New Yorkers Unfazed in NFC Enemy Territory

"It's not harassment -- it's love," one Staten Islander laughed off the Niners' fans booing

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The rain couldn't dampen the spirits of the Giants fans who made the trip to San Francisco to watch their beloved team face off against the 49ers in the NFC championship game. Bruce Beck reports from Candlestick Park.

    Many of the Giants fans who braved the miserable weather, terrible traffic and the boos and taunts against them as they entered Candlestick Park for Sunday's NFC championship game shrugged it off and took it in stride.

    "It's football, baby!" said David Lerner with a laugh. The 42-year-old investment banker from New York City brought his 16-year-old son, Eric, to watch the mega-match that sent the Giants to the Super Bowl for the first time since 2008.

    They were proudly wearing their blue-and-white Giants jerseys.

    "I've had no issues whatever," Lerner said. "He's a big boy and can take it," he said, nodding toward his son.

    They are, after all, New Yorkers.

    "It doesn't faze me," said Sean Trachtenberg. The 35-year-old and his girlfriend ran the gauntlet of good-natured boos and barked requests that they go back home as they made their way toward Candlestick Park. "I'm from Brooklyn and I've seen it all."

    San Francisco police, the 49ers and NFL adopted extraordinary security measures for Sunday's showdown after New Orleans Saints fans complained of verbal abuse, threats and intimidation by some 49ers faithful in last weekend's game.

    Undercover police were dressed in Giants' garb and on the lookout for nasty fans. As Giants' ticketholders entered the 51-year-old bayside park, they were handed a card with details on how to contact police if they feel threatened. More security cameras and undercover police officers were in place to identify abusive fans.

    Police Sgt. Michael Andraychak said shortly before kickoff that there had been no reports of any serious ugliness against Giants fans amid the sprawling parking lot filled with tailgaters. Any threats, verbal or physical abuse — and they're out.

    NFL security director Jeff Miller told The Associated Press that if the cameras or undercover police catch abusive behavior by fans, they would be yanked from the stadium.

    "There's always going to be a little bit of playing around; this is a sporting event, after all," Andraychak said. "But anybody who is caught crossing that line, being intimidating or using profanity or threatening behavior, they will be ejected from the game."

    Peter Hartlaub, a pop culture critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, tweeted from inside the stadium that his wife was "next to police subduing unruly fan and got pepper-sprayed. Had to go to first aid. Can someone tell me the score?"

    Joseph Chan, a security usher for the 49ers, said he hates it when the crowd gets unruly.

    "What happened if there was an earthquake? We'd all have to help each other. We all have to respect each other," he said.

    That respect was tested when it took some fans two to three hours to get to the game as some 70,000 ticketholders made their way to the stadium. There were reports of abandoned cars and transit passengers getting out of buses and shuttles on the off-ramps and making their way on foot.

    Security was stepped up after several New Orleans Saints fans wrote highly publicized letters to the San Francisco Chronicle, complaining of being so badly abused after last weekend's game that they feared for their safety.

    "Every 49ers fan, the team and its owners should be ashamed and embarrassed to wear the red and gold today," Don Moses wrote in a letter published Tuesday. "They won the game but are losers in every other way."

    San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee instructed the police to do whatever it took to make Giants fans feel safe.

    Nick Koulouris, who was tailgating with a group of 49ers fans while watching another football game on a flat-screen TV on the back of a pickup truck, said he was ashamed of the "lowlifes" who make visiting fans feel unwelcome.

    "We're just normal, everyday working class guys out here having a good time," said Koulouris, a plumber from Mountain View, a city just south of San Francisco. "It's just a sporting event, and you're supposed to just have fun; win, lose or draw."

    That was how Joe Derby, 24, of Staten Island, took the verbal abuse directed to him as he entered the stadium Sunday.

    "It's not harassment — it's love," he said, laughing as Niners fans loudly booed him and his friends.

    The city so far has avoided yet another embarrassing situation at the stadium: the lights were holding out as darkness closed in by halftime. The city and the Pacific Gas & Electric Co. spent nearly $1 million in upgrades to the aging park after stadium lights blacked out and delayed the nationally televised game between the 49ers and the Pittsburgh Steelers on Dec. 19.

    Lee called it a "national embarrassment." The city and utility laid more than a mile and a half of new wire to carry three times the electrical load as well as install a new computer system to monitor possible faults in the circuit.