Tuesday, August 18, 2015

How to Go to a Giants or Jets Game at the Meadowlands


Due to circumstances beyond my control, I was unable to do my trip guides for the 2015 baseball season.

And the Yankees are in 1st place, unlike the last 2 seasons. Coincidence? I hope so.

Football season will soon be upon us. So I bring you my update of how to go to an NFL game at the Meadowlands.

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With the 2015 National Football League season approaching, I decided to do my "How to Be a (team name) fan in (city name)" series for football, starting with the home teams, the New York Giants of East Rutherford and the New York Jets of East Rutherford (as the baseball Angels might call them). This is, of course, less for those of you who are Tri-State Area fans, more for those of you visiting from other cities/metropolitan areas.

I'll also be doing this for each of their 2015 away opponents too, including (should they make it) any teams they go away to in the Playoffs (if I haven't already done them.)

According to a map based on Facebook "Likes," showing each County in the country, until 2013, the Jets had just one County where they had more fans than the Giants: Nassau County, Long Island, which had long been the location of their team offices and training camp, Weeb Ewbank Hall on the campus of Hofstra University, across from the Nassau Coliseum.


Now, even Nassau is listed as majority Giants territory. I guessSports Illustrated had it right in 1986, when the Giants were on their way to their 1st Super Bowl win and the Jets were also Playoff-bound: "In the Big Apple, the Jets are always second banana."

Before You Go. In New York and North Jersey, anything is possible as far as the weather goes, but there are some usuals. It can get really hot early in the season, really cold from November on out, and the biggest thing wrong with Giants Stadium, the wind, wasn't fixed for MetLifeStadium, even with $1.6 billion at their disposal. So be aware of the possibility of any kind of weather. Check the newspaper or local TV websites for the forecast before you decide what to wear.

It's the Eastern Time Zone, so you don't have to worry about fiddling with your timepieces if you actually are a Giants fan, or a Jets fan, or a fan of any of the teams in the East visiting them (Giants: Atlanta Falcons, Washington Redskins, Philadelphia Eagles, Carolina Panthers; Jets: Redskins, Eagles, Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars, 
Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots). It's 1 hour ahead of the Central Time Zone (Giants: Dallas Cowboys; Jets: None), 2 hours ahead of Mountain (neither team will be hosting any teams from that time zone), and 3 hours ahead of Pacific (Giants: San Francisco 49ers; Jets: None).

Tickets. The games are usually sold out well in advance, with all 82,566 seats sold (if not actually occupied during the game). This is in spite of the fact of the familiar joke that the only reason anyone goes to Jet games is that they can't get tickets to Giant games.

This may be right: In 2014, the Giants averaged 78,967 fans per home game, about 95 percent of capacity, and 2nd in the League only to the Dallas Cowboys. The Jets? "Only" 78,160, or 94 percent of capacity.

As with Giants Stadium, MetLife Stadium has 3 main decks. In the lower level, expect to pay $400 to $1,400 on the sidelines, and $219 to $332 in the end zones. In the middle level, $593 to $792 sidelines, $227 to $265 end zones. In the upper level, $128 to $443 sidelines, $123 to $233 end zones.

Getting There. 
For reasons that will soon become clear, I'm advising you to get to New York/New Jersey by a means other than driving: Plane, train, bus. Then get a hotel nearby (there are several near both Newark Airport and the Meadowlands Sports Complex), and then either get a rental car or take public transportation (especially the latter if you're actually staying in New York City).

If you're driving, here's how to get to MetLife Stadium by car: 

* From New York City itself: Take the Lincoln Tunnel, which will empty out onto New Jersey Route 3, which will take you directly to the stadium. With regular traffic, it should take you 20 minutes from entering the tunnel to getting off Route 3. This will not be regular traffic, and you should avoid this at all costs. Better to take New Jersey Transit, as I'll explain in "Going In."


* New England Patriots: It really depends on what part of New England you're starting from.
** From Cape Cod, Rhode Island and eastern Connecticut, take I-95 South the whole way.
** From northern Connecticut, western Massachusetts and Vermont, take Interstate 91 South until you reach New Haven, and then follow the preceding directions.
** From Boston, take