For the first time in seven years, the Giants are representing the National Football Conference in the Super Bowl (6:17 p.m. today, FOX 5) and local residents are definitely excited.
North Bergen got a little bit of a head start on the Super Bowl madness last Saturday afternoon, when the Giants' lone Pro Bowl player this year, defensive end Osi Umenyiora, made an appearance at the Forman Mills discount clothing store on 69th Street and Tonnelle Avenue.
Umenyiora signed autographs for more than two hours.
According to store manager Angie Phillips, the line went out the door and up the block.
"It was incredible," Phillips said. "The line of people went all the way up to Tonnelle Avenue. There were so many people, like a sea of people. We never anticipated that many people. The crowd was huge. They all patiently waited their turn and they weren't unruly. Osi was very nice and accommodating. I really couldn't believe how well it turned out."
Forman Mills has become the area's top distributor of Giants' fan wear and apparel since the team shocked the Green Bay Packers two weeks ago to win the NFC Championship.
"We've been selling a lot of Giants stuff every day," Phillips said. "I'd say that our sales are up about 30 percent since we started selling the Giants merchandise. Having a player like Osi come to the store helped to bring attention to our store."
Forman Mills just opened its North Bergen location last September, so it's still a relatively new location.
"I just hope the people come back and shop here," Phillips said.
She also said she's rooting for a Giant victory in the Super Bowl.
"Because if they win, then maybe we'll get another player to come back," Phillips said. "So, yeah, I'm a Giant fan now."
Upscale restaurant hosts free party
If you're looking for a cool place to watch the game, perhaps Frank's Waterside in North Bergen might fit the bill.
The restaurant and catering facility on River Road in North Bergen is hosting a Super Bowl party, with former San Francisco 49ers running back Johnny Davis playing the piano and entertaining the audience. Davis has a Super Bowl ring from his days with the Niners.
"We've had so many customers ask us if we were going to have a Super Bowl party and we decided we would," said Louis Busigo, the director of operations at Frank's Waterside.
The festivities will begin at Frank's around 5 p.m., with several NFL players on hand expected to attend the party.
"Our clientele includes a number of present and retired Giant football players, several of whom plan to be with us for the party," Busigo said. "This will allow our customers next Sunday to enjoy our food and drinks, and rub shoulders with some of their football heroes from yesterday and today."
There will also be a trivia contest and prizes given away.
There is no cover charge, but prospective customers should call the restaurant for a reservation.
Local fans and bigwigs
Of course, you could always throw the quintessential Super Bowl party at home.
As for which Super Bowl team people in North Bergen and Guttenberg are rooting for, there seems to be a consensus.
"Is there another team playing, other than the Giants?" said Edward Simonetti of North Bergen, who was shopping for a new TV in Secaucus last week. "I don't think anyone around here is rooting for the other team. Who is it again?"
Simonetti was joking. He knows all about the Patriots.
"We're going to crush pretty boy [quarterback] Tom Brady," he said. "Crush him and put another dent in his chin."
"Giants 35, New England 14," he said. "Of course, I'm optimistic." Sure sounds that way.
Well, how about some of the area's other noted football fans?
"I'm going with the Giants," North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco said. "I've always been a Giants fan, going back to when I was a boy. It's such a pleasant surprise that they're there in the Super Bowl. I don't think anyone anticipated that. Every week, it looked like the end of the season and they just kept winning. I think they're on a roll now. I think the Giants are going to score and win. Giants 28-21."
The granddaddy of high school football coaches also likes the Giants.
"I'll say Giants 21-17, because I just love the Giants," said legendary North Bergen football coach Vince Ascolese. "They're playing well right now and they proved they could win by beating Dallas and Green Bay. I'm going with my guys, the Jersey guys. I also think [Tom] Brady is hurt worse than people think. You can see in pictures that one ankle is clearly bigger than the other."
Guttenberg Mayor David Delle Donna is also pulling for the hometown heroes.
"I'm a big Giant fan," Delle Donna said. "I'm saying Giants 28-27, with the Patriots missing an extra point with three seconds left. There's a reason why we made it this far. I know that if we can stay in the game early, we can get by the mystique of them being undefeated."
North Bergen native and famed actor/comedian Joey "Coco" Diaz is also going with the Giants.
"I am a big fan of the Giants, the heart attack kids," Diaz said. "I was a big fan of Lawrence Taylor when I was a kid. I think they're great. When they were building the place, I used to walk to the Meadowlands and steal the artificial turf. The Giants only win the Super Bowl when they don't have a quarterback. Giants 21-17."
PC Richard's in West New York on the North Bergen border and Best Buy in Secaucus, also bordering on North Bergen, had wide screen plasma televisions on sale exclusively for the Super Bowl. Both stores reported that sales of the TVs were brisk and better than normal post-Christmas shopping periods.
Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at either OGSMAR@aol.com or email@example.com