Big game is small potatoes in the busy Big Apple ...

Super Bowl Sunday in New York. This should open up a reservation at Union Square Cafe, one of Gotham's top restaurants. Wrong. Diners value the imaginative cuisine more than chili in front of the TV set. The restaurant has yet to lose a booking for Sunday night - and it's filled up until 9 p.m.

And forget about it if you're hoping for a seat at the hit "The Unexpected Man" with Alan Bates. It's completely sold out on Sunday evening.

Even the folks who run the Empire State building are not impressed - the building will be bathed in red and gold lights to celebrate the Chinese New Year - Giants blue is nowhere to be seen.

So, the Giants are in the Super Bowl. Guess what? The Big Apple has not come to a subway's screeching halt.

Some other cities may live or die depending on how their gridiron heroes perform, but New York is in a different league.

For a city that has won four of the last five World Series, the Super Bowl would be nice. But it's a little like a Nobel Prize-winner receiving a blue ribbon at the high school science fair.

This is not to say that some people aren't excited. The TriBakery is planning to make its boules in the shape of a football this Sunday. Yes, haute cuisine a la pigskin. This is very New York.

Of course, if there is a prize handed out for making money on something, that trophy should go to the Big Apple. We can sell.

Within days of the Giants' playoff victory over Minnesota, a merchant started selling T-shirts, bomber jackets, and other Giants junk in a building destined to become landfill in a few weeks. You know it's not Tiffany & Co. as you paw through T-shirts stacked on folding tables.

A more upscale sporting-goods store, Modell's, reports its biggest seller is a $9.95 Giants flag that hangs out of a car window.

Even Mitchell Modell, the president, admits to befuddlement as to why New Yorkers, who usually eschew cars, want this item.

And he is quick to admit that, compared with this fall's merchandising frenzy when the Mets played the Yankees, this is a relatively modest retail event.

In fact, in the days leading up to the Super Bowl, New Yorkers are not sporting much Giant paraphernalia.

On Wednesday, this led Mayor Rudolph Giuliani to ask the city residents to make sure they wear "Giants stuff."

But, as he donned a Giants motorcycle jacket, the mayor mumbled, "This isn't really me, is it?"

Although some sports enthusiasts believe New York is not a football kind of town, Mr. Giuliani takes issue.

"There isn't a team in the NFL with more loyal fans," he says, recalling the decades when the Giants fell on hard times. "Even when they had a terrible season, the fans stuck with them."

One of those is Jim Hershberger of Valley Cottage, N.Y.

Although many Giants fans have inherited their seats from their parents or grandparents, Mr. Hershberger became a season ticket holder in 1974, when the Giants were playing their home games in New Haven, Conn., while their new stadium was built. For the first 10 years that he had his six tickets, the Giants had a losing record, but he never lost hope.

"When they lose, you feel miserable, but by Wednesday you're looking forward to the next game, and by Saturday you're optimistic," he explains.

When the Giants moved to New Jersey in 1976, they took the NY off their helmets. This year it's back on. But it still leads some people to wonder if it really is a New York team.

In fact, if the Giants should happen to win, some New Yorkers don't think the city should spend $1 million on a ticker-tape parade.

"It's a fraud - they are really the New Jersey Giants, and if they want a parade, they should march around Metuchen," says former Mayor Ed Koch.

Nonetheless, if the Giants win, there will be some attention paid in New York. On Monday night, depending on the score, the Empire State Building may be lit up in red and blue.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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