Friday. Fassel has the flu, and his wife's Land Cruiser, which was stolen the previous day, has still not been located. Nevertheless he is at his desk at 5:55 a.m., warily loving life in first place. "I've got the greatest job in America, the dream job I've always wanted," he says. "But we haven't accomplished anything yet. That's what this team has to believe."
At 7:17 a.m. 32 players on this tightly knit team are already in the locker room, eating cereal, danish and bagels and reading the papers, all courtesy of the club. Bonding time, the coaches hope. Such closeness was rarely seen on past Giants teams.
In Jetsville wideout Keyshawn Johnson drops an overstuffed bag from McDonald's in Foley's locker. "Role reversal?" someone says to the smiling Foley, who seems entirely underwhelmed by the weight of taking a first-place team into Miami. "If Keyshawn wants me to throw him the damn ball, he had better get me the damn McDonald's," Foley deadpans. "Anything for you, Glenn," Johnson says.
Saturday. At 1 p.m. the Jets take off in a cold, driving rainstorm and, about three hours later, touch down in sunny, 71� Fort Lauderdale. Upon arrival Foley says the biggest game of his life has not made him nervous. "Just fired up."
Memphis hotels are filled with out-of-towners attending a religious conference, so the Giants stay at a Holiday Inn in Olive Branch, Miss., 15 miles away. At a meeting, the players listen as Fassel rails about how the football world doesn't respect them. That's understandable. The Giants have faced one team that has a winning record, the Jaguars, and they lost that game by 27 points.
Why is Fassel so popular with his players? Here's an example. He knew they wanted to watch the Holyfield-Moorer fight, so he made room on the charter for a satellite-TV specialist [and his dish] and had the bout piped into a ballroom so the players could watch the fight. By 11 p.m., about 35 Giants had transformed the site into a rec-room sleepover. They cheered unabashedly for Holyfield. When they left after the fight, they were happy Giants.
Sunday. It is a bad day down south. As time runs out on a crushing 24-17 loss to the Dolphins, Parcells steams toward field judge John Robison to protest the call that may have crippled the Jets' season. Actually it was back judge Tom Sifferman who ruled that a late-fourth-quarter, fourth-down pass that wideout Wayne Chrebet appeared to catch was incomplete, sending Parcells into post-game apoplexy. Parcells is shielded from Robison by side judge Mike Pereira, and, neck veins bulging, he leans on Pereira, trying to get at Robison. "You cost me the game!" is one of Parcells's printable rantings. Well, the call cost the Jets a chance to at least tie. The game was vital. The Jets could be in a fight for a playoff spot with the Dolphins, and by virtue of Miami's two-game sweep, can't win a two-way tiebreaker with them.
The Giants lose a 10-6 clunker at Tennessee. Seeing that the theme of the day was The Lost Opportunity: New York Football, it's fitting that the in-flight movie on the way home is The Lost World: Jurassic Park. Somewhere over West Virginia, defensive end Michael Strahan stretches out in his seat and says, "No one believes in us still, but we believe we're for real.
"Heartbreaking day for both of us, wasn't it?" Strahan adds. "But look at it this way: It's November, and we're both representing New York pretty well."
Turning Over a New Leaf