Jewish Journal

How a Jewish doctor turned a Santa Monica pub into New York Giants territory

by Jonah Lowenfeld

February 2, 2012 | 10:57 pm

Steven Ohsie (center, hands raised) organized "the largest New York Giants fan group west of the Delaware River." Seen here at their earlier home, the group will be gathering at O'Brien's in Santa Monica for the Super Bowl on Sunday. Photo courtesy www.giantsfansinla.com

This Sunday, with millions watching around the world, it won’t be tough to find a TV tuned to the Super Bowl between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots. But for Giants fans in Los Angeles looking for a raucous and supportive crowd, O’Briens Irish Pub in Santa Monica is the place to be, and that’s largely thanks to the efforts of Steven Ohsie.

“KTLA came and filmed a bunch of segments on Monday morning,” said Ohsie, a pathologist who was born in New Jersey and has been a Giants fan all his life. Since that report earlier this week, the pub’s phone has been ringing non-stop.

“It’s going to be beyond packed,” Ohsie said.

In 2007, Ohsie wasn’t looking to start a club for Giants fans; he was just looking for a place to watch Giants games that weren’t being shown on local television. But after some research, he found that Pats fans had Sonny McClean’s in Santa Monica, groups of Cincinatti Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers fans gathered at Barney’s Beanery on the Third Street Promenade, and supporters of the G-Men had nowhere to gather.

What started with a mass email to addresses culled from a Giants fan website later migrated to meetup.com. Here’s how Ohsie describes the group (and himself) on its home page, www.giantsfansinla.com:

We are the largest New York Giants fan group west of the Delaware River. We meet every Sunday (and sometimes Monday Night) to watch Big Blue lay waste to their opponents. Our current home is O’Brien’s Irish Pub, 2226 Wilshire Blvd between 22nd and 23rd street, Santa Monica, CA 90403. You can recognize me by my Aaron Ross jersey and the Giants kipa (Jewish skullcap) on my head.

Yup, in addition to being a die-hard Giants fan since he was around 10 years old, Ohsie is Jewish. He’s Sabbath-observant, too—he is a lay leader of an early-Shabbat-morning minyan at Beth Jacob, a Modern Orthodox synagogue near Pico-Robertson—so when the Giants play on Saturdays, as they did against the Jets on Christmas Eve this season, Ohsie fires up his DVR on Friday afternoon and waits until after sunset on Saturday to watch.

Although he does harbor a few concerns about whether the Giants might “lay an egg” when they take the biggest stage in sports this Sunday, Ohsie is pretty confident in his team’s ability to put up points.

“I’m not so worried about their offense,” he said. “The Giants have enough receivers that I think one of them will be open enough.”

The Giants’ biggest challenge, Ohsie said, will be to put pressure on Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady and shut down his two tight ends, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. “New England’s tight ends are a step above every other team’s,” he said.

When it comes to fostering fan experiences for out-of-towners, Ohsie is an evangelist. I first met him while sitting in the stands at Dodger Stadium. He was wearing a blue hat with two orange Hebrew letters on it—mem-tzadi, which spells “Mets”—and tzitzit peeking out from beneath his replica Mets Jersey.

When he heard a few transplanted New Yorkers cheering when a Dodger batter went down swinging, he immediately approached with a business card in his outstretched hand. He has also organized a group of Mets fans to watch games on Sundays during baseball season, and the group makes an annual pilgrimage to Chavez Ravine to root against the home team. But with the Mets being, well, the Mets, Ohsie said that more people are showing up for football.

That wasn’t the case in the latter half of the New York Football Giants’ 2007-08 season, though. Ohsie was a medical resident at the time, and while the first few games brought out about a dozen or so guys, the numbers dwindled as the weeks passed.

But any Giants fan—or Patriots fan, for that matter—remembers exactly how that season turned out. The two teams played against each other in the last game of the regular season, a memorable match-up that ended when the Patriots staged a fourth-quarter comeback that helped seal their perfect 16-0 record.

Despite the loss, the Giants qualified for the playoffs as a Wild Card. Ohsie and his fellow fans were together—the meeting spot was Rick’s Tavern On Main in Santa Monica back then—to watch Big Blue beat the higher-ranked Tampa Bay Buccaneers. A television crew from Fox 11 was on hand, and the next week, when the Giants faced the Dallas Cowboys, that bar was stuffed with fans.

“Everyone had seen it,” Ohsie said. When the Giants beat Dallas (a victory so unexpected it provoked this early Hitler-rant) the TV cameras came back to Rick’s for the NFC Championship Game, which saw the Giants beat the Green Bay Packers, setting up a rematch with the Patriots in the Super Bowl.

That was when the Giants brought New England’s perfect season to a stunning end. According to the website, there were 59 people at Rick’s for the 2008 Super Bowl. Ohsie wasn’t one of them. He bought a ticket from a guy in the Valley the week before the game, and headed to Arizona. He later learned he could’ve done better buying one in the parking lot at the last minute, but still felt the money was well spent.

“I was at the game and you could see that Tyree was open,” Ohsie said, recalling the incredible “helmet catch” by Giants Wide Receiver David Tyree that set up the last-minute game-winning touchdown.

This time around, Ohsie is saving his pennies (“I’ve been to Indianapolis before; I don’t need to see it again”) and heading for O’Brien’s. The doors open at 11 am, and the first 80 or so people who arrive will get in on a first-come, first-served basis.

Of course, for those who’ve been watching the Giants at O’Brien’s with Ohsie, week-in, week-out, for the last three years, certain arrangements have been made.

“I do have a seat saved for me, yes,” Ohsie said.

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