If you want to win over a crowd, it sure doesn't hurt to bring the Super Bowl trophy along with you.
Team president and co—owner John Mara, former general manager Ernie Accorsi and a contingent of New York Giants players did just that at the 72nd annual CYO Club of Champions Dinner held June 9 at Chelsea Piers, Pier 60, in Manhattan.
Let's just say that the championship trophy travels well. You can ask the 425 guests at the dinner, many of whom posed for pictures with the silver symbol of football greatness, which the Giants won by defeating the heavily favored New England Patriots, 17—14, in Super Bowl XLII in February.
Accorsi, who was general manager of the Giants for 10 seasons until his retirement last year, was honored as John V. Mara Sportsman of the Year, and the New York Giants team received the Gold Medal Award given annually to "a person who has provided inspiration and leadership for the youth of New York City."
It is the first time the Gold Medal was not awarded to an individual. Six current Giants players attended: guard Kevin Boothe, linebacker Zak DeOssie, linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka, tight end Mike Matthews, guard Grey Ruegamer and guard Rich Seubert.
Accorsi, in his remarks, said it was a great personal honor for him to receive an award named for John V. Mara, the late president and co—owner of the Giants. In accepting the award, he acknowledged the special bond between the Mara family and the Giants team.
"The greatest thing that happened in my career in pro football was coming to the New York Giants to work for the Mara family," said Accorsi, who had previously served as general manager of the Cleveland Browns and the Baltimore Colts.
Attending the dinner were many members of the Mara family including Ann, the wife of the late Wellington Mara, longtime president and co—owner of the Giants until his death in 2005.
The evening was a chance for many of the guests, and the Giants staff and players, to relive the glory days of the championship season. The crowd cheered as if at a game when a short video of Super Bowl highlights was shown.
A silent auction featuring player jerseys, helmets and autographed footballs added to the night's atmosphere. Having WABC—TV sports anchor Scott Clark as master of ceremonies also turned the crowd's excitement up a notch.
When John Mara spoke, he recounted the team's poor start and the obstacles that had to be overcome on the way to the championship. "It was the most rewarding season of my life," he said.
"I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart," said Mara, referring to the players, coaches and administrative staff who rallied together. He praised Accorsi for putting together "the nucleus" of the squad that won the Super Bowl before turning over the reins to the team's current general manager, Jerry Reese, last season.
Mara didn't forget his CYO roots, recalling how he and his 10 brothers and sisters "benefited from CYO programs as kids," and have passed on that legacy to their own children. He couldn't resist telling a story about the referee who charged him with a technical foul during a CYO basketball game he was coaching for Resurrection parish in Rye.
"I found out later that the referee was a Cowboys fan," he said to laughter from the crowd.
Cardinal Egan also received cheers and applause when he mentioned that he had predicted the Giants Super Bowl victory "by three points" last August at the team's annual kickoff luncheon, which traditionally benefits the John V. Mara Cancer Research Unit at St. Vincent's Hospital, Manhattan, and the John V. Mara CYO Camp in Putnam Valley.
The cardinal topped his earlier prognostication by announcing that the Giants would win next year's title game by 14 points.
He expressed his gratitude to the Mara family and to the dinner's co—chairs, Margaret F. Grace and the Grace family, for their steadfast support of CYO programs.
Christopher Gallagher, the president of the CYO board, said that the Mara and Grace families are "synonymous with the CYO for which the youth of our archdiocese are eternally grateful."
Gallagher noted that more than 3,000 youths and family members participate in programs at CYO Community Centers in the archdiocese; some 2,000 parish athletic teams with more than 27,000 members play CYO sports; 22,000 boys and girls are involved in the CYO Scouting program; 800 teenagers from 50 parishes participate in the CYO Teenage Federation; and 500 children, including 80 special needs kids, enroll annually in CYO camps. He also cited the work of new CYO director Alec J. McAuley and his staff.
The talents of young people were evident during the evening as the winners of the annual CYO Archdiocesan Essay Contest were announced. In the elementary school division, the winners were: Daniel Gaine, grade eight, St. John's School, Goshen, first place; Mary Wirasnik, grade eight, Kingston Catholic School, second place; Jacqueline Sepulveda, grade seven, Annunciation School, Crestwood, third place. In the high school division, the winners were: Tiffany Amber Rodriguez, freshman, Cathedral High School, Manhattan, first place; Ayodele Parker, freshman, Cathedral High School, second place; and Faith McEntee, sophomore, John S. Burke Catholic High School, Goshen, third place.
Rachel Marie Webb of St. Mary's parish in Port Jervis sang "The Star—Spangled Banner," and the CYO Theatre Group also sang.