Behold Joseph Ruback, the ever present superfan of the New York Giants. He’s positioned in shallow left subject at Palisades Credit score Union Park in Pomona, N.Y., and strikes amongst members of his favourite workforce as shadows lengthen close to dusk. His proper leg bears three tattoos. One is a blue “ny” emblem. The second is a New York license plate with “G1ANTS” pounded into it. The third is a Lombardi Trophy. Lengthy golden locks movement previous his shoulders, and canopy the “LPG” that holds the place the place a surname often seems on a jersey. The initials stand for “License Plate Man,” the alter ego he assumes when hanging a ladder of 75 license plates — all with a Giants reference, like “TWO4ELI,” “18END1” and “LVGMEN” — from his neck. Sometimes he’s seen tailgating, however that is the offseason, in June. He’s overseeing a dodgeball sport between present Giants and the Tremendous Bowl XLII and XLVI champions at security Landon Collins’ charity occasion. Lengthy snapper Zak DeOssie factors to Ruback because the rubber match begins. DeOssie dubs Ruback, the evening’s organizer, as chief arbiter.
“If Joe says you’re out, you’re out, OK?” DeOssie says.
Balls fly; heads swivel. One after the other, Ruback guidelines gamers out. Former security Antrel Rolle will get drilled; retired cornerback Corey Webster dominates. The champs win as soon as extra. Ruback revels in what he considers his Sweet Land. It’s a popping out occasion of kinds after a yr of authorized wrangling. He’s 48, a bodily schooling coordinator at Biondi Faculty within the Bronx and recent off beating a felony rap as an accused mortgage shark in close by New Metropolis. In 2015, allegations in opposition to Ruback drew the curiosity of the Rockland County District Legal professional’s Organized Crime Unit. Ruback was charged with grand larceny for allegedly utilizing intimidation to gather money owed. Ruback nonetheless smarts over it, and insists prosecutors believed he was using Giants as muscle. The case is now sealed after an settlement was reached out of courtroom. He holds a microphone in his proper hand on subject; each side of the legislation are current. To his left is Joseph Gannascoli, an actor recognized for his portrayal of Vito Spatafore in “The Sopranos.” He’s the primary base umpire. For the nationwide anthem, the colour guard is from the Rockland County Sheriff’s Workplace Corrections Division. Chris Canty, a former Large, takes the measure of Ruback as he hustles round.
“Just a little quirky,” Canty says. “He’s screaming at video games with all these license plates and also you’re like, ‘This man’s slightly bizarre.’ He’s excessive, a superfan, however you get to know him, man, he’s a sweetheart of a man. He needs to do something he can to assist. He invests time, beneficial properties belief and simply does a fantastic job connecting dots.”
No fan is healthier related than Ruback. Wealthy Seubert, the previous guard, says Ruback “bled blue like us.” Collins, a Professional Bowl security, is aware of the place to search out him in opposing stadiums: “There he’s, entrance row, each week.” Ruback performs a ritual handshake with Collins on the sideline prior to every sport, and he holds a definite place within the New York sports activities scene. Ruback owns 4 season tickets, travels to all eight of the workforce’s street video games and boasts unusual entry to gamers. That is his 17th season attending all 16 contests — plus playoffs, when the Giants qualify. In between performs, Ruback is catnip for cameramen looking for reactions. In his home, he retains two Tremendous Bowl rings, of which, he says, “Don’t ask the place I received them. They’re actual. Not those you order on-line.” A pink 2001 Corvette in his storage bears the plate “13Whip.” It’s an ode to Odell Beckham Jr. and his landing dance. Fellow followers search Ruback’s autograph and ask for selfies with him. Youngsters costume up as him for Halloween by hanging plastic plates from their necks. One fan, Dan Quinn, requested that Ruback signal his leg. Quinn instructed Ruback he would make a tattoo of it. Quinn adopted by means of, inking a New Jersey plate with “LPGJoe” across the title. Followers, from Alaska to Florida, ship him license plates so as to add to his assortment.
“He’s round everyone,” Collins says. “He’s going to be there endlessly, win, lose or draw.”
