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Identity crisis

Two states claim NFC champion Giants as their own

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Posted: Friday January 19, 2001 1:42 PM
Updated: Friday January 19, 2001 4:40 PM

  Giants fans Fans on each side of the Hudson River claim the New York Giants as their own, despite the fact that they have played in New Jersey for more than 20 years. AP

NEW YORK (AP) -- Everyone loves a winner, especially New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

There he was in the New York Giants' locker room after they beat the Minnesota Vikings 41-0 for the NFC championship, chatting about ticker-tape parades with quarterback Kerry Collins.

That didn't go over well with Bergen County, N.J., executive William Schuber.

"Given the Giants' strong ties to New Jersey, I believe the appropriate venue for a celebration of the team's successful 2000 season is in Bergen County," Schuber, the county's top political official, wrote in a letter to team owner Wellington Mara and the operators of the Meadowlands sports complex.

That raised the question -- and not for the first time -- whose team is this anyway?

"They're a New York-based team," said Louie Pons, an off-duty police officer from Brooklyn who was shopping for Giants paraphernalia at a Super Bowl store Thursday. "They just play in New Jersey."

But John Cimiluca, manager of Manny's, a sports bar about two miles from Giants Stadium, said the majority of Giants fans are from New Jersey.

"They play in New Jersey, they practice in New Jersey, their office headquarters are in New Jersey," he said.

He doesn't want to see a parade in New York -- maybe a parking lot parade, like the New Jersey Devils threw both times they won the Stanley Cup or a stadium party like the Giants threw when they won the Super Bowl a decade ago.

The Giants have played in East Rutherford, N.J., since the mid-1970s. Pat Hanlon, a spokesman for the team, said that 52 percent of the Giants' season ticket-holders live in New Jersey. Most of the rest live in New York State, although some travel from Connecticut and elsewhere.

The team's stance on this matter of geographic principle? Straddling the border.

"We represent the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area," Hanlon said.

New Jersey Gov. Christie Whitman wrote a congratulatory letter to team owner Wellington Mara.

"As you celebrate the championship, and hopefully the Super Bowl title, I hope you will acknowledge your home state, our quarter century support for the Giants and the enormous fan base that the Giants have here in their home state," the governor wrote.

John Samerjan, a spokesman for the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, which runs the Meadowlands, said all of New York and New Jersey's sports teams "are regional, tri-state franchises."

Samerjan said New Jersey collects $58 million a year in sales and income tax from the entire Meadowlands complex, including the Giants, Jets, Nets, Devils, concerts and other events.

But revenue from pro sports tends to go out in expenditures as quickly as it comes in.

Andrew Zimbalist, a professor at Smith College and the editor of a forthcoming book on the economics of sports, said professional sports teams add little to a local economy.

"Almost all the money that gets spent there is money that goes to the teams or goes to the company that runs the concessions," he said. "In net terms, there's no positive economic effect."

Many New Jersey fans were angered when the Giants changed the logo on their helmets from "Giants" back to "ny" this season.

Tracy Penn of Watchung, N.J., didn't just get mad, he tried to get even by creating a Web site to sell "NJ Giants" hats and T-shirts.

"It was set up to protest the Giants changing their logo from just plain Giants back to the New York emblem, since they haven't played in New York in over 25 years," Penn said.

The NFL was not amused.

The league and the Giants sued Penn for trademark infringement, calling his "NJ" logo "blatantly imitative of the Giants' NY mark." Penn countersued for harassment.

The Web site, which is still up despite the lawsuit, carries a disclaimer saying its merchandise "is intended only as a parody of the current political climate between New Jersey and New York."

Penn was cool to the idea of a parade for the Giants in Manhattan's "anyon of Heroes."

"If they have their parade in New York and don't at least have one in New Jersey as well, I think you're going to have an uprising," he said.

The Giants say talk of a parade is premature until after the Jan. 28 Super Bowl against the Baltimore Ravens. Some longtime fans say it doesn't matter where the celebration is.

Take Long Branch, N.J., mayor Adam Schneider, a big supporter. During the Super Bowl in 1990, he and his wife considered naming their daughter "Ottis" after running back Ottis Anderson.

He watched the Super Bowl while his wife was nine months pregnant and hoped she wouldn't go into labor. He would have taken her to the hospital, of course.

"I would have had a radio with me," he said.

Schneider had a radio with him as the Giants beat the Vikings last Sunday while he presided over a civic celebration.

So where should they celebrate?

"If they win next Sunday," he said, "I don't care where they have the parade."

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