These are the days when we test ourselves when we test our resolve about keeping things in perspective about putting sports — even football games — in their place about keeping sight about what’s important what matters what really drives and defines us.

Because we know the coach of the New York Giants is hurting.

We know that his mind can’t possibly be completely on the work at hand Sunday afternoon at 1 o’clock when the Giants take the field and match their 0-2 record with the Panthers’ 0-2 record when they try to take care of business and crack the left side of the hyphen and save themselves a week of self-torture and endless public scrutiny.

And we know this:

Whatever the Giants used to feel about Coughlin however cold he may have come across his first few years here however close he may have come to losing the team losing the dressing room losing his job this is one beloved football coach now. The Giants not only play hard — and far more often than not play well — for him they also like him. A lot. In a way you rarely see in the coach-player dynamic once you wander too far from the high school level.

“He’s hurting” Justin Tuck said “so we hurt.”

He’s hurting because his only brother John slipped and fell in front of his house in Hackensack last week after watching the Giants lose to the Broncos; because Tom had to go to the hospital and say good-bye; because he had to deal with a deep personal loss while still devoting himself professionally; because when the business in Carolina is done he must travel upstate to bury his kid brother.
Yes. He’s hurting. All of us who know loss understand that hurt.

And yet … Coughlin would recoil from the idea of using the emotion swirling about his team as motivation or fuel or a temporary cause. “Win one for the Gipper” works in the movies but it can seem crass and vulgar in real life in real time and there isn’t a prayer in the world Coughlin allows that to sneak however subtly into what the Giants must do Sunday. Coughlin believes in compartmentalizing things always: your family here your hobbies here your religion here your football obligations here.