There isn’t any higher show of Ruback’s attain than the charity occasion. He was with Collins on the Professional Bowl in Orlando final winter when he broached the concept of placing on a sport. Collins agreed to headline it, and Ruback labored on the rosters. The evening’s lineup options 40 former Giants. Quarterback Eli Manning is current together with his spouse, Abby, and former wideouts, Plaxico Burress, Mario Manningham and David Tyree. Crew safety chief Mike Murphy carries a seaside chair. It’s a full-blown reunion. Within the outfield, a well-recognized face seems on the video board. It’s Tom Coughlin, now in Jaguars garb. His charity, The Jay Fund, is to profit from the gate. As formal as ever, Coughlin apologizes for not having the ability to be in attendance.
“Are you prepared for some softball?” Ruback says into the microphone after Coughlin’s tackle is over. “I can’t hear you!”
Applause comes. Ruback takes the mound. He moonlights domestically as “Hit Doc,” serving to youth gamers with their swings, however he lofts softball pitches now, permitting the Giants to load the bases earlier than getting out of the primary body. The play-by-play announcer, Seth Cantor, calls Ruback over for an interview between innings. Cantor asks a query that many have puzzled since expenses have been dropped in opposition to Ruback within the larceny case. After practically a yr of courtroom proceedings, the plaintiff, Barry Dorfman, an insurance coverage salesman, demanded that prosecutors cease pursuing the case final October.
“Good job there by License Plate Man getting out of a jam,” Cantor says.
“Joe, what was the important thing?”
* * *
“Free Plax,” is stitched in pink atop the entrance of a white No. 17 Giants jersey that Ruback has framed on the wall in his man cave. It’s a relic of assist for Burress throughout his incarceration after he pleaded responsible to an tried weapons possession cost. On the ceiling, above the staircase, is a mural of Tyree making his helmet catch throughout Tremendous Bowl XLII. A white pillow, on the sofa, includes a heat-pressed picture of Chase Blackburn intercepting a cross in Tremendous Bowl XLVI. Among the many memorabilia is a credential. It reads: “NEW YORK GIANTS FAMILY PASS.” Subsequent to it, the 2007 Giants are captured in a workforce picture. One further is sitting within the entrance row, final seat on the precise. It’s Ruback. He Photoshopped himself in as No. 1 in white. He sits in entrance of tailback Ahmad Bradshaw and subsequent to Danny Ware.
“Chase Blackburn at all times jogs my memory that I’m not a participant and that I didn’t play,” Ruback says. “Chase jogs my memory on a regular basis.”
Proof of a previous life on subject exists. An outdated newspaper clipping within the laundry room outlines his exploits. The headline reads, “Tigers’ Ruback shines within the shadows.” He’s listed at 5-foot-Eight and 147 kilos as a senior co-captain for Spring Valley (N.Y.) Excessive. His head shot exhibits shorter, darker hair. At 9 years outdated, he was a middle and nostril guard. At 17, he was a middle and nostril guard. He recounts a dialog he had with the pinnacle coach, Percy Boykin, previous to senior yr.
“I had fingers. I might catch something,” Ruback says. “I mentioned, ‘I don’t care what you say, I’m not taking part in line this yr.’ He mentioned, ‘No worries. You’ll be able to sit on the bench all yr.’ First day of double classes, I used to be snapping the ball.”
His fellow linemen tipped the scales at 280, 300, 285 and 265 kilos. The guards helped Ruback, a Lilliputian, by interlocking legs on offense. On protection, linebacker Yves Senate tapped Ruback on the hip to alert him. If Ruback felt Senate’s hand on his proper hip, Ruback knew to go left to be able to take the middle out of the image so Senate might rush proper in to the quarterback. It was known as “Cross 51.”
“I checked out it this fashion: I may not be capable of transfer them, however I’ll block anybody for a number of seconds,” Ruback says. “It was to my benefit. I used to be by means of each hole. All people overlooked me. I felt like Joe Morris of the protection.”
Kenneth Smith, a former teammate, remembers Ruback’s resourcefulness.
“One phrase: tenacious,” Smith says. “You’d see little Joey Ruback and ask, ‘What is that this man doing right here?’ He’s the Chihuahua barking at your leg all sport.”
