This past December I had the pleasure of accompanying my friends Ben and Dave to MetLife Stadium in Rutherford, New Jersey, to see our beloved New York Giants. During the drive there, Dave and I relived the story about the last time we had gone to a Giants home game together. It was 20 years and three days prior and happened to be one of the most infamous games in NFL history: The Snowball Game of 1995.
It was during this game that an all-out snowball war erupted, culminating with 14 arrests, 175 ejections, dozens of injuries, and the equipment manager of the visiting team—The San Diego Chargers—lying unconscious on the field.
Giants Stadium, December 23, 1995: It was the last game of the season and the 5-10 Giants were eliminated from playoff contention while the 8-7 Chargers needed a win to advance. On the night before the game, there was a snowstorm, and the stands were not properly cleared.
The first quarter was uneventful as the Giants coasted to a 17-3 lead. But early in the third quarter, the Chargers recovered a Giants' fumble and later ran it in for a touchdown making it 17-10. The snowball throwing pretty much started then. However, it was not until "The UPS Delivery of the Game" that things began to get crazy.
The UPS Delivery of the Game was a live promotional event during which a guy in a brown UPS uniform would "deliver" a signed football to someone in a randomly selected seat. Dave and I were sitting on the opposite end of the stadium, but were able to watch it unfold on the Jumbotron as the public address announcer asked for our attention.
All grew quiet in the stadium as the delivery man slowly made his way down the aisle. Even the snowballs stopped flying: We wondered who will it be? A veteran in a wheel chair? A young boy with sparkles in his eyes? A smokin' babe in blueface? Finally, the delivery man found the winner, who then stood up to receive the prize—and he was wearing a Chargers jersey!
Pandemonium erupted then as the entire section launched a massive, aerial snowggernaut upon him. From where we sat, it looked as if a thunderhead had formed directly over his head and followed him as he raced to the concourse for cover.
Well that was that. From then on snowballs, ice balls and slush balls were flying everywhere. People were throwing at the players, the coaches, at each other—at us! Black ice ballistics routinely flying past our noses or hitting us on the backs of the heads. It was hilarious, yes, but frightening and, ultimately, vicious. Because in the fourth quarter, the Chargers tied the game and—thanks to a mix of losing, beer, testosterone and an abundance of easily manufactured projectiles—the missiles rained heavy and hard on the Chargers players on the field, the entire Chargers sideline and any Chargers fans who still had the gonads to sport their colors.
Not that there were many by that point. After the UPS incident, most of their fans inverted their jackets and hats. But there was one Charger fan sitting about six rows in front of us who would do no such thing. And because of it, was continually being plunked from behind. It was going on for at least a half an hour until he took an ice-ball to the neck and had had enough. He stood up, turned to face his assailants and shouted "C'mon motherfuckers!" Then he stripped off his Chargers' coat, hat and shirt and began thumping his bare chest in anger and disgust—as if it were the Ryan Leaf era.
What happened next was a thing to behold. Imagine the scene in a medieval war movie, just before two armies clash in an open field, and one of the generals orders his archers to "loose" their arrows—at which point you see thousands of bolts at once descending upon the enemy. Well that's what it looked like. Hundreds and hundreds of snowballs blackening the sky before landing on his bare chest, arms and face—the rest of us scrambling for cover—as he howled profanities at the crowd.
But it was equipment manager Sid Brooks who got the worst of it. Brooks was on the sideline when he was knocked unconscious by a solitary snowball launched from the upper decks. Poor guy just crumbled to his knees, then fell face first onto the turf.
Anyway, the Chargers won the contest. They scored 24 unanswered points culminating with a game-winning, 99-yard interception return by Shaun Gayle, who was pummeled the whole way and later said, "It was the longest 99 yards of my life."
After the game, I approached that crazy Charger fan and told him I thought he was a badass and apologized for my unruly comrades. He was gracious about it.
When I returned to San Diego the following week—like a visiting fan at the Meadowlands—I was bombarded with questions. The first question they always asked was, "Did you throw snowballs?"
Very few of them believed me when I said "No." But it's true. I didn't. Not to be a goody-goody, but I know about the dangers of ice-projectiles. I know about high downward trajectories. I know that, yes, snowball fights are harmless and fun—but only when both parties consent.