FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. – Westport bartender Craig Heatley has always dreamed of going to the Super Bowl.
But even in his wildest dreams the 50-year-old lifelong Westport resident never thought he would get there to watch his New York Giants play in America's biggest sports showcase.
That dream is coming true Sunday for Heatley, who was tending bar late Saturday afternoon at Mario’s Place in Westport, where he was being treated like a celebrity by fellow workers and customers.
“This is the dream of a lifetime. I still can’t believe I’m going, but fate works out sometimes,” Heatley said while serving customers, most of whom urged him to root on another Giants victory over the New England Patriots while in Indianapolis.
“A friend of mine who is a Patriots fan happens to have tickets this year, and wouldn’t you know it, the Giants are in the game, too.”
Heatley is scheduled to be among a group of eight – equally divided between Giants and Patriots fans – leaving on a charter flight early Sunday morning from Sikorsky Memorial Airport in Stratford. They will fly home after the game, which starts at 6:30 and is expected to end about 11 p.m.
“It’s going to be a long day,” said Heatley. “But that flight home will feel a lot shorter if we win.”
“Hey, Craig, you better root hard enough to help the Giants win the game. We’re counting on you,” a man at the bar shouted.
“Hey, I’ll give it my best shot. And I think we’re going to win. But Brady and Belichick are tough, and they want revenge from having their perfect season ruined by the Giants four years ago. It’s going to be a close game. I’m just thrilled to be going.”
Patriots fan Dick Roskopt of Greenwich was hardly thrilled to be at the Super Bowl in Arizona four years ago when his team lost a crusher to the Giants. All Roskopt thinks about is how the Patriots were within less than a minute of becoming the first National Football League team to go 19-0, but “let it slip away.”
The Patriots were beating the Giants 14-10 and New York’s drive was about to be stopped. Suddenly, Eli Manning avoided an almost certain sack that would have buried the Giants, connecting with receiver David Tyree in the famous “helmet catch.”
Two plays later Manning completed a pass to Plaxico Burress in the end zone to win the game, 17-14.
“I was there and it was one of the worst moments of my life,” said Roskopt, who grew up in the Boston suburb of Hingham. "After that game I couldn't listen to the radio or watch TV for weeks. I've never been able to bring myelf to watch a replay of that [Tyree] catch "
He was shopping Saturday at the Sports Authority in Norwalk, seeking out some Patriots jerseys and caps with his 11-year-old daughter, Grace, also a big Patriots fan.
“The Giants just got lucky last time,” Grace said. “This time there won’t be any lucky catches at the end of the game. Brady is going to tear them apart.”
Nearby, 7-year-old Layla Magnusen of Norwalk, at the store with her father, Mark Magnusen, and sister, Audrey, 9, predicted the Giants will beat the Patriots again.
“They [Giants] have a better defense,” said Layla. “The Patriots secondary is bad.”
Her father, wearing a Giants cap, laughed and said his daughters “probably know more about the game than I do. I’m a fan, but they are really into it. They wanted some Giants shirts and hats, but they’re all sold out.”
Store Manager Josh Sataldo said having the Giants and Patriots in the big game has been good for business.
“We keep getting shipments in of jerseys, hats, sweat shirts and t-shirts, but they sell out within hours,” Sataldo said. “If the Giants win, it’s going to be crazier on Monday when all the Super Bowl stuff goes on the shelves.”
At Dunville’s, a popular restaurant and bar in Westport, fans jammed the bar and watched basketball in anticipation of the Super Bowl on Sunday.
Co-owner Steve Carpentier, a lifelong Giants fan, wore a No. 10 Eli Manning jersey to the delight of bar patrons. Carpentier and his partner, Dan Horelik, are themselves delighted with the extra business the Giants-Patriots rematch is likely to generate.
“You couldn’t ask for anything better for business, or more exciting as a fan,” said Carpentier. “We always do good business on Sundays and during the Super Bowl, but with two regional teams in it we’ll do 50 percent more than during a normal Super Bowl.”