Ruback’s vigor is famend, regardless of the competition. To begin his school profession, he suited up for Western Connecticut in soccer. He then transferred to Cortland, the place he performed baseball. The Giants occupied his ideas away from his groups. In the future in 1987, Ruback wrote a letter to John Costacos, who, alongside together with his brother, Tock, was within the second yr of working a poster enterprise in Seattle. The thought was to take professional athletes and “make superheroes, Gladiators out of them,” per John. Ruback wrote to the brothers that his Lawrence Taylor poster — “The Terminator” — was ruined by his roommate. He pleaded poverty as a consequence of his school pupil standing, and Costacos despatched him a substitute, in addition to a Carl Banks poster.
“He grew to become my finest pal,” John says. “We talked two, 3 times per week for 3 years. I valued his enter. He has an engine in him that has by no means been in impartial. I cherished this man, this loopy, energetic, precocious Giants fan.”
Ruback by no means actually left the sport. He returned to the sidelines at Spring Valley, first with the junior varsity. At 26, he was named head coach of the varsity. The workforce didn’t win a league sport the earlier season, however he turned this system round shortly. He was additionally credited with a sort out off the sector. Round 1:30 one morning, Ruback took Tiger, his St. Bernard, for a stroll round his block in Monsey, N.Y. Ruback eyed a stranger automobiles, and went again to his home. When the stranger reached Ruback’s truck, which had a passenger-side window barely open, the person entered it. Ruback rushed out, chased him and tackled him.
“Beat the s–t out of him till the cops got here,” Ruback says.
Ruback was celebrated as against the law stopper by Ramapo’s city supervisor, and his run of fine fortune continued. He dressed conservatively, sporting a shirt and tie for video games, however reminders of his aptitude have been by no means far. When the Tigers began 7-Zero in 1997, his second yr, he had the file shaved into the again of his head. Momentum constructed, however one cloud loomed. Earlier within the marketing campaign, his father, Charles, a salesman, had been knowledgeable that he needed to endure quadruple bypass coronary heart surgical procedure. Charles instructed his physician that he wanted to carry off as a consequence of his son’s video games.
“The physician thought I used to be loopy,” Charles says. “I wasn’t lacking a minute.”
The surgical procedure was postponed for months because the Tigers averaged 307 yards per sport on the bottom. Phil Bogle, a 325-pound offensive sort out certain for Syracuse and the NFL, led the best way. The Tigers went 10-Zero earlier than falling in opposition to Troy within the state Class AA semifinals. Ruback retains sport balls encased in glass in his basement. There’s an award that hyperlinks his two soccer worlds, too. It includes a Giants helmet within the left nook and the NFL protect in the precise. It’s a “1997 Coach of the Week” certificates signed by NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and Giants coach Jim Fassel. It marks a turning level in Ruback’s life. He introduced that he was leaving teaching after the season ended. He sought to pursue a graduate diploma and get married.
“I didn’t wish to be a type of guys who was their highschool alma mater coach, spend their life on the sector,” he says. “The Giants have been an important factor to me, and take a look at me now.”
He eyes his ceiling. There are signatures of Giants who’ve come by his home. Retired tailback Brandon Jacobs put his title, No. 27 and 2X SB Champs in black marker. Collins put “Professional Bowl 12 months ’17 extra to return.” Ruback slips on a blue hat fan despatched. It includes a New York license plate that reads: “INNOCENT.”
“If any individual buys this home, I’m slicing that sheet rock,” he says. “Will probably be ceiling-less.”
* * *
The J.C. Penney within the Palisades Middle is closing. So say the indicators within the storefront home windows.
“NOTHING HELD BACK!” reads one.
“ENTIRE STORE ON SALE!” reads one other.
“EVERYTHING MUST GO!” reads a 3rd.
It’s a Friday in July. Ruback parks his grey Mercedes Benz — the one with the “G1ANTS” plate — in loads on the north facet of the mall. He makes his means as much as the meals courtroom in Giants garb. It’s a month after the Collins occasion. He stays on a excessive, touting what number of Giants got here to the sport and the $30,000 raised for The Jay Fund, which promised to make use of the cash for households combating most cancers in New York and New Jersey. He appears to be like across the mall. He lives a number of miles away, and displays on a low level that occurred on web site. To Ruback, J.C. Penney is an outdated crime scene. In 1998, he had given up the teaching reins by the point he went to the shop at some point. His former Spring Valley quarterback, Mark Paisley, then 19, was working because the cashier.
