Sunday February 5, 2012
PITTSFIELD -- Kelly Healey best summarizes her grandfather's dilemma when it comes to this year's Super Bowl.
"Do you cheer for the Giants because you like them or the Patriots because you live here?" she said.
It's not an easy call for Ed Filiault, who roots for both teams during the regular season. With New York just four miles away, there are plenty of fans of both teams in the Berkshires.
The Giants and Patriots meet today in Super Bowl XLVI, four years after New York beat New England 17-14 in the NFL's biggest game.
Healey sees fans from both sides come into the West End Package & Variety store she runs with her husband, Jim, along Route 20 in Pittsfield, near Hancock.
"There's a lot of jesting back and forth between us and the customers," said Kelly Healey, who cheers for the Patriots. "It's our turn to get it back. Brady's the better quarterback. ... I hope it's a close game because it's more interesting to watch, but definitely, you know, want [the Patriots] to win."
The Berkshires sit at the crux of the regional rivalry that matches two elite quarterbacks -- New England's Tom Brady and New York's Eli Manning. The Massachusetts and New York state lines meet at a small, muddy road off Route 20 in Hancock. At the base of Terrace Drive is a "Welcome to New York" sign.
Josh Schuster lives in New York; some of his neighbors reside in Massachusetts.
Schuster said many people he meets in New Lebanon, N.Y., are Giants fans, but his neighbors there -- John Wendling, his wife Maggie Mailer and 2-year-old son Nicholas Mailer-Wendling -- are Patriots fans.
John grew up cheering for the Patriots in Richmond, but he also has lived in New York City and Pittsfield. He has remained a Patriots fan, but that isn't always easy to explain to people who don't live on the border.
"I feel like in Massachusetts when we say we live in New Lebanon, people are like, ‘Oh, you moved away,' " Maggie said. "When our whole life is in Massachusetts, for the most part."
The split is pretty evident at Marchese Ford Mercury in New Lebanon. Tom Donlon said that, of the dealership's 15 employees, about half cheer for each team. Donlon is a big Giants fan and said that during the 2007 season, he was working at another dealership in Columbia County for a manager that was a die-hard Pats fan.
"He and I battled and made a pretty silly bet," Donlon said. "It was kind of fun watching him play golf in a skirt."
Back in Pittsfield, several businesses along Route 20 are populated with folks who grew up in Massachusetts and will cheer for the Patriots. Last week, Colleen Snyder was manning Liberty Package and Variety. Also a bartender at the Hot Dog Ranch in Pittsfield, she said she's always been a fan of Brady and company.
"It's all Patriots fans [at the Hot Dog Ranch]," said Snyder, who predicts a 27-20 New England win today. "We have a few Giants fans, and we just give them a hard time every week. Especially [now]. Revenge is definitely due."
New Lebanon High School swimming coach Tim Christiansen is one of those Giants fans. He grew up following the team on Long Island and said he enjoyed his team's title run during the 2007 season. He predicts a 27-24 New York win today.
If the Giants do prevail, at least one Patriots fan won't be downtrodden, though. Filiault, who became a Giants fan years ago before the Patriots were on TV regularly, said the game presents no dilemma for him at all.
"There's one way to look at it: I can't lose," he said. "Whoever wins, I got a winner. I prefer the Patriots."
To reach Christopher James:
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On Twitter: @BECJ2K