Joe Ruback is without a doubt the New York Giants most dedicated and number one fan. He has been going to every Giants home game for the past 25 years, and for the past ten years, he has been taking his passion on the road as he has travelled with the Giants to see every away game as well. If you have ever watched a video dedicated to either of the two recent Super Bowl runs made by the New York Giants, you have likely seen clips of the man with shoulder length blonde hair, paint under his eyes, and his famous chain of customized license plates, all being tributes to the New York Giants, hanging from his neck. That man’s name is Joe Ruback, or simply, the License Plate Guy.
Mr. Ruback was nice enough to talk with me on the phone about his passion for the Giants and some of his experiences throughout the years. Joe became a passionate Giants fan when he was young, and for his first car when he turned 16, he chose to get customized plates in honor of his favorite team. They were the orange New York license plates, and he had them say “G1ANTS”. Mr. Ruback was eventually dared by his father to wear the plate around his neck, Joe stepped up to the challenge, the Giants won the game, and a tradition known by all passionate Giants fans started to develop. However, the tradition didn’t fully begin at that point, but the wheels started spinning at that point to turn Mr. Ruback into the most passionate football fan I have ever witnessed.
When the topic of passionate New York sports fans is brought up, the epitome for that title belongs to the Jets super fan, Fireman Ed. Joe is often referenced as the “the Giants version of Fireman Ed”, so I asked Joe what he thought about the comparison and he said it is an honor to be compared to one of the most famous super fans, and in the past they have done events together. Events like last year when they were both on the Boomer & Carton show to represent their respective fan bases prior to the Giants vs. Jets game on Christmas Eve. However, Mr. Ruback did jokingly question Fireman Ed’s passion and loyalty by saying “if he was a bigger fan, he would go to all the games”, which is exactly what the License Plate Guy does.
Considering that Joe has been to every NFL stadium, I had to ask what his favorite stadiums were, and what fans gave him his worst experience, which surprisingly wasn’t the Eagles fans. Joe was quick to point out that although the stories people always hear are the ones about people getting in fights, or getting verbally abused when they cross into enemy lines, there is an overwhelming amount of good fans compared to bad fans, Joe said the ratio was probably 98% good fans compared to the 2% bad fans. But it doesn’t matter if they yell insults at Joe, because he is always in the front row, which gives him the luxury of not having to even acknowledge the insults that are yelled at him. Additionally, Mr. Ruback said his three favorite places to visit were San Francisco, which leads me to wonder if his last two trips there influenced that decision, Dallas, which he noted as having the nicest stadium in the world, and to my surprise, Philadelphia. But even more surprising was the place where he said he had his worst experience, and that was in Cleveland. However, he doesn’t blame the Cleveland Browns fans, nor does he dislike any stadium or fan base, it was just the particular fans who didn’t know where the line is drawn when it comes to taunting an opposing teams fan.
But why does the License Plate Guy always have to sit in the front row? It’s because he wants to fit in. He has become friends with many different Giants players throughout the years, has had Brandon Jacobs over for dinner, hangs out with players in the city, and talks with different players on a weekly basis. But as Joe said, “it’s not a matter of befriending, but fitting in.” Like many Giants fans who never managed to fulfill their wild dreams and make it to the NFL, this is the next closest thing for Joe, and fortunately for him, I don’t believe he is risking any concussions or long term head injuries being the Giants unofficial number one fan. In addition to being a fixture behind the bench at every away game, something that reminds the Giants of the fans they play for, he was also called the teams good luck charm by Brandon Jacobs after the Giants defeated the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. I wasn’t given any specifics, but the most interesting fact I learned about Joe Ruback is that he owns a Giant Super Bowl XLII ring, and I will say he does deserve it for his role in the Giants Road Warriors mantra they had that season.
It was an honor to get to speak with a passionate fan like Joe Ruback, and at the end of our conversation, I managed to be the first person to tell him that it was his license plates that inspired me to get customized Giants plates for my own car. This was one week after he was recognized as “the License Plate Guy” for the first time, without the plates around his neck, by a caddy at a golf event he attended. I’m look forward to seeing him on the screen representing the Giants against the Redskins next week, and will honor his request and send Joe one of my customized plates for him to hopefully add to his collection that he brings to all the Giants games.