“He mentioned, ‘Coach, your cash is not any good right here,’” Ruback says. “I mentioned, ‘Psshhhh, you da man.’ Fairly dumb. My downside is I went again a second time. He was hooking up everyone after which some. That I remorse greater than the rest in my life.”
Ruback was booked on July 1, 1998, and he was indicted on fourth-degree grand larceny two and a half months later. He pleaded responsible, and accomplished 210 hours of neighborhood service. He was on probation when he occurred upon one other crime in progress at Marty’s Sporting Middle in Nanuet. On Oct. 13, 1999, Ruback assisted in chasing down suspects throughout a theft. Ruback and the storeowner have been strolling to the store’s warehouse after they noticed a number of youths operating away with merchandise of their fingers. One dropped a backpack that was used as proof. Ruback and Rudolph known as the cops. A headline in The Journal Information learn: “Ex-football coach, on probation in theft, helps foil break-in.”
Ruback’s file goes quiet for greater than a decade after that probation interval, however there’s another case in his authorized ledger. On March 7, 2014, he filed a civil lawsuit in opposition to Barry Dorfman. Within the grievance, Ruback asserts that he gave an $81,000 mortgage, documented in a promissory notice, to Dorfman. The preliminary fee was for $Three,000 and that was to be repeated for the subsequent 27 months. Ruback mentioned Dorfman paid the primary month, after which fell off. Dorfman denied ever receiving the $81,000. He additionally maintained that the notice was signed “beneath duress and coercion.”
A Clarkstown Police report obtained by the Information from a Freedom of Data Act submitting features a grievance from Dorfman’s spouse, Michelle. On Jan. 24, 2013, round Eight:30 p.m., she contacted the police and reported a menace made to Barry. Michelle said that for years her husband borrowed giant quantities of cash from family and friends to be able to pay different money owed owed to mortgage sharks. An hour earlier, she had acquired a name from Barry. He instructed her she needed to depart the home as a result of mortgage sharks had threatened to “bust his head large open.” The police report famous that Michelle suggested that they have been in the midst of a divorce and that their home was within the strategy of foreclosures. She said that she was “extraordinarily fearful” for her household’s security. She can be staying at her sister’s home.
In line with the report, Barry defined that a number of years earlier, he was launched to an individual who might mortgage him cash. The report says that it was “New Metropolis resident Joseph Rubeck.” Dorfman mentioned Ruback loaned him cash on a number of events. He added that he was “paying Joseph $Three,000 a month however has missed the final three funds inflicting Joseph Rubeck to state to him that he had bought their notice to guys within the metropolis for .60 cents on the greenback.”
Dorfman instructed two detectives that he had acquired a name from a fee collector. The person was recognized to Dorfman solely as “Hector.” Dorfman instructed police that he had made funds to “Hector” on the New Metropolis Dunkin’ Donuts, however he was instructed he would give him a unique location the subsequent day.
Ruback was not arrested till greater than a yr later, on Dec. 17, 2015. He was handcuffed at his home and booked at 6:30 a.m. He was charged with grand larceny within the fourth diploma, a category E felony, and he says a cop instructed him, “Guess you received’t be making the subsequent sport.” Ruback posted the $2,000 bail, and Rockland County District Legal professional Thomas P. Zugibe launched a press release with the headline: “New York Giants Superfan ‘License Plate Man’ charged with extortion.” The Giants launched a press release saying the group was “clearly disturbed by these allegations and have made our workers and gamers conscious of them.”
Ruback didn’t miss a sport. The Giants hosted Carolina that Sunday, and he was there. The workforce traveled to Minnesota the next week. There was Ruback, feting from the entrance row in 13-degree climate. Eli Manning threw three interceptions. The Giants misplaced, 49-17. Ruback drove house relatively than look forward to a delayed flight.
“Disgusting weekend, bro,” he says. “Most disgusting of my life.”
