EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – It wasn't the Canyon of Heroes and there wasn't as much tickertape, but that didn't seem to bother about 30,000 New York Giants fans who flocked to MetLife Stadium Tuesday to celebrate the team's rousing Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots.
Some of them even got to touch a piece of history when Giants running back Brandon Jacobs capped the boisterous celebration by taking the Vince Lombardi Trophy and walking it around the stadium to give delirious fans in the lower rows a chance to lean over and put their hands on it. It was an impromptu moment that fit the mood of the afternoon.
"We just came from a great parade in the Canyon of Heroes, but when you pull into this place and see all the fans, there really is no place like home," team co-owner John Mara told the cheering crowd.
Thousands of fans showed up hours early to tailgate in the parking lot as if it were a Sunday during the season. And with weather in the upper 40s and low 50s, it was hard to distinguish it from October anyway.
Carol and John Senatore of Stony Point, N.Y., near West Point, share a season-ticket package and didn't even consider going into New York for the morning parade.
"We tailgate all year, so we figured why not do it today, too," John Senatore said. "This is more intimate."
Dennis Ubiles, a Manhattan resident, opted to come across the river instead of heading downtown. He managed to get son Andrew out of his elementary school for the day. And the two were ready to celebrate, Dennis in his Victor Cruz jersey like so many Giants fans, and Andrew with the No. 9 of kicker Lawrence Tynes.
"I like him because he's Scottish and my mother's Scottish," Andrew explained.
Ubiles said he never doubted the Giants would rise to the occasion even when they lost four games in a row late in the season. He said he chose to come to the New Jersey celebration because he thought it would have a little more edge.
"I think the players will really kick back," he said. "We might see some salsa."
It wasn't salsa being performed on the players' stage in the middle of the field, but there were some non-football moves being made when the rap group Naughty By Nature performed at the end of the program.
Afterward, Cruz, the wide receiver who became an instant hero this season with his long touchdown runs and end-zone salsa performances, signed autographs for dozens of fans who leaned over the front row of the stands to get close to him. At one point during the bedlam, he posed for a picture with 18-year-old Zack Pollack of Passaic, a cerebral palsy sufferer who watched the ceremony from his wheelchair on the field.
"This means so much to him," his father, Larry said. "He watches all the games."
Zack couldn't contain himself, shouting out, "I love Victor Cruz!"
Several players, including quarterback Eli Manning and defensive lineman Justin Tuck, addressed the fans, with Tuck proclaiming that the stadium the Giants share with the New York Jets is "our house."
Gov. Chris Christie attended the ceremony but did not speak.
One fan held up a sign that captured the essence of the day: "Thank You Giants, We Got To Miss School Again."