It was an incredible sound. Tom Coughlin was addressing the media after practice, and, of course, I wanted to hear every word the coach had to say, but it was hard to ignore the thousands of fans screaming, “Eli…over here Eli.”
This was at Giants Training Camp last week, where the fan experience is truly unique. Many described the scene as peaceful. One fan said, “It was more relaxing than watching a game.” That is one benefit to watching a practice; The Giants can’t lose. Training camp also brings fans much closer to the players and the action than most can typically get at a game.
It was also significantly cheaper: Hot dogs were only two bucks! When the concessions attendant mistook my gasp for displeasure, I had to assure him that I was actually pleasantly surprised, having recently paid five dollars a pop for Fenway Franks. On top of that, parking was only $5 and admission was free.
As far as seating goes, the hot spot was in the shade. There were bleachers, and some fans were lucky enough to have passes to be on the field, but they paid the additional price of baking in the hot sun. Most of the fans staked out spots along a tree-lined hill, sitting just above the practice fields. Some brought coolers and chairs while others just sat on the ground. The atmosphere was very relaxed and friendly.
Practice started and ended on time, which was no surprise given that Tom Coughlin was running the show. The players and coaches moved from field to field, some of which were further away from the seating but were still viewable with binoculars or a good zoom lens.
After practice, the players were available for autographs as they headed back to the locker rooms. Some fans lined up an hour before practice ended to get a good spot, but those who watched the entire practice were still able to get some signatures. The players really did their best. On this particular day, it was technically the defensive backs’ turn, but many of the other players, including Eli Manning, Ahmad Bradshaw and Victor Cruz, stuck around to sign, as fans called their names and held out programs, t-shirts, footballs and even babies.
Super Bowl excitement was certainly in the air. There was a palpable energy coming from both the fans and the players. If you have the chance to make it out to Albany, I would definitely recommend going.
Of course, every day at training camp will be different. There are no guarantees on who or what you will see, and all practices are held weather permitting. If you are planning a trip, either this year (they will be in camp through August 14th) or in the future, be sure to check out the schedule at Giants.com.