GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) -John Mara felt awkward representing the New York Giants on media day at the Super Bowl.
Carrying the title of president and chief executive officer, Mara runs the day-to-day operations of one of the NFL's oldest franchises (1925).
However, say the name Mara in NFL circles, and there's only one - Wellington Mara.
The longtime owner died at the age of 89 on Oct. 25, 2005. This is the team's first trip to the Super Bowl since his death and that of co-owner Bob Tisch less than a month later.
``It's bittersweet,'' John Mara said. ``I would have loved to have had both of them here. I would have loved to have had him (Wellington) standing here instead of me. I think he certainly would have enjoyed this. Both would have enjoyed this.''
One of the first congratulatory telephone calls that Mara received after New York beat Green Bay in the NFC title game was from Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots, who will play against Mara's Giants in Sunday's Super Bowl.
Kraft telephoned Wellington Mara many times for advice after buying the Patriots.
But that's what made the elder Mara stand out. He was the league's patriarch, a man who was willing for more than 40 years to split the millions in television revenues he could have made in the nation's largest market with the Green Bays of the league.
``I was a New York Giant fan before the Patriots were created,'' Kraft said. ``I used to watch Y.A. Tittle, (Jim) Katcavage, Frank Gifford and (Dick) Modzelewski. I remember watching Jimmy Brown have a great game against the Giants, watching it up in Boston. And when the Patriots were founded, I became a Patriots' fan. But there was always a little residual special feeling toward the Giants. But not this week at all.''
The younger Mara said that this might have been one of his father's favorite teams. It has overcome the adversity of an 0-2 start, won a record 10 games on the road and then pulled off three upsets in the playoffs.
``He would have loved this. Are you kidding?'' John Mara said. ``All of those tough, close games we won on the road, he would have absolutely loved this, and the way the offensive line played, that was his favorite unit.''
The elder Mara also would have taken a lot of pride in the Giants' new hierarchy.
The sons of the owners are running the franchise now and the football operation has a new leader with Jerry Reese taking over from Ernie Accorsi as general manager this season.
Reese became the league's third black general manager when the Giants promoted him in January, although there have been other black managers who have helped run the team without the title.
``It's a fairy tale for a first year,'' said Reese, who grew up in Tiptonville, Tenn., a town of about 2,500 people. ``You've got guys that work in this business for 20 years and never even make it to the playoffs. It's really been a fairy tale. It could be beginners luck, or call it what you will, but we're lucky to be here.''
Reese has pulled all the right strings. Seven of his eight draft picks are making contributions, with cornerback Aaron Ross (first round) and tight end Kevin Boss (fifth round) starting, and halfback Ahmad Bradshaw (seventh round) leading the team in rushing in the playoffs.
A waiver acquisition, Madison Hedgecock, is the starting fullback. Place-kicker Lawrence Tynes, whose overtime field goal got the Giants into the Super Bowl, was acquired in an offseason trade for a draft pick, and starting weakside linebacker Kawika Mitchell was signed for a paltry $1 million in a one-year deal.
Reese credits his success to something that Wellington Mara liked - hard work.
The elder Mara started as a ball boy on his father's team and worked his way to the top.
Reese also feels strong about his role as a minority leader.
``It is my time to carry the torch,'' he said. ``Really the guys who suffered, they did the hard work. Right now, this is my time to just try to be successful and show people that African- Americans can do the job.''
Like Mara, Reese is very much a hands-on leader. He watches practice and does not hesitate to walk up to a player and asked about what happened in a game, why a play was or wasn't made.
On Sunday, the Giants will look to win their third Super Bowl title. The others were after the 1986 and '90 seasons.
Steve Tisch, whose father purchased 50 percent of the Giants after the 1990 season, wished his father could have seen this one.
``He is sadly missed by his widow, children and grandchildren,'' said Steve Tisch. ``On Sunday, the Giants will take with field with his and Wellington's memories in their hearts. I am very proud to carry with me all that my father loved about the NFL, New York and his passion ... the New York Giants.''
The sons of Wellington Mara carry mementos from their father: John Mara wears his 1956 championship ring. Chris Mara uses the binoculars he used for 30 years. Frank Mara wears his gold Rolex watch.
``He would have loved every minute of it,'' Chris said.

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