The New Jersey Joy of Tommy DeVito

The New York Giants' Italian-American QB isn't giving me hope, exactly—but he's given us Giants fans something almost better: full-on Tommy Mania.
The New Jersey Joy of Tommy DeVito
Photographs: Getty Images; Collage: Gabe Conte

I know Tommy DeVito.

I know his father and his mother and his brother. I know just about everyone in his family’s row, including Tommy’s fedora-clad agent, who, after stepping out of central casting and into the Monday Night Football broadcast, is enjoying his own few minutes of internet celebrity.

Well, let me clarify: I don’t know Tommy’s father, or his mother or his brother or his agent. I don’t know Tommy DeVito, current quarterback for the New York Giants and reigning NFC Offensive Player of the Week. Rather, I know Tommy, the Italian-American kid from Jersey. You know, Tommy. Fuckin’ Tahhhmie.

I know a hundred Tommy DeVitos, a hundred Mister and Misses DeVitos, and a hundred guys who never got the memo about fedoras.

I know Tommy’s now-signature hand motion—forefingers and thumb clenched together, waving at the wrist, signifying any number of things. I know it isn’t really his signature at all. It’s our signature. (Though, if you know any Italian-Americans from Jersey, you’ll understand why I’m hesitant to call it “Our Thing.”) That little wave of a hand is something we’ve been doing—or been subject to—since we were babies. I’d bet I know exactly the smell of his mother’s chicken cutlets, because my mother probably made them just the same. I know the kisses Tom Sr. plants on everyone’s cheeks after Tommy makes a big play. My old man has planted the same exact kisses on my cheeks a thousand times before.

I know these people because I am these people. And maybe that’s why, over the last four weeks, Tommy DeVito has become New Jersey’s biggest folk hero since Springsteen released Born to Run. Maybe that’s why, for the first time in a decade, Tommy DeVito has given me, and so many other Giants fans, something to be recklessly happy about.

I’m hesitant to call it hope, though there is some of that. Tommy DeVito is playing great football for what he is: an undrafted free agent who started the season third on the Giants’ depth chart. No sane football fan is expecting DeVito to carry the Giants to a sixth Super Bowl appearance. Of course, no one expected much from Tom Brady when he took over from Drew Bledsoe. (Relax. I’m not comparing Tommys here.)

More than hope, Tommy’s providing a sense of joy—unfiltered happiness that one of ours, a guy we all know from a thousand dinner tables and a thousand pizza parlors and a thousand delis around Jersey is making our beloved Giants matter again. Fuckin’ Tommy.

Tommy freakin' Cutlets indeed.

Michael Owens/Getty Images

It’s a feeling that wasn’t even matched during last season’s surprise playoff run, which was met with more healthy caution than it was unabashed enthusiasm. It’s a happiness that permeates the very air inside MetLife Stadium.

Three weeks ago, my sister and I surprised our father with a trip up to MetLife for his seventieth birthday. The Meadowlands was a place he took us dozens of times as kids, to watch legends like Simms and Bavaro, Strahan and LT. It seemed fitting to take him up for the game and the team that has defined so much of our lives. It was Tommy’s third start, his first in East Rutherford, and the stadium had an electricity that I hadn’t experienced since the winter of 2012, when the Giants beat the Falcons in their last home playoff game (a game I also went to with my pop). I’ve been to MetLife Stadium dozens of times in the years since, and it’s often felt more like a funeral than a football game. But on that cold, rainy afternoon, as the Giants snuck past the Patriots in a 10-7 win that ended on a missed field goal, we danced in the seats like we used to, tens of thousands of Jersey kids waving their hands in their air, screaming for Tommy to do his thing. To do our thing.

I don’t know how long this thing will last. It feels like Tommy Mania is reaching its zenith. To wit, my Southern neighbor down here in Chapel Hill just this morning asked why we call him “Tommy Chicken Fingers.” But just as Jeremy Lin is still considered a hero amongst Knicks fans, I suspect it’ll be years, maybe decades, before we think anything less of Tommy DeVito. Because, just like Lin did for Knicks fans, Tommy’s given us reason to be excited again, even if it’s just for a few weeks.

Is Tommy the next Brock Purdy? Or will he be relegated back to Earth? Truth be told, I don’t care. I wish him the best, because he’s one of ours. And because for the last few weekends, and for the four gamedays still to come, I’ll tune in to watch my Giants in a way I haven’t in years: with an abundance of joy instead of a sense of morbid duty.