Choosing Super Bowl Sides for Jets and Giants Fans

Root, root, root for which team?

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    It'll be a battle for the ages.

    With no local dog in the hunt in Sunday's Super Bowl and no obvious enemy of a New York team either, there are probably a lot of people wondering just who they are supposed to be rooting for when the game kicks off.

    There are some compelling storylines to draw people to either side of the fence, although both the Saints as avenging angels for Hurricane Katrina and Peyton Manning's quest to become the greatest quarterback of all time smell a bit too much like by-the-numbers media hackwork than anything that resonates with people who see the gray area between the black and white of those themes.

    Ultimately, New Yorkers view football through whichever local team is their favorite and that's going to contribute to their choice on Sunday.  

    The gut impulse is to say that Jets fans should be rooting for the Colts and rooting for a rout. If the Colts blow out the Saints, then fans can sit back and tell themselves that the Jets not only lost to the best team but they played them tougher than the NFC's top outfit. That would be a nice way to kick off the offseason and another reason to feel bullish about the Jets' chances next season.

    The gut impulse is wrong, though. The Jets' season will look no better or worse in light of what happens on Sunday, so Jets fans should look deeper into this matchup. When they do, it will feel like they are looking into a mirror.

    The long-suffering, hardy fans who have supported the Saints through more than 40 years wandering in the football desert are eerily similar to the group that trudges to New Jersey to watch the Jets every week no matter the indignities that they've suffered in previous weeks. They wore bags over their heads and lived through 20 losing seasons for their first winner. You chanted "Joe Must Go" and survived Rich Kotite, but you both kept coming back no matter how many reasons the teams gave you to find a better way to spend Sundays. Respect that similarity and pull for your brethren to celebrate, because they'd do the same for you. 

    Giants fans have no such common ground. Whatever scars were attained in the 60's and 70's have been healed by three Super Bowl titles and, thanks to Bob Irsay, there's no long history with the Colts to celebrate any longer. The answers will have to come from a more selfish place where you revel in the sadness of others. 

    Take your mind back to October 18th and the Giants' trip to New Orleans. The Giants rolled into town with a 5-0 record, but those wins came against some weak opposition and Giants fans knew this would be a test of how good their team really was. It was a test they failed miserably in a 48-27 loss that became a harbinger for everything else that would go wrong during the 2009 season.  

    Given all the bad that followed, it might seem odd to hold such a grudge about the first loss of a season that had plenty of them but nothing hurts quite so much as the first time. All the other losses that followed, whether they were close defeats or blowouts, were only reminders of the lesson that the Saints provided the Giants on that October day. There's some satisfaction from seeing the guys that made it clear you weren't good enough get their comeuppance. Throw in the chance to make Jeremy Shockey cry and it's pretty obvious that Giants fans should be rooting for the Colts. 

    You can also put a positive spin on it, if that's your thing. The last time the Colts won the Super Bowl, the next season ended with the Giants on top of the football world.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com.