Giants memories comfort ESPN’s Dave Rothenberg after father’s coronavirus death

Giants memories comfort ESPN’s Dave Rothenberg after father’s coronavirus death

Arthur Rothenberg was a Giants fan, and he was also married to Nancy for 61 years, so there came a time when he was talking to his son, Dave, about the seminal year of 1958.

Dave Rothenberg is one of the hosts of “Humpty, Canty and Rothenberg,” the midday show on 98.7 ESPN radio. He is also a Giants fan of some renown, though that often feels like an understatement. Some of the most entertaining rants and monologues you’ll ever hear are Rothenberg living and dying about the Giants on both FM and AM. He and his father shared that passion for many years.

In December 1958, of course, the Giants had lost what many still consider the Greatest Game Ever Played, the Colts beating them 23-17 in the NFL Championship Game in overtime at Yankee Stadium. It’s the kind if loss that stays with a fan for a while, like for decades. But Arthur and Nancy also had gotten married that year, back in September.

And so it was that father conceded to son, “You know, I still consider 1958 to be a pretty good year.”

Rothenberg laughs at that story, and he has a few more he’s ready to share, because talking about Arthur for a few seconds temporarily lessons the sting of his loss. Arthur, 88, was in an assisted-living facility on Long Island when, on March 25, he became ill. That was Wednesday. By Friday, positive for COVID-19, he passed. Dave was able to call him once before then, but like so many of these terrible tales, when Arthur died he was all alone.

Only immediate family was allowed to attend the funeral last Sunday. At some point, when a semblance of normalcy returns, there will be a memorial service. The family was able to assemble a minyan — in Judaism, a 10-person quorum to properly observe religious obligations — via Zoom. That, after all, is tradition.

ESPN radio host Dave Rothenberg and his father, Arthur.Dave Rothenberg

But as Dave Rothenberg has discovered, as too many of our friends and family and neighbors and fellow citizens have discovered, there is nothing traditional about saying goodbye this way, in these days. In these days, more than any we’ve ever known, memories are what nourish us, sustain us, allow us to heal.

And memories of Arthur Rosenberg — accountant, husband, father, Giants fan — nourish and sustain his son. It is something. In some moments, it is everything.

“When I was growing up, my father worked so hard, we really didn’t get a chance to see him as much as we wanted,” Dave says. “But Sundays were for us. Sundays, we’d watch football all day. When we watched the Giants, we’d pick a side: offense or defense. If I had the offense then I’d stand up in front of the TV and cheer and yell and holler at the screen and he’d rest on the couch. Then when it was defense, we’d switch places.”

Once, Arthur asked Dave if he’d mind if a close family friend joined them. Of course Dave said yes, but he knew they’d have to tone back the two-platoon, father-son ritual. The Giants lost the game. The friend left. Arthur turned to his son.

“Let’s not ever do that again,” he said.

Dave remembers Arthur asking him once if he was interested in joining the family business and Dave laughed, because for as long as he can remember his lone goal was to work in sports. Sometimes, that meant he wouldn’t necessarily hit the books with the ferocity of Lawrence Taylor hitting a quarterback.

That proved fundamentally costly one fateful time. When the Giants qualified for their first Super Bowl, Arthur plotted a way for them both to get to Pasadena. He called in favors to score two tickets in the Rose Bowl. He finagled an itinerary that would take them from Newark to Dallas to Phoenix to Los Angeles, and then found a reasonable hotel. It was all set.

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