Without fail, twice a year, I have a fond thought for a man I never had the pleasure of meeting. Those times: National Football League opening day and during the frenzy leading up to an American holiday called the Super Bowl. The man: An old pen pal of mine, the one who personally saw to it that I got New York Giants season tickets, Wellington Mara.
Back in the fall of 1981, I was finishing up my MBA (St. John's University), as well as a year plus of determined physical therapy (I'd lost a man/car collision). Living in my parent's home, student loans up to my eyeballs and in hock for my wheels (a Toyota Tercel -- stick shift). BUT I'd just landed my first real job, an analyst in the international finance division of Texaco Inc.'s treasury department (since merged into Chevron), at global HQ, in Westchester, N.Y.
With things looking up, the first priority was one any ex-college football player would understand (Siena College -- recently a game I played in, vs. MIT, was a Wall Street Journal story). I wrote to the New York Football Giants to be placed on their season ticket waiting list.
In a series of correspondence (1982-1986), with then Giant box office treasurer, Jim Gleason, I was advised my request was "some 9,000 names away from being acted on" with "approximately 4,000" of those from "the list initiated in July 1976" (the year the Giants moved to Giants Stadium). Hardly encouraging!
Put another way -- being told less than 1 percent of the waiting list was fulfilled each year, assuming each of the 9,000 ahead of me wanted at least two seats and knowing Giant Stadium capacity was roughly 80,000 -- I'd become a regular attendee somewhere around the 12th of never. I definitely needed a different approach. Time to go to the top.
So, in June 1986, I wrote directly to Giants' Co-Owner and President, Wellington Mara -- had it hand-delivered, too -- expecting nothing, but figured "what the hell." Told him about my lifelong passion for the game, love of the Giants, etc.
To my shock, the grand man of honor replied. From his letter dated July 7, 1986: "Dear Mr. Treacy... regretfully... I will not be able to satisfy... Please believe that I will keep your request in my personal file... Sincerely, Wellington T Mara." I was more grateful than pleased and now knew, firsthand, why he was revered as an old-school Irish gentleman.
I dashed-off a note of thanks (July 21, 1986) and included David Ogilvy's brilliant tome, Ogilvy on Advertising. At the time I was working at The Ogilvy Group and Mr. Mara was spending a lot of days in court environments -- the NFL was defending itself from an antitrust suit filed by the defunct United States Football League. I thought he might enjoy the read by an old-school English gentleman.
He did! He wrote back (July 29, 1986) and this time I was "Dear Jim." He thanked me for "my kind letter and... gift of the book." Closing with, "It will be a welcome diversion after too many weeks of transcripts, testimony and evidence! We'll do our best for the future. Sincerely, Wellington T Mara." Now I was pleased.
On January 7, 1987, the New York Post ran an article entitled, "Who Wants Tickets? 18,000 Giant Fans - Stadium Waiting List Spans Generations." The article confirmed my 12th of never expectation but, interestingly, it also contained a story of a lifelong Giants fan writing directly to Wellington Mara (in 1976) "to explain why he... should be granted the privileged of buying season tickets." The fan: "He [Wellington Mara] wrote back and sent me two tickets." Bingo -- I'm on the right track.
Come April, I wrote, "Dear Wellington," congratulating him on the Giants' first Super Bowl victory and included a copy of the New York Post article acknowledging that my season tickets "chances are slim" but "would appreciate anything you can do."
April 8, 1987, "Dear Jim... I have to say that the Post clipping which you sent me is very accurate... I will do my best... and will be in touch with you... Very truly yours, Well." Wow, "Jim" and "Well," nice.
Sure enough, later came. July 7, 1987: "Dear Jim...I have not been able to help...All that I can do is to keep your letter in my file and your request in my mind, both of which I promise to do. Sincerely, Well." No tickets but he had my respect, 100%.
Another year, another season -- June 2, 1988: "Dear Wellington, Once again that time of year...to reaffirm my season ticket request...Thank you for your patience and any assistance you can lend..."
June 5, 1988: "Dear Jim, This will acknowledge receipt of what has indeed become your annual ticket request...I will do my best...and will be in touch with you. Very truly yours, Well." No doubt.
At the tail-end of July 1988, arriving home from work, I found this letter stuffed in my mailbox:
I have been partially successful and have been able to come up with two tickets - Section 324 Row 27 Seats 15/16 - for the coming season. My secretary will send you a bill. Please let her know whether or not you want these tickets prior to the deadline of August 4, 1988.
Best regards, Well"
I let out a "whoop" of glee! And I was awed by his humility -- as if I'd refuse them, or cared they were upper deck, middle of the row, end zone seats -- less than ten rows from the top of the stadium -- and were only two (I was on the list for four). He, first-class and me, ecstatic!
I wrote back (July 28th) profusely thanking him and offering, "If there is ever anything I can do for you please let me know." Of course, to my disappointment, there never was.
There've been many ups & downs since then but I'm still going to Giants games, courtesy of Wellington T. Mara -- one of a small group of visionaries that flawlessly guided the NFL from not much to a 100 million plus TV viewers for the Super Bowl.
Over the years I've been able to move up, now residing in MetLife Stadium's (the Giants new home stadium) Lexus Club, two seats, third row, on the 40-yard line. More comfortable than where I started but the enjoyment does not exceed. Thanks, Well!