Loyalties, divided! I'm a second-generation Jersey girl and the daughter of a dedicated New York Giants fan. Mostly when I think of my dad, I see him in a chair in the den, comfortably plowing through the Star-Ledger and the New York Times, section by section, smelling of Old Spice, coffee, and newsprint. But he was also a rabid sports fan, and basketball, horseracing, and football were his sports. He spent a lot of chilly winter afternoons huddled in the stands with me and my sisters, a blanket wrapped around our shoulders as he tried to explain what was going on between the wide-shouldered men scurrying like ants around the Astroturf. Yes, they were the New York Giants, but they played at the Meadowlands, on our turf, and everyone assumed that North Jersey, where we lived, was kind of a sixth borough of New York City anyway.
My sister Amy has come late to her birthright as a Giants fan. She doesn't have a lot of team fellowship out in Minnesota, where she lives; the recent triumph of the Giants over the Green Bay Packers was celebrated mostly for the whipping the Packers took, since any dedicated Minnesotan despises the Packers, longtime arch-rivals of the home-team Vikings. But she found a Giants jersey somewhere, and now she wears it around town in lonely pride. (She felt the same way when Obama won, four years ago. While Oakland erupted in cheers, cruising, and fireworks, her posh Minneapolis suburb tallied its Republican losses behind closed curtains.) "I hope you'll remember your roots!" she said about Sunday's game, only half-joking.
But I left New Jersey in 1990, settling in San Francisco for the next 12 years. Yes, there was a brief boomerang back to New York City for a few years in the mid-2000s, but I returned to Bernal Heights in 2008, full of a winter longing for backyard Meyer lemons and fresh Dungeness crab, convinced that this was my home.
Mostly, I'll be rooting for the 49ers because I know everyone in the Bay Area will be super-excited if they win, and a Superbowl frenzy always gives a city a little lift, something to talk to strangers about in the supermarket check-out line. But I hope Eli Manning and the rest of the boys in blue give the Niners a good run, something worth munching through all those ads for Ram trucks and Coors Light.