Giuliani and Sports Celebrations, Perfect Together


The Giants still have to play the Super Bowl next Sunday, but no one is happier about the prospect of a Canyon of Heroes celebration should they win than safety Sam Garnes.

“I think it would be great,” the Bronx native and DeWitt Clinton High graduate said earlier this week. “I know there’s that whole thing about us playing in Jersey and being a New York team, but we as players really feel that we represent both states. We’re almost the New York/New Jersey Giants. We have a lot of fans on both sides of the river. I’m happy (Mayor Rudy Giuliani) is putting politics aside.”

But is he? In December, wearing a Giants neo-retro ny hat, Giuliani told reporters that the city will gladly hold a ticker-tape parade, Yankee-style, for the Giants if they win the big game. But what about Big Blue’s Jersey digs?

“I think we should give them a parade if they win the Super Bowl,” the mayor told the Daily News December 27, while pointing to the ny logo. “They may want to stay (and celebrate) in the Meadowlands. I hope not. We’ll invite all the New Jersey people and make it a big New York-New Jersey celebration.”

That the mayor is looking to take center stage at a celebration honoring a local sports team is not unusual—the Yankees have been guests of City Hall four of the past five years. But what does seem odd is the mayor’s interest in including the Giants. After all, politicians on both sides of the Hudson have been playing political football with the team in the name of state/civic “pride” since they moved to the Garden State—but kept the New York name—in 1976.

Jersey policicians, meanwhile, have continued to knock the Giants since they changed their logo back to the old ny. As state senator Richard Codey (Essex County) said last spring, “Calling them the New York Giants is like Diana Ross going out on tour without Mary Wilson and trying to say it’s the Supremes. It’s time for them to face it: They’re the Jersey Giants, no matter what it says on their helmets. New York? The closest they’ve ever come to being in New York is when they look at it.”

Not entirely true. According to the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, the team’s Giants Stadium lease stipulates that they maintain their “New York” name. The provision was made at the request of Wellington Mara, son of the Giants’ founder and the team’s primary owner (as well as a resident of Westchester County). The organization’s public position has always been that the team represents the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area, and players and other personnel engage in communityand charitable events and other team activities on both sides of the Hudson. Still, officials in New Jersey reportedly want the Giants to keep any and all Super Bowl XXXV celebrations on the western banks of the river.

Historically, the city’s position on the matter has never been cut and dried. In 1987, the year of the Giants’ first Super Bowl championship, then mayor Ed Koch, himself a former New Jersey resident, referred to the team as “foreigners” and refused to spend city funds on a City Hall celebration. He later reversed field and offered a scaled-down soiree when American Express agreed to pay for it. The Giants refused his belated offer in favor of a Meadowlands celebration, and the mayor eventually sent his congratulations, along with six cases of champagne.

In 1991, Big Blue’s second and most recent Super Bowl year, then mayor David Dinkins, a Giant fan, offered a scaled-down City Hall celebration (including keys to the city for team executives). Then New Jersey governor Jim Florio also proposed a celebration at the statehouse in Trenton. The Giants politely refused both, citing respect for the soldiers fighting in the ongoing Persian Gulf War.

Giuliani’s latest parade proposal is especially intriguing because it flies in the face of most of his Garden State-related politics. In the past, the mayor supported a multi-million-dollar lawsuit against New Jersey over rights to the Statue of Liberty (a case that went to the Supreme Court). In recent years, he has routinely ripped the bi-state Port Authority, particularly over what he perceives as the agency’s preferential treatment of New Jersey’s Newark Airport over New York’s JFK and LaGuardia.

But sports and parades make strange bedfellows in City Hall these days. With his second and final term expiring at the end of 2001, Giuliani may be looking to the Giants for one last celebration on the front steps (assuming the Yanks don’t win again next fall, of course) as he prepares for state (attorney general?) or national office. Anyone who has been to any of the City Hall sports bashes knows that the mayor’s name is displayed pretty prominently on the celebretory banners attached to the building.

“We shouldn’t be debating a parade. We should be rooting for the Giants to win,” the mayor told reporters during his daily Q&A Wednesday. “I don’t want to create a controversy over a parade. The city will be happy to give the Giants a grand parade up the Canyon of Heroes, if that’s what they want.”

Indeed, ultimately, whether a downtown parade happens this year seems to be entirely up to the Giants. Team spokesman Pat Hanlon has issued a statement saying that while Big Blue “appreciates the offer and (will) consider it at the appropriate time, one of the trademarks of this organization and this team this season has been its ability to focus on the task at hand. Parades are not part of the task at hand right now.”

Whatever happens, at least the players seem to have it all in perspective. Said Garnes, “We just want everyone, all the fans, to be happy and celebrate with us. That’s what’s important.” To some, anyway.