Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
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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January 27, 2012 | 12:59 pm
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
Delray Beach, Fla.—Speaking on Friday at an event organized by the state’s Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) chapter, former House Speaker and Republican Presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich struck a mostly professorial tone as he talked foreign policy to a friendly audience.
He may have been introduced as “the next president of the United States,” but Gingrich was still trying to convince the crowd of about 300, some of whom had already pledged their support to his Republican rivals, that he deserved their support in Florida’s primary election, being held on January 31.
“If, with your help, we carry this primary,” Gingrich said, “at that point, I believe, we’ll be a long way towards the nomination.” If nominated, he continued, “I believe that we can decisively defeat President Obama in a general election.”
Gene Goldberg, who has lived in Boca Raton for 30 years, was in the room. He’s supporting former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney because he doesn’t believe Gingrich can win in November.
“I think Gingrich is—” and then Goldberg turned to his wife of 27 years to ask for the word “—explosive. I think he’s a very intelligent man and knowledgeable. But he’s too explosive.”
“I’m not into cheating on your wives,” Goldberg added. “And he did it on both of them.”
Just one week after he decisively won the South Carolina primary, Gingrich is once again the underdog in the race for the Republican nomination.
A new Quinnipiac University poll showed him trailing former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney by nine points, likely the result of Romney’s campaign vastly outspending Gingrich’s in this large and important swing state. The attack ads targeting the former speaker being aired on Florida’s expensive airwaves, paid for by Super PACs affiliated with Romney, don’t help Gingrich’s chances, either.
At the RJC event, Gingrich did take a few shots at Romney, but his speech focused mostly on familiar territory: foreign policy, and specifically the Middle East.
If elected, Gingrich promised to enact a “very different strategy for the entire region.” He said that any efforts to broker a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians had to wait until the Palestinians first accept Israel’s right to exist, relinquish any right of return, and “adequately quit teaching terrorism.”
“Until they do those three things, there is no peace process. This is a fraud,” Gingrich said. “And it’s a dangerous fraud because it always leads to one-sided pressure on Israel.”
When it came to Iran, Gingrich reiterated his belief that a nuclear Iran could endanger Israel. Talk of “a second Holocaust,” Gingrich said, wasn’t hyperbolic.
“If you’re going to go to Yad Vashem,” Gingrich said, referring to the Holocaust museum in Israel, “if you’re going to go around saying ‘Never again,’... then we had better act before it happens, not after it happens.”
That line, along with a few others, won a standing ovation from the audience, and there were certainly a number of Gingrich supporters in the crowd.
“I just think he’s a stronger person,” said Haley Joyce, a Gingrich backer who lives in nearby coastal town of Ocean Ridge. “He’s not a yes man.”
Joyce had just been interviewed by a journalist from another Jewish publication, and she said the conversation ended somewhat abruptly, when she told the interviewer that she wasn’t Jewish.
“This is why our country is so divided,” Joyce said, expressing frustration at those who describe themselves with hyphenated terms like Jewish-American or African-American. “Why can’t we all just be Americans?” she asked.
One Jewish-American, Peter Weisz, said he knew that many Jews were wary of supporting Gingrich, preferring to support Romney, for reasons that went beyond simple electability.
“They also feel that Romney is a little bit more, how shall I put it, acceptable taste-wise, for people that buy into a liberal agenda,” Weisz said. “He’s not as off-putting about abortion, etcetera. That’s why he’s gaining some support among Jews.”
But Weisz, who was holding a sketch of Gingrich he had made during the event (see photo), said that Jews voting for Romney should think twice about their choice.
“If you’re looking at a litmus test, which of these gentlemen is the most devoted Zionist,” Weisz said, “any investigation will tell you it’s got to be Gingrich.”
How Tuesday’s Republican primary will turn out is anyone’s guess. The first three states to vote turned up three different winners. The candidates have met for 19 televised debates. And yet the Republican party’s voters remain divided.
Romney is often referred to as the candidate of the Republican party’s establishment, and the endorsements he’s racked up are evidence of that. Arizona Sen. John McCain, who ran for President in 2008, has been stumping for Romney in Florida and Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz, another surrogate, was actually present at Gingrich’s RJC event. I heard one Romney advertisement playing on a Spanish-language radio station that featured endorsements from prominent Latino elected officials, including Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
But Adam Hasner, a former majority leader in the Florida State Legislature who is running for U.S. Senate, was also in the room on Friday, and he said he was, like many Republican voters, “still uncommitted.”
“I am in good company,” Hasner said, “because [former Florida Governor] Jeb Bush and [Florida Sen.] Marco Rubio have also not publicly declared which Presidential candidate they’re supporting,”
January 26, 2012 | 12:54 pm
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
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