taylor hitting a quarterback.

That proved fundamentally costly one fateful time. When the Giants qualified for their first Super Bowl, Arthur plotted a way for them both to get to Pasadena. He called in favors to score two tickets in the Rose Bowl. He finagled an itinerary that would take them from Newark to Dallas to Phoenix to Los Angeles, and then found a reasonable hotel. It was all set.

Until one night, Arthur visited Dave in his room. His grades had come in. They weren’t the kind that inspires a father to buy a bumper sticker bragging about his honor-student son. “What kind of father would I be if I rewarded you for this by taking you to the Super Bowl?” he said.

So they watched the Giants beat the Broncos at home, on TV. Dave took the offense, and maybe someday Phil Simms can thank him for 22-for-25. Arthur took the defense. The Giants had their title. The Rothenberg boys had a memory that will last forever, through the eyes of Dave’s two Giants-fan sons, Ben and Alex.

“It all worked out,” Dave says, laughing.

Vac’s Whacks

John Minko’s final WFAN update Friday at 5 p.m. was every bit as classy and dignified as the 32¹/₂-year stint that preceded it. Here’s to one of sports media’s true gentlemen.


I have never had a relationship with a TV show quite like the one I’ve had with “Homeland,” which I came close to abandoning 4-5 times and every time it drew me back with a vengeance. And its final few laps on Showtime have been nothing short of appointment TV.


ESPN has a poll on best fictional sports coaches and neither Ken Reeves nor Norman Dale makes the list, which means that poll needs to be thrown back in the water like an undersized fish.


Anyone who has seen the way David Roach has mishandled and mismanaged and mangled the Fordham basketball mess knows his retirement announcement Friday came about 10 years too late. And he was only there for eight.

Whack Back at Vac

Robert Katz: Question, Mike: When you travel (and I hope you’re back covering live baseball/basketball games soon), are you as neat as Gustavo Fring when checking into a hotel room?

Vac: I tend to align more with that other great TV character Oscar Madison, alas.


Jason R. Gettinger: Amazing story about Gabe Vitalone: amazing genes. He may not sing the anthem like the late Robert Merrill (who does?) but surely he will sing it better than the late Robert Goelet.

Vac: All I know is, I can’t wait to hear it.


@AndyNY2: If Mr. Vitalone wants to sing the Anthem and post it on Twitter, I’m not the only one who’d be honored to listen. Maybe @YESNetwork can make that happen …

@MikeVacc: That is a worthwhile rooting interest!


Michael A. Lloyd: In your column on the end of the ’94-’95 baseball strike you used the word “scab” eight different times to describe the “replacement” players. But I have a question: How come you have never refer to Lawrence Taylor or Joe Montana as a scab?

Vac: It’s a fair question but I do have an answer: To me, someone who crosses a picket line a job for which they aren’t remotely qualified is a scab. Guys like Montana and Taylor, who crossed during the ’87 NFL strike, reclaimed their old jobs; it was a show of disloyalty to the union but I call them “strike-breakers,” a less pejorative term but just as disapproving.

Original article: https://nypost.com/2020/04/04/giants-memories-comfort-espns-dave-rothenberg-after-fathers-coronavirus-death/

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