Super Bowl Scene: Giants Women Tackle Football in Tisches’ Owners Box
Laurie Tisch and her daughters, Carolyn and Emily Tisch Sussman, wore red, white and blue nail polish as they celebrated the New York Giants’ Super Bowl win last night in Indianapolis.
The daughter and granddaughters of Preston Robert Tisch, who bought half the Giants in 1991, take their fandom seriously.
During the game, that meant pained expressions when the Patriots scored a touchdown eight seconds before halftime and loud cheers when Justin Tuck sacked Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in the third quarter. A round of “Let’s Go Giants” took place right before Chase Blackburn intercepted Brady in the fourth quarter.
And when the Giants finally moved ahead of the Patriots 21- 17 on an Ahmad Bradshaw touchdown with 57 seconds left, the Tisch women fled their box on the top of Lucas Oil Stadium so they would be ready to partake in victory with their team.
“This is so surreal,” Laurie, 61, said, standing in the middle of the field moments before the trophy ceremony, with confetti flying through the air and thousands screaming around her.
There were other high-powered football fans at the game -- Lloyd Blankfein, chief executive officer and chairman of Goldman Sachs Group Inc., BlackRock Inc. President Robert Kapito, and Paul Taubman of Morgan Stanley. But the Tisch women are some of the most dedicated, along with their counterparts in the Mara family, which owns the other half of the Giants.
“As many Giants fans know, we’re one of the few teams without cheerleaders,” said Steve Tisch, Laurie’s brother and chairman and executive vice president of the team. “Laurie, Carolyn and Emily are probably three of our loudest cheerleaders.”
Football and the Tisch family go way back. Laurie went to University of Michigan games when she was a student, including the Rose Bowl in 1969. She is a board member of the Giants as well as president of the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, which provides fresh produce in underserved New York neighborhoods.
Her parents, Joan and Preston Robert Tisch, also went to games at Michigan. Bob, as he was known, sold key chains outside the stadium -- one for a dime, two for 15 cents. It was the start of building a fortune with his brother Laurence. In 1991, Bob bought his stake in the NFL.
“I want to be part of the fraternity and live out my life as a Giants owner,” he said, according to his New York Times obituary published in 2005.
To the Tisch women, being a part of the Giants feels like a sisterhood.
They search out Giants blue paraphernalia, from bedazzled, suede handbags to pumps. The most accurate Giants blue nail polish, by the way, is OPI’s “Dating a Royal.”
They wear necklaces with the National Football Conference Championship ring from 2000, and on their fingers they wear their Super Bowl ring from 2008.
And they watch almost every game, if not physically together, then virtually, texting or talking on the phone about it.
“I do think there’s something unique about being women who love the sport,” said Carolyn, 27. “When we’re in the box, it doesn’t matter how many men there are, it feels like it’s just us watching.”
When the family became owners, Carolyn was 6, Emily 9 and Laurie 40. Attending Sunday games was a ritual, with the girls making cakes to serve at halftime. They dyed the cakes red and blue and decorated them as football fields. Tooth picks made up the end zones, sprinkles were the fans.
After the game, they’d have dinner with their grandfather, reviewing plays. They revered the man they called Po, short for Postmaster General, a title he held under President Ronald Reagan. He adored them, and always made room for the friends they wanted to bring to the box.
Football is dear to the Tisch women, both because it brings them together as a family and because they like the game.
“I love that there are two levels you can take it on,” said Carolyn. “You can understand it at a pretty simple level, follow the ball and hope your team scores. But you can never be an expert. There are so many different plays you can run -- you can always get better at being a fan.”
“What I really love is the pace,” said Emily, 29, executive director of the Young Democrats of America. “You’re focused, you go and then you take a break. It keeps you engaged.”
Studying the Game
In the early years of the Tisches’ ownership of the Giants, being a female football fan wasn’t always so easy. Laurie and Emily studied a copy of “Football for Dummies.” Carolyn, wanting to be taken seriously, memorized the names of the players in alphabetical order.
Since then the brood has expanded. Last night in the box for the Super Bowl were Steve’s daughters Elizabeth, 13, Holden, 11, and Hilary, 28. The girls had made signs reading “We Miss You Nana Joan.” (Joan, too unwell to travel, watched from home in New York.)
“Football is multigenerational,” Steve said. “It used to be about fathers taking their sons. Now we’re taking our daughters, too.”
Soon a former football player will be entering the family. Carolyn started dating William Blodgett when he was a wide receiver at Yale. Now he’s finishing MIT Sloan Business School, where he’s in charge of a Sports Analytics Conference in March.
The couple will be married in June, after Carolyn graduates from Harvard Business School.
For obvious reasons, she’s counting the days until she leaves Patriots territory. She’ll return to New York for a job in marketing at PepsiCo Inc., an NFL sponsor. Last summer, she interned in the company’s sports-marketing department.
Working for the Giants is a possibility.
“It’s something I’ve always dreamed of pursuing,” Carolyn said.
Watching the Tisch women yelp and holler, it was hard to argue with their ardor.
“Football is such a part of my life, I hate when the season ends, because I don’t have any small talk to make,” Carolyn said.
“I grew up with six boys, and expectations might have been different for the girls,” Laurie reflected. “We’re busting right through that glass ceiling.”
(Amanda Gordon is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)
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