Why everyone, including very large football players, needs a stuffed animal

I love this story!

Turns out even very large, powerful men appreciate the power of a stuffed animal. This is about the New York Giants football team.

From The New York Times:

Everyone knows about Tom Coughlin’s intensity. Everyone knows about Eli Manning’s arm. But, several Giants players say, a little-known key to the team’s success in recent years stands about two feet high. It is covered in fur, pleasant but not precocious, and goes by the endearingly simple name Little Bear.

Eric Gay/Associated Press

James Brewer, a rookie last season, was Little Bear’s custodian when the Giants won the Super Bowl in Indianapolis.

His value cannot be overstated, they say. Yes, preparation matters to the Giants. So do practice repetitions, strength training and film study. But along with other mainstays, like Manning, one of the few constants in the Giants’ run to two Super Bowl titles in the past five years has been the presence of Little Bear, the offensive line’s prized stuffed animal.

“Let’s be honest,” guard Chris Snee said, gesturing reverently in Little Bear’s direction. “He’s critical to what we do. He’s an inspiration.”

Hell, yeah!

Here’s a photo of my own line-up, who hang out atop the shelf beside my bed, yes, the one I share with my husband.

Left to right, a monkey Jose bought for me, who makes a shrieking monkey noise. The brown bear was a post-surgical gift from Jose. The small white bear I’ve had since I was very small, probably given to me when we lived in England, ages two to five. He’s been all over the world with me, from Ireland to Vegas. The bunny was a gift after one of my four orthopedic surgeries, from Jose. He, too, travels well and is often in my suitcase or carry-on. In the closet, in such tatters I can’t reconstitute him is Bunny, given to me one Easter by my maternal grandmother, who carried me through my roughest moments of childhood into my late 20s.

And here is Jose’s line-up, some less cuddly than others.

Left to right: The lovely wool Arctic hare was a Christmas present to me from Jose, a Canadian icon. The whalebone Inuit sculpture was a gift from me to him; ditto. The wooden walrus, which opens up to offer a hiding spot, was a gift from him to me. The loon, which emits one of my favorite and most Canadian of sounds — a loon call — was bought on one of our many cross-border gift shop stops on a trip north to Canada.

And I’m fine with it.

My husband, Jose, a career news photographer and editor, has photographed war and riots and dead bodies. In my work as a journalist, I’ve seen car windows sheeted with blood, confronted extreme poverty and listened carefully to tales of rape and nightmarish violence.

When I wrote my first book about women and guns, in which I heard extremely upsetting and graphic stories of homicide, suicide and life-altering injury, I ended with up with secondary trauma, a normal consequence of immersing oneself in dark and frightening material, as happens to journalists and photographers. Jose and I each have enough darkness and misery jammed into our heads from decades in news journalism that some friendly, inanimate and portable pals are a very welcome addition to our world.

(And, with no kids or young nieces or nephews, the only way we get near toys is if we buy them ourselves!)

I was in boarding school at eight, and summer camp for eight weeks at the same age. I had no brothers and sisters growing up, so my stuffed animals were often my playmates. I hated dolls — hard, stiff, unyielding — but treasured my cuddly menagerie.

Here’s the small white bear in Banff, Alberta in March 2010, hanging out with his Canadian pals, Mountie bears; the Mounties are the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, our national police force.

Here are some links to lovely stuffed toys for sale:

Here’s a teddy bear.

And another.

And a zebra.

And, from the legendary New York toy store F.A.O. Schwarz, for the child who has seen it all…a woolly mammoth cub.

And, for all you fans of Babar and Celeste, a new stuffed Babar! Babar, created 80 years ago, is an elephant who normally wears a handsome emerald green suit — French, bien sur!

Did you have stuffed animals growing up?

Do you still?

Lego with Guns? My Favorite Toy's Latest Incarnation

Lego Digital Designer
Image via Wikipedia

It was my favorite toy, bar none. Lego, the Danish colored bricks — now with every conceivable adjunct, including (!) little plastic guns — that you can make into just about anything you can think of were the best thing I was ever given. I hated dolls because they didn’t do anything. Lego had, and still has, the delicious virtue of being a toy that you never get tired of, limited only by your imagination of what to do with it next. As an only child whose parents weren’t big fussers, it was up to me to keep inventing fun things to keep myself amused. Lego fit the bill nicely. It’s versatile, unbreakable, ever-recyclable. For girls of a certain vintage, Lego houses were also perfectly sized for trolls, weird little rubbery dolls with flame-colored hair who probably felt right at home in a Scandinavian-designed house made of plastic.

The only drawback to Legos was — ouch! — stepping on a piece of it barefoot. All those sharp corners and little interlocking nubbins.

My sweetie, knowing of my lifelong love for Legos, (and no kids whose bricks we could borrow) went looking for Legos for me last Christmas but knew I wouldn’t be up for the Indiana Jones or other movie-themed sets, which now turn out to be the most popular for today’s kids, according to a piece in today’s New York Times. (Turns out five to 10 percent of Lego is bought by adults for themselves. Whew.) I sometimes read another reporter’s piece with envy for their professional access to someplace or someone really cool. I admit it, I envy Nelson Schwartz’s visit to Billund, Denmark to “the drab. two-story Lego Idea House.” I love the notion of an Idea House!

For those of you who don’t know the toys, Lego’s name comes from “leg godt” or “play well”, a company founded in 1932 by a carpenter. Two new concept stores are opening this fall in Baltimore and Concord, N.C. The Brothers Brick is the place to go for Lego fans; BrickCon happens October 3-4 at the Seattle Center Exhibition Hall, the 8th. year the event has been held. For $7 admission, you get to meet 15 members of Lego’s staff and ooh and awe other’s MOCs…that’s My Own Creation, as the glossary at TBB explains. Not to mention greebles, swooshable, jumper plate and cracklink.

Were you a Lego fan? If not, what was your favorite toy?