Ruback made a number of courtroom appearances. On Oct. 13, 2016, the district lawyer introduced that Ruback’s case had been resolved. The courtroom issued an Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal, or ACD. It required that Ruback keep away from new arrests for six months earlier than the dismissal and sealing of his case. In line with the district lawyer, Dorfman, with out the information of prosecutors, signed an settlement with Ruback in change for $5,000 restitution. Dorfman additionally dropped his civil lawsuit. The District Legal professional was able to prosecute Ruback absolutely, however famous that Dorfman “demanded the dismissal of prison expenses in opposition to Ruback.”
“Dude, he borrowed cash from me,” Ruback says. “I’m not Bernie Madoff. My entire life was turned the other way up.”
Ruback asserts that the federal government pursued its case due to his “pseudo celeb.” There’s one profit that Ruback cites as he heads out of the mall.
“I’m not a gambler, nor a mortgage shark,” he says. “However my road cred? There’s a pizza place that I don’t even pay for pizza after I go in there now.”
* * *
“No one sits right here,” Ruback says as he walks down the aisle in part C136 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Tex. He’s recent off strolling the sideline throughout warmups for the season opener in opposition to the Cowboys and embracing linebacker Jonathan Casillas, a captain, ultimately zone. His routine is in midseason kind, having arrived within the car parking zone hours forward of kickoff. His seat is a folding chair on a platform prolonged from the stands behind the Giants bench. Ruback declines to say how a lot it price him.
“It’s f—ing silly cash,” he says. “I spent a number of years till I mentioned, ‘Holy sh-t, why am I not sitting entrance row?’ Loads of occasions, I do know when a participant is concussed earlier than they announce it. I’ve received a whole lot of inside data I hardly put out.”
He shouts “Hey women!” to common supervisor Jerry Reese’s household and notes his plans for afterward. Ruback’s journey occasion is six for this sport.
“We go on the sector,” he says. “We dance on the star once we win. If we lose, I’ve no real interest in happening, however I’ll anyway.”
It’s a great distance from part 336 in Giants Stadium. That’s the place his father, Charles, had tickets. The household additionally had tickets in part 137. Charles is 85 and resides in Florida now. He went to his first sport in 1943, paying 55 cents to get into the Polo Grounds bleachers. He dared Joseph to put on his “G1ANTS” plate round his neck at a sport when he was 16, and relishes his son’s rise by means of the fanatic ranks. Joseph has sat within the entrance row in any respect street video games for a decade. The streak commenced within the 2007 Tremendous Bowl yr. Blackburn’s first thought when he noticed Ruback was: “He appears to be like like Fabio.” Jacobs recollects taking discover, as effectively.
“I began to surprise, ‘What does this man do for a dwelling to afford these tickets and fly throughout?’” says Jacobs, who has traveled with Ruback to Las Vegas.
Jacobs, Blackburn and others have visited Biondi, the special-needs college in Yonkers the place Ruback served as athletic director, to talk to college students. Ruback’s outdated principal, Dr. George Cancro, considers Ruback a “stabilizing power and optimistic affect.” Ruback now works with Biondi’s elementary college within the Bronx because the mortgage shark allegations.
“Joe simply appears to be like for journey wherever he’s,” says Blackburn, who hosts Ruback at his Ohio house every Fourth of July. “The children reply to his ardour.”
Members of the family are alongside for the journey, as effectively. Ruback met his second spouse, Sarah, at a Yankee sport, whereas already within the midst of the Giants streak. He calls that interval “mid-insanity.” His daughter, Isabella, is 14. She attends video games, and wears a blue T-shirt emblazoned: “Like father, like daughter.”
Ruback now owns seats in sections 144 and 149 at MetLife Stadium. He paid $20,000 for 2 Private Seat Licenses in 144, and added the 149 seats later. He factors out that he by no means sits in them. As an alternative, he sells the tickets to be able to assist finance his travels. Prices rise come playoff time. He paid $12,000 to sit down entrance row on the 50-yard line for the NFC Championship sport in Candlestick Park in 2012. Two weeks later, he celebrated the Tremendous Bowl win on subject as confetti fell.
“I don’t know why everybody thinks you want hundreds of thousands of to do what I do,” he says. “You don’t.”
