PROGRAMMING NOTE: Get the latest news on the 49ers tonight on SportsNet Central at 6 and 10:30 p.m., along with a replay of today's 49ers press conference at 9:30.
Aside from the Dallas Cowboys, is there any team that 49ers fans loathe more that the New York Football Giants?
Dont bother pondering the question. The answer is an emphatic no. Even during the reign of Brett Favre, 49ers fans could never muster up a serious abhorrence of the Packers. Division rivals dont mean much here, especially since the Rams moved away from California.
But the Giants? Self-proclaimed Big Blue? The football kings of the city that considers itself the center of the universe? Now theres a team that 49ers fans have learned to hate (and by hate I mean a healthy, respectful, sports-based dislike, not a license to harass, intimidate or act like pigs toward the opposition).
RELATED: 49ers-Giants history a rivalry for the ages
Theres a long and tortured history between the teams -- arguably more tortured than even the hatefest with the Cowboys. No teams have met more often in the playoffs than the 49ers and the Giants (a record-tying eight times, all since 1981). Four times the winner of the game has gone on to win the Super Bowl.
The Giants were speed bumps on the road to 49ers Super Bowl championships in both 1981 and 1984, when the 49ers easily beat them in the divisional round. But then came revenge.
In the ensuing years, the Giants inflicted more heartbreak -- beyond the loss of mere football games on the 49ers -- than any other team.
So here, in descending order, are the top five reasons to hate the Giants.
5. Theyre still whining about the no-call from that playoff game nine years ago.
The 49ers rallied from 24 points down in the fourth quarter to win 39-38. On a botched field goal attempt-turned-pass play, Chike Okeafor appeared to have committed pass interference on an eligible receiver downfield but there was no call. In the ensuing years, the Giants went on to win a Super Bowl. The 49ers havent gotten close to the playoffs since. They got their punishment so stop complaining (and the Giants wouldnt have beaten Tampa, anyway).
RELATED: A personal story of from a 49ers fan and his Giants-loving grandfather
4. Their quarterback Phil Simms basically accused the 49ers of quitting.
Back in December of 1988, the 10-6 Giants needed help from the 49ers to make the playoffs. Yeah, like that was going to happen. The 49ers had already secured a playoff berth and were playing the Rams in a game without any ramifications. Bill Walsh smartly, we might add opted to rest most of his starters. The Rams won by 22 points. Simms accused the 49ers of laying down like dogs, before someone put his binky back in his mouth.
3. Simms pops off.
Simms went helmet-to-helmet with Ronnie Lott in one of the most intense regular season matchups in NFL history, a Monday night game in December of 1990 that ended 7-3. It felt as if somebody had close down Rome, and we were in the middle of the Coliseum -- two teams of ancient gladiators, Lott has said about the game. Former Giant Jim Burt had fueled Lotts fire by telling him Simms didnt respect him. And the Giants were clearly livid to be outplayed in the trenches by a finesse team.
2. Jim Burts hit on Joe Montana.
It came in the second quarter of what ended up being a 49-3 rout in a 1987 playoff game. Lawrence Taylor intercepted the ball and returned it for a touchdown as Montana lay knocked out cold - on the ground. Montana, who had returned from potentially career-ending back surgery less than two months earlier, left the field on a stretcher. I was living in New York at the time and was stunned: along with pretty much everyone else, I thought I had seen the last play of Montanas career.
1. The 1991 NFC Championship Game.
This was a Shakespearian drama on the football field. The 49ers were two-time defending Super Bowl champions, on a quest to prove themselves the greatest team of all time. Most will remember it for Roger Craigs fumble with a little more than two minutes remaining, which was recovered by Taylor (who else?) and led to the game-winning field goal. But the bitterest moment for the 49ers was Leonard Marshalls hit on Montana with about 10 minutes to play. Flushed out of the pocket, Montana stepped to avoid Taylor (both Craig and Jerry Rice were open downfield) and Marshall tackled him from behind, crushing Montana into the Candlestick turf. The game was stopped for several minutes as team doctors, Lott, Young and others huddled around Montana and Eddie DeBartolo paced in his booth.
The play, in effect, ended Montanas career as a 49er and the Giants ended the 49ers most glorious era. That NFC title game was the last important game Montana would ever play in a 49ers uniform -- his only other appearance was a meaningless Monday night game against Detroit in 1992 when he came off the bench. Craig and Lott would leave the team as Plan B free agents that spring. The team that wanted to be the greatest of all time was no more. All because of the Giants.
Freelance writer Ann Killion is a regular contributor to CSNBayArea.com and Chronicle Live.