*Note: It's only fitting that Bon Jovi is headlining the NFL's Kickoff event in Times Square on Sept. 5, as all the guys in the band are huge football fans. That's why it's also perfect that Jon Bon Jovi kicks off a new feature here on NFL.com -- "Passion for the Game." Each week, a big name from the entertainment world will weigh in with thoughts and memories about their favorite sport. Enjoy! *
(Aug. 29, 2002) -- I played football when I was young. I started in Pop Warner football when I was little and then played again once I got to junior high school. That's when I realized I wasn't big enough for football. In Pop Warner, weight class was the key. I was a little linebacker, the defensive captain. When I didn't make weight (95 pounds) the day before the first game, they sent me up to the "Midgets" and that weight group was for kids all the way up to 120 pounds! I was too small. So I sat on the bench, hoping to play second-string tackle. Then, in eighth grade, when I started junior high, I decided I'll give it another shot ... but it wasn't happening. (Thank God I found music!)
As a spectator, I can't remember not being involved in football. My earliest memory is of the Miami Dolphins. Bob Griese and the Miami Dolphins -- first losing the Super Bowl -- then going back and winning the Super Bowl. I remember writing on my football in chalk -- "Griese's Gang."
I just loved the Dolphins. Griese, Paul Warfield, Mercury Morris, Jim Kiick, Larry Csonka, Nick Buoniconti and the head coach was still Don Shula then. I remember it to this day. I could probably still rattle off exactly where each one of them went to college, what positions they played, their stats -- they were my team when I was very young.
As a kid, the appeal of the Miami Dolphins hit home with me -- they were larger than life. Football was always my family's sport and my family's love of the New York Giants started long before I was around. The New York Giants were the home team and our family favorite. As soon as I was able to appreciate what that really meant -- even enduring all the losing seasons -- the Giants became my team and remain my team to this very day.
I have been fortunate to get to know Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick and have remained close with them over the years. I was lucky enough to be on the team bench and in the team locker room when the Giants won Super Bowl XXV in Tampa in 1990. How many people can say that Bill Parcells and Phil Simms have had dinner at their house?
Sunday is still all about football in my house. Any year I'm not out on the road touring, my Sunday ritual starts with watching ESPN. Then I turn to the FOX pregame, then the satellite dish for all the games. Both of my older children know exactly which teams we're rooting for on every channel we switch to. They know many of the teams and even a few of the players. They've both lost their voices -- more than once -- screaming for Doug Flutie.
Ritual is the most important part of the football experience. See, it's all about the East Coast versus the West Coast. The East Coast revolves around food. To me, football is a lunchtime thing. Either tailgating outside the stadium or I'm in my family room, eating junk food and watching the game. But football on the West Coast? I never could get used to coffee and eggs with John Madden!
I'm very fortunate that I've been able to collect football memorabilia that means something to me personally. Punter Sean Landeta got me a Super Bowl ring with my own number and name engraved from the Giants' Super Bowl victory in Tampa. I have Lawrence Taylor's Pro Bowl jersey. I have Doug Flutie's New England and Chicago jerseys. I have one of Dan Marino's jerseys and one of Steve Young's jerseys as well. And most importantly, the official New York Giants team jersey made just for me with my name and the No. 1 on the back, given to me personally by coach Jim Fassel this past summer at Giants Stadium before a concert.
I've met many NFL players, some of whom have become friends and certainly, a few who I have grown very close to over the years, especially Sean Landeta and Doug Flutie. But the classiest act in all of football -- and my best friend in the game -- is the one who (in New Jersey terms) would be the consigliore ... the man with all the smarts and all the heart, Bill Belichick. He'd be the man you'd want next to you on the field or on the stage! Because, if most of you don't know, Bill Belichick is a HUGE rock 'n' roll fan and if he wasn't head coach of the Super Bowl champs, I'd bet he'd be a drummer in a rock band. (I'm sure his wife's very happy he knows defense!) In fact, the song "Bounce" on our new album is dedicated to Bill. He's a good man.