Ex-Giant Martin tackles gridiron civility
Updated 10:28 pm, Tuesday, January 14, 2014
STAMFORD -- One might believe there isn't much to say about "Civility on the Gridiron."
In a 45-minute talk, sponsored by The Dilenschneider Group, Hearst Media and Purdue Pharma, among others, Martin made the case Tuesday night before a capacity crowd at Ferguson Library that there is more to football than violent collisions.
"The shaking of hands before the coin toss. The sizable rules of the game or rules of engagement. The equipment worn by both sides. Not hitting players above the neckline without penalty," Martin said. "Those are all acts of civility.
"The NFL's charity work. The 20 percent of NFL players who run their own charity or foundation. That's civility as well," he said. "But at the end of the day, there's no question that Harry Carson and Lawrence Taylor (former Giants teammates) represent both sides of the issue of civility on the gridiron."
Martin, who played 14 seasons (1975- 88) with the Giants, including the 1986 Super Bowl champs, is a spokesman on civility for another reason. He spent from Sept. 16, 2007 to June 21, 2008 walking across America, from New York City to San Diego, to raise between $2 million and $3 million for the medical needs of New York's 9/11 first responders.
"The biggest lesson I learned on the walk was a renewal of my faith in humanity," Martin said. "There are a lot of reasons in the world today to be pessimistic. But the Walk Across America restored the idea there are more good people out there. People embraced the journey for 9/11. But it was also my talks with young people along the way, explaining that athletes and entertainers aren't heroes. But people like the first responders of 9/11 should be recognized for their heroism on a day-to-day basis."
Martin is putting together a book about his 9/11 journey.
"I think the book will have great impact on the reader," Martin said. "The Walk experience is being transferred into the written word. A picture is worth 1,000 words, and we took 16,000 photos on the journey. When I'm having a bad day, I sit down and look at some of the pictures and my perspective changes. The Walk was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, that I'd do again in a heartbeat."
On the subjects of civility and justice, Martin -- a former head of the NFL Alumni Association as well as a player representative during his Giants career -- was pleased to see a federal judge's decision this week to re-examine the proposed settlement of the concussion class-action lawsuit between the NFL and a host of its former players.
"The judge's point is that the settlement terms are insufficient, and I agree," said Martin, who is in good health despite a 14-year NFL career in which he missed just six games. "There is so much that is still unknown about concussions and their effects on the brain. It should be an open-ended judgment. The NFL is proactive with recent rule changes to make the game safer, but we're not at a final solution yet."
Martin wears his 1986 Super Bowl championship ring proudly.
"The 1986 Super Bowl was the first of a new era for the Giants," he said. "It ended a long losing sabbatical for a proud, traditional franchise. We were able to restore that glory. It almost immortalizes you. Our Super Bowl victory set the stage for the Giants' Super Bowl champs that followed."
Martin was equally proud to give the presenter's speech when former New York Giants coach Bill Parcells was recently inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
"In my heart of hearts, to share that stage with Coach Parcells meant everything," Martin said. "He took me from boyhood to manhood, and then to a Super Bowl title.
"Words can't express what being a presenter meant," he said. "I worked on the speech for two years (because Parcells wasn't chosen his first time as a finalist). We filmed it in Canton for over two hours. I could talk for weeks about Bill Parcells. But at the ceremony, it got condensed to a few minutes. I was disappointed, but Bill was happy and proud, so I reached my objective."