Eli Manning received a 40-second standing ovation at Tuesday night’s Giants Town Hall at the Beacon Theatre.
Then he stole the show.
Manning, 38, well known for being an entertaining storyteller and prankster, shared some gems for the adoring fans.
He said he played one of his favorite pranks in his career on Andre Woodson, a rookie sixth-round QB picked out of Kentucky in 2008.
Woodson showed up late to a voluntary OTA and missed the quarterback meeting. So Manning excused himself to the bathroom and cleared out Woodson’s locker, grabbed a piece of Giants stationary and wrote “come meet me in my office, bring your playbook - TC” (as in Tom Coughlin).
The prank worked so well that Woodson brought the paper to Manning and asked him what to do. Manning said I guess you should go upstairs and apologize. But when Woodson actually began walking up the stairs toward Coughlin’s office, Manning raced and grabbed his new teammate and told him it was all a gag.
“I felt bad for a little bit,” Manning said with a laugh.
Manning, on stage with Barkley, Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate, also took some jokes about his age gracefully. Tate, who called Manning a “Hall of Fame quarterback,” also joked that “these guys keep me young,” but pointed at Manning and said “not him.”
Manning laughed and said it’s easy for him to take the age jokes in stride.
“These guys asked me if I wanted to go out after this; I told them ‘no, I’m going to sleep,’” Manning said to laughter.“ And I can still overthrow these guys with the best of them,” he added, joking about the strength of his arm. “So they’ve got to get a little faster I think.”
Earlier in the evening, Giants co-owner John Mara was self-deprecating at when he received a standing ovation as he walked on stage at the Beacon Theatre.
“Thanks, I appreciate that, especially after going 8-24 the last two years,” Mara said to laughter from season ticket holders. “It’s nice to hear some applause, believe me.”
Not long after, however, Mara was throwing darts at the Giants’ critics.
“You can’t get affected by what the media has to say. The media most of the time doesn’t have any idea what they’re talking about,” Mara said.
Mara has not addressed the assembled New York media since the NFL Draft, when the Giants selected Daniel Jones, Eli Manning’s heir apparent, No. 6 overall. He did a brief interview with Newsday at the spring league meetings in May. Mara was able to joke about all the negative emails he’s received from fans, though.
He said one fan ended a nasty email by writing: “Let’s face it: you’re nothing more than James Dolan minus 50 pounds in a better looking suit.”
Mara wrote back and said he “appreciated the fashion compliment.”
Dave Gettleman was also in attendance, and received both cheers and boos when he took the stage. Bob Papa, the voice of the Giants, deadpanned, “So, Dave, how’s your offseason been?”
Gettleman responded with cheer: “Anybody here wanna get traded?”
Later, Gettleman was asked about what fans should believe after watching the trade of Odell Beckham Jr., a player they believed was their future.
The GM answered by continuing to spin his own version of events, reiterating his point that football is “the ultimate team game.” He called Beckham “a wonderful young man” and a “very talented football player” but said he had to make a decision “in the best interest of the New York Football Giants.”
The young woman who asked about OBJ, Natalie Garcia of Section 142, was booed by the rest of the fans when her question made clear she was second-guessing the trade.
It was a visual demonstration of the Giants’ sales job working on a percentage of its fan base.
But the best question of Tuesday night’s Giants Town Hall came from a young boy wearing a Saquon Barkley jersey.
“I have a question for Daniel Jones,” the young man said to the Giants’ rookie QB. “How many Super Bowls are you gonna win?”
The fans exploded in cheers. Jones seemed uncomfortable, well aware he could create a headline, and joked that his microphone had died.