Football has a way of healing and uniting.
For New York Giants superfan, Joe Ruback, the outpouring of love he received in the wake of his father’s death is helping him cope with the hurt and pain.
And a shoutout from the sidelines by Giants safety Curtis Riley is bringing Joe comfort as he deals with the emotions of losing his father Charles Ruback, who passed away last week at 86-years old.
Following his first quarter interception that was returned for a touchdown, Riley found Joe, seated along the Giants’ sideline and in the first couple of rows. He pointed up and yelled to the fan known as ‘License Plate Guy’, “That’s for you. That’s for your dad.”
It was a poignant moment. Joe had brought his father’s Giants cap with him to the game. His father had owned and worn the hat for over four decades and it rested on the railing in front of him. For the son, it was like having his father at the game with him.
A feeling that Joe and Charles knew so well over the years.
Growing up, Joe doesn’t remember a time without the Giants in his life. He doesn’t know the how or why of his father becoming a fan of the team. All he knows is that his dad began following the team at a young age. Charles would go to games at the Polo Grounds then followed the Giants to a year at Shea Stadium, Yankee Stadium and eventually to New Jersey in the Meadowlands.
Joe might be considered fanatical, what with the license plates draped around his neck and the fact that he simply never misses a game at home or on the road. But he inherited this love for ‘Big Blue’ from his father, a man equally as passionate about the Giants.
“No question, you had to get up when you were old enough – meaning I was going to games at five, six-years old. You had to get dressed. We took the train in. My memories were Shea … I went to Giants Stadium,” Joe told MSGNetworks.com.
“It was a day I spent with my dad. Being a salesman in the city, in the garment industry – that was my day with him. My time. It was special.”
Late in the first quarter, Riley, a safety signed this offseason as a free agent, stepped up and intercepted a Mark Sanchez pass for a touchdown and what would become a 7-0 lead for the visitors. Joe, for the first time in several days, cracked a smile.
He laughed. He cheered. It was a rare feeling of joy following a week of tears and memories.
When Riley shouted up his dedication of the moment from the sideline to Joe, he smiled. His father had made friends through the annual softball game that Joe hosts each offseason that features nearly the team’s entire roster.
He’s also made friends at tailgates and games throughout the years. There have been hundreds of messages of love and support to Joe and his family during this time.
But that moment from Riley, in the midst of a game, really struck a chord of hope and belief during a difficult time. After the game, Riley also took to social media to make his dedication of the moment public.
“Was probably the most nice, sincere thing anyone could do for you in that grief. To be at a sporting event and feel that – it was incredible,” Joe said. “Just that tweet at the end – I have more Giants nation, Giants friends – reaching out. It goes to show that sports is more than just the wins and losses. It becomes a family.”