This is the week my best friend received the honor of his life.
At Monday’s NFL game at Met Life Stadium between the Cincinnati Bengals and the New York Giants, Ernie Accorsi, their former General Manager was inducted into the Ring of Honor along with former head coach Tom Coughlin and Defensive End Justin Tuck.
The Ring of Honor. That’s not a piece of paper, or a trophy. That’s having your name permanently emblazoned in a 80,242 stadium filled to the brim every time the New York Football Giants play a game.
Do you know what that means? It’s a recognition of achievement beyond excellence that will be there forever. So Ernie’s name will be up there with all the great people who have helped make one of the few majestic franchises in any sport on an exclusive throne.
I don’t have the space to name them all. In fact, it isn’t fair to just name a few, because why is one greater than another. But I will anyway. The founders of course, the Maras.
Tim, Jack and Wellington. The New York Football Giants wouldn’t be who they are without those three.
How about Frank Gifford, Lawrence Taylor, Emil Tunnell, Michael Strahan, Y.A. Tittle, and Phil Simms. Bill Parcells and Sam Huff. Carl Banks and Andy Robustelli. I knew it was folly to name names but you get the idea.
Now Ernie Accorsi, who was just a sports fan as a kid growing up on Areba Street in Hershey, Pennsylvania. The son of a beer distributor who was a pretty good athlete but a better student of the games. He inhaled sports. It was his life. Little did he know it would ultimately put him in a special, exclusive class.
The passion, the dedication, the love, all came together.
I know, because I was the same way. Not the athlete he was, but the love of sports.
It brought us together when he hired me to broadcast pre-season games for the Baltimore Colts in 1973. Ernie was the Public Relations Director for the Colts, and nearly vetoed me because of my harsh commentaries on my nightly sports segment on local television stations.
But we became friends and connected. He was a one-of-a-kind guy who knew what counted in sports and what didn’t. We shared a sharp, incisive, and detailed memory of events both significant and not, and we became best friends.
We went through adversity, professional and otherwise, in our lives and encouraged each other through it all. But mostly we laughed and enjoyed wonderful dinners together.
From his time as a PR person, spurred on by his experience as a sports writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer, he had much to do with college sports departments at St. Joseph’s in Philadelphia and Penn State.
But he parlayed his NFL experience into learning how to scout players, run an organization and make the right decisions. He became a General Manager, first with the Browns, then nine years with the Giants. He assumed the reins of a franchise, in a city that is demanding and often cruel.
But my friend, Ernie Accorsi built a team that ultimately won two Super Bowl titles.
His crowning achievement was acquiring Eli Manning in a trade that turned the tide.
Ernie knew you could never win a championship without a franchise quarterback. He was right about that, as he is about virtually everything regarding his love of sports.
His judgment is impeccable. So is the Giants organization for honoring my best friend the way they have done.