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John Farrell grew up in Bedford, Mass., and is a lifelong Giants fan. What else would he be?

"We were all Giants fans," he said.

Wait: All Giants fans, deep in the heart of New England?

It's a strange-but-true wrinkle in the history of the teams that will meet in Super Bowl XLVI, one that has left many Big Blue loyalists pinned deep behind enemy lines.

Take Matt Pictou, who grew up in Biddeford, Maine, and now lives in the Boston area. He is a Giants diehard, just like his father before him, and just as he is grooming his toddler son to be.

"My household was a Giants household, just bleeding Giants blue," he said.

This requires explaining. Unlike the Yankees, almost uniformly loathed north of New Haven, Conn., for close to a century, the Giants were New England's football team by default for many years. They even played their home games at New Haven's Yale Bowl in 1973-74 while waiting for Giants Stadium to be completed.

From the time the peculiarly named Boston Yanks left the NFL after 1948 until the Boston Patriots joined the new AFL in 1960, pro football fans in the extreme Northeast gravitated toward the glamorous Giants of that era.

"I grew up a Giants fan," Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy told the Los Angeles Times. "Every Sunday it was Chris Schenkel calling the game on our televisions. People over 55 remember the Patriots had to fight the Giants for this market."

Even after the Patriots came along, for many they were an afterthought.

"No one took them seriously," said Farrell, who attended some of their games with friends for 50 cents. "We thought the whole thing was a joke."

Many children of those Giants fan in New England followed suit.

"I don't have recollections of people rooting for anybody but the Giants," said Farrell, who now lives in Denville, N.J. "The old-school guys thought the AFL was minor league."

PEP RALLY: Packed to capacity in the lower level on one side of Gillette Stadium on Sunday, Patriots fans watched replays from victory in the AFC title game over Baltimore that put New England in the Super Bowl.

A few minutes later, those roughly 25,000 fans sent the players off in style.

The Patriots officially began their short journey to Indianapolis by attending a free send-off rally, addressing the fans and returning the appreciation that has been bestowed upon them.

"This never gets old, huh?" RB Kevin Faulk asked the raucous crowd. "The one question I was asked during the offseason was, 'Why are you coming back, Kevin?'

"This is it, right here."

After the 13-minute program, the Patriots began their trip. The team arrived in Indianapolis that afternoon.

The Giants are scheduled to arrive today.

WIND RUSH: High winds reportedly topping 50 mph forced organizers to temporarily evacuate two tents at the NFL Experience interactive fan exhibit in downtown Indianapolis.

NFL Experience spokesman Noah Gold said visitors were led out of sponsor and memorabilia tents, which reopened about an hour later.

WTHR-TV reported that downtown wind gusts up to 51 mph were recorded in the afternoon.