The NY Giants and a memory of Little John

by Brian Clarey

After the most harrowing quarter of football I’ve ever watched, one that saw me pacing around my living room like a big cat in captivity, clenching and releasing every major muscle group until I nearly cramped up, biting my fingers – not the nails but the actual fingers – and sucking down an ultra-light cigarette in three drags… well, I’d like to take this opportunity to talk a little trash.

Hell yeah I’m a New York Football Giants fan, like my father before me and his before him. I cam on board in 1979, after my dad took me to an early winter game at Giants Stadium not too long after the team moved across the river to Jersey. I don’t remember who they played (cut me a break – I was nine freakin’ years old and it was so cold I spent most of the afternoon hiding in the concession loop cradling cups of hot chocolate to warm my hands) but I do remember it was Phil Simms’ rookie season, and I wore that No. 11 jersey my dad bought me that day for the rest of the fourth grade, until I hit a growth spurt and it started to look kind of foolish on me.

I remember 1986, my junior year in high school, when Big Blue rolled over the Denver Broncos in the final three quarters of Super Bowl XXI. It was snowing on Long Island and when my pal Rock and I were making a, uh, run after the game we got pulled over on Nassau Boulevard. The cop leaned into the driver’s side window, saw the Giants jerseys we were wearing and said, “Can you guys believe it?”

He let us go with a warning.

I lived in an off-campus house with a freakish Buffalo Bills fan (who eventually became the mayor of Sanford, Fla., if you can believe it) during the 1990 season, and when that chucker Scott Norwood missed his 47-yard field goal in Super Bowl XXV, it was one of the finest days of my college career.

I don’t want to talk about Super Bowl XXXV.

But I do want to talk about what went down on Sunday, because it had me so excited by the end that I ran a lap from my living room through my dining room, kitchen and foyer.

Some would say it’s a little foolish to get so excited about a childhood game played by juiced millionaires – and this week most of the people saying that are from New England.

And I love that my boys in blue busted up a perfect season.

Moving on….

Last week Greensboro lost one of its most unconventional heroes. “Little” John Bury was an internationally celebrated tattooist and the hard, driving force behind the North Carolina Tattoo Convention held each year right here in town.

I met him in January 2001, on assignment for ESP magazine to cover the convention (for Editor Ogi Overman, whose recollections of Little John appear on page 30). I never really knew him, but I did capture a few moments of his time as he constructed a dragon on the forearm of one James Dean Chavis.

From the article:

“Little John himself has tats everywhere on his body except for his face and the back of his head – the part of himself he shows to me as he hunches over the arm…. When he’s not absorbed in his work he’s not so gruff. And he’s as gentle as a man whose entire body has been pricked by electric needles can be…. He’s been inking non-stop since he got back from Rochester [NY] the night before and he needs a shower.”

Bury had a reputation as a hard man, but at the end of our interview he told me about a 16-year-old kid named Jody, from Raleigh, who had been diagnosed with cancer. His doctors gave him about six months. Before he left this plane he wanted but one thing: a tattoo of a phoenix. But he was still too young by a couple years to legally get one.

Never one to be restrained by the laws of men, Little John went over to the kid’s house on Christmas day and laid the ink.

Jody ended up living for two more years, and in that time Little John taught him what he could about the ancient rite of permanent art. Before his final days, Little John let the kid tattoo him; he wrote his name, “Jody,” in shaky script across the big guy’s ankle. He lifted up his pants and showed it to me right there in his studio.

It was arresting for me to see a hardass like John reveal his soft side. But that is what I remember about Little John Bury.

Rest in peace, Little John. Rest in peace.

For questions or comments email Brian Clarey at