All of this started with a phone call to the New York Giants office at MetLife Stadium.
Phyllis Hayes, the New York Giants assistant for communications and medical services, was pleasant when I explained that I was from the New Jersey Jewish Standard and I was requesting an interview with team co-owner Steven Tisch.
I made that first request toward the end of December.
I was forwarded to a nice man named Pat Hanlon. He’s the senior vice president of communications for the Giants. Mr. Hanlon responded almost immediately, and just after the first of the year, he asked if I could send questions for such an interview.
Sure, no problem.
|Giant’s co-owner and movie producer Steve Tisch holds one of the team’s Super Bowl trophies.|
In the meantime, my brother-in-law Jon Pessah, who is the former sports editor of New York Newsday and a founding editor of the magazine called ESPN, is now working on a book about baseball.
So since he has delved into the high levels of sports, I went right to him. The two of us came up with questions for Mr. Tisch.
Before going any further, understand that Mr. Tisch is the only person in this world to own two Super Bowl rings and an Oscar figurine. He got the two rings for his two Super Bowl wins as the team’s co-owner. He scored an Oscar when he produced the 1994 film “Forrest Gump,” one of the highest grossing movies ever.
Born in Lakewood in 1949, he is a Tufts University graduate who began his film career at Columbia Pictures. He left to form his own company called Tisch/Avnet. It produced Tom Cruise’s breakout movie, “Risky Business.”
He even has a star on the south side of the 6500 block of Hollywood Boulevard.
Mr. Tisch is from a family heavy with Jewish philanthropists. His cousin James Tisch is the former president of UJA Federation of New York and the former board chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice president of the Conference of Presidents, told the Jewish Standard two years ago that all of the Tisch family are “identified [religiously] and active philanthropically. I think that the Tisch family is a model for the Jewish community and for others in terms of their broad range of commitments in the Jewish community, their involvement personally, not just financially.”
Mr. Tisch’s Giants defeated the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl twice. The Patriots are owned by another Jewish man, Robert Kraft.
So this year, Mr. Tisch’s G-men aren’t playing in the big game, but the game is being played at MetLife Stadium. Home turf. So this year he gets to play the host of the first northern venue for a Super Bowl in an outdoor stadium ever.
Mr. Tisch also has helped the Jewish community but kept outside the spotlight. During a visit to the tiny Cuban Jewish community last July, he learned that the Cuban Maccabiah team did not have the funds to pay for uniforms. According to an account in the New York Jewish Week, Mr. Tisch paid for the uniforms on the spot at Temple Beth Shalom in Havana so the team could compete in Israel.
Getting people to say nice things about Mr. Tisch isn’t difficult.
But before we get to that, here are a couple of the questions the Jewish Standard sent to Mr. Tisch through Mr. Hanlon.
“How does the world of football compare to the world of Hollywood?”
“What gives you more satisfaction, winning the Super Bowl or winning an Oscar?
“Is it easier dealing with (Giants quarterback) Eli Manning or (actor) Tom Cruise?
“Is it easier producing a hit movie than winning a Super Bowl?”
“What does it take, besides luck, to win two Super Bowls and an Oscar?”
Mr. Hanlon told us that he turned the questions over to Mr. Tisch.
At the risk of pestering Mr. Hanlon, which we’re pretty sure we did, we kept asking and asking about the questions and an interview.
We extended the deadline. We told him how important he was to the Jewish community of New Jersey.
As of Monday night, January 20, Mr. Tisch wasn’t answering, and for the most part, Mr. Hanlon stopped as well; and last week we got a final answer.
It was no.
So we decided to ask others to answer the questions in lieu of Mr. Tisch.
One of them was Randy Levine, president of the New York Yankees. Mr. Levine knows Mr. Tisch and knows for sure how to build a winning team.
“Steve is a wonderful person,” Mr. Levine said. “I can’t answer the questions about his movies or the Giants, but I will tell you that he is a caring man, who gives back to the community in big ways. It’s not an accident that he’s so successful. He’s worked for it, and he’s won with it.”
We also were able to get in touch with Bart Oates. Mr. Oates has three Super Bowl rings. He played center for the Giants from 1985-93 and won two Super Bowls. Then he added one more ring playing for the San Francisco 49ers in the 1994-95 season.
A local real estate broker, Mr. Oates described Mr. Tisch “as a caring human being, who loved to be around his coaches and players.
“There was that part of him that loved the Giants, and as a player it was easy to see that in him. But we as players respected him, because we knew that he cared about the communities in New York and New Jersey. I was proud to be part of the Giants, because they were and still are so loved by this community. Mr. Tisch has a great deal to do with that.”
Our last quotes about Mr. Tisch came from someone who is familiar with the Tisch family through UJA Federation of New York and wished to remain nameless.
“He is the real deal,” she said. “It is no accident that he is a winner in everything he does, and that winning includes helping other people, and caring about the Jewish community and the community at large.”
Mr. Tisch is involved in many charities, including as the Preston Robert Tisch Brain Cancer Center at Duke University. He has been on the board of the Sundance Institute and many arts organization. His Steve Tisch Foundation has given generously to the Women’s Cancer Research Center and the Pediatric AIDS Foundation. He is a member of the Board of Advisors at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University.
And on Sunday, he’ll host what is arguably this nation’s biggest party, the Super Bowl.