49ers fans don't get much respect in New York

New York --

You can buy most anything, and at any time of day, in Manhattan.

Anything except a 49ers jersey.

Perhaps New York City simply sold out of red, white and gold jerseys, mere days before the NFC Championship matchup between San Francisco and the New York Giants on Sunday.

More likely, the stores never had them in the first place.

"It's just New York teams here," said the guy answering the phone at sporting goods chain Modell's in the Chelsea neighborhood. "No, sir - only Jets and Giants," echoed the rep at a Sports Authority store.

Indeed, 49ers fans based in New York are not feeling much love from their Giants counterparts.

"I definitely get picked on when the Giants play the Niners," said Arwen Kassebaum, a brand strategist from Lake Tahoe who resides in Hell's Kitchen. "No one will speak to me until it's over. My best friends won't speak to me."

While Giants fans will never harbor the outright resentment they have for division rivals such as the Eagles and Cowboys, the feelings are none too fuzzy for their San Francisco foes, either.
It's only the 49ers

Many New Yorkers expressed relief in facing the Niners, and not the aerial wizardry of the Saints, whom the Niners vanquished one week ago. They question Alex Smith's ability to run an offense. They prefer Giants coach Tom Coughlin's stoicism to Jim Harbaugh's exuberance.

"Harbaugh knows the game, but his regard for the opponent is limited," said Jim Cheney, a lifelong Giants fan and Manhattan native. "He's disrespectful."

Other Manhattanites say the Niners benefited from a soft schedule. Mark Lopez, a Giants fan having lunch at the Fifth Avenue bar Dewey's Flatiron, describes the NFC West as weak. "Is there really a difference between the Niners' 14-3 record," he said, "and the Giants' " 11-7?

Topping off the parade of disrespect, New York Daily News columnist Filip Bondy published a column Friday listing 10 reasons that 49ers fans are soft. In a piece that pokes fun at most Bay Area stereotypes, Bondy wrote: "The Giants are heading to Candlestick Park, where the crowd and the general din of the city will not be nearly as nettlesome as the mud."
Still, there's doubt

But once you get past Gotham's trademark bluster, considerable anxiety exists about Eli Manning and his Big Blue mates, who've had more stops and starts this season than a local subway train. Moreover, many believe wet conditions at Candlestick will hamper the Giants' high-flying passing game. "A soggy track does not bode well for the men in blue," said Mike Reynolds, a magazine editor from the Bronx.

Most in New York expect a low-scoring, tight contest.

"San Francisco will play well, but the Giants are pumped," said Kelly Benke as she bought herself a blue Victor Cruz T-shirt at a Modell's across from Grand Central Terminal. "Both will put on a great show."

New York Niners fans may be feeling the chill from the Big Blue faithful, but they do have a safe house in the Lower Manhattan pub Finnerty's, which shows all the Bay Area teams on the tube and is a cherished home away from home for the region's ex-pats. Some 30 diehards were lined up outside Finnerty's when it opened at noon last Saturday - 4 1/2 hours before the Niners-Saints kickoff.
The joy of winning

That game's unforgettable finish saw patrons hugging and kissing strangers.

"The World War II picture of the sailor hugging the girl?" said bartender Annie Norwick. "That's what it was like here."

While Finnerty's raffles off an autographed Joe Montana helmet during Sunday's game, some hardy souls prefer to wade into enemy territory in their Niner finery. Bret Costain, a Manhattan investment banker from Los Gatos, will take in the slugfest with friends in a rowdy, pro-Giants, Midtown Manhattan watering hole. "I'll remind them," Costain said with a sly smile, "that the real Giants are in San Francisco."

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