Dallas is his favourite journey. Nonetheless, his thoughts wanders. He’s already speaking about his upcoming journey down Interstate 95 in Week Three. In Philadelphia, he wears his favourite jersey. It’s Eagles inexperienced on the again. The place the surname needs to be, he has stitched in “Tremendous Bowls.” No. Zero is stitched beneath that to indicate that the Eagles have by no means received the massive sport. Bogle, his Spring Valley star, is the overall supervisor of the Philadelphia Soul within the Area Soccer League. He stands with Ruback.
“They name me The Wrestler, Farah Fawcett, Thor — which I like and don’t have any downside with,” Ruback says.
One in all Ruback’s license plates reads: “H8Dallas.” He watches because the Cowboys kick a pair of subject objectives earlier than quarterback Dak Prescott finds tight finish Jason Witten for a landing. Dallas wins, 19-Three. Ruback idles as 93,183 followers exit. He possesses a cross that permits him on subject. There he’s for the subsequent hour, lengthy snapping and punting. He units his legs large like a middle and snaps the ball.
“Nonetheless received it,” Ruback says.
* * *
A New Jersey State Police helicopter circles above the Meadowlands on the Sunday that the Cowboys come to city in December. Crimson and blue lights flash from an ambulance truck that was transformed by Giants followers right into a workforce car replete with a purpose publish on high. It’s in Lot L6. Ruback is decked out in Manning regalia. He displays on the street to spoil, from Dallas to Philadelphia to Tampa Bay to Denver to San Francisco to Washington to Oakland to 2-10. He bore witness to all of it. Coach Ben McAdoo and Reese have been dismissed. The tire hearth at Exit 16W continues to burn.
“Disarray causes what we’re in now,” Ruback says. “It’s actually horrible.”
Ladies with blue lipstick kiss his cheeks. He fingers out a dozen passes to get buddies on the guests’ sideline for pre-game warmups. There’s a legislation presence, as effectively. A New York State Trooper, who’s wearing a Mark Bavaro jersey, approaches Ruback, and fingers him a New York license plate. It reads: “FDEMBZ.”
Ruback celebrates the most recent plate by holding it up for all to see. He transitions to hurry-up mode to rally eight buddies earlier than coming into the stadium at 11 a.m. One pal of a pal wears Aviator shades, a fur coat and matching fur hat.
“Who am I getting in with at the moment, Frank Lucas?” Ruback says, referring to the flamboyant Harlem gangster.
There are hugs for the safety guard on the stadium entrance. Followers chant “LPG! LPG!” as they appear down from the stands to him on the sideline. A cop, off obligation, faucets Ruback and tells him he has a present for him. It’s an official uniform patch that claims “EAST RUTHERFORD POLICE” above “Residence of the Giants.”
“We observe you,” the cop says.
Ruback thanks him. Just a few yards away, Ruback shouts to Cowboys proprietor Jerry Jones, “I don’t like ya, however I respect ya.” Jones turns round and says, “Thanks.” Ruback fingers out enterprise playing cards as of late which might be holograms. They function three license plates together with his title on them. He notes that his most popular technique of enterprise is to barter and construct off relationships. Followers typically come to him for recommendation. One child asks the place he ought to stand to get an autograph on the crowded sideline.
“Simply wiggle your means in there,” Ruback says.
Ruback performs his handshake with Collins and retreats to a seat in part 208. The excessive level of his day comes when the Cowboys line up for a subject purpose.
“He’s gonna miss this,” Ruback says.
Kicker Dan Bailey’s 53-yard try hits the purpose publish and falls brief.
“Doink!” Ruback says.
“Name Vegas!” says his pal, Michael Stathakis.
Ruback insists he’s not a betting man, however he is aware of the way to weigh threat. He tells a couple of earlier softball charity occasion, in 2015, additionally in Pomona. Ruback was on the plate. Beckham Jr. was on the mound, and fired an overhand pitch previous to the sport. Ruback didn’t swing, however says he might have hit it simply. He says he held again as a result of he didn’t wish to probability rocketing the ball again at Beckham Jr.
“I might simply see a pleasant little line drive up the center hit one of many Giants, and you’ll by no means see me once more,” Ruback says. “I might have moved to Antarctica and left my plates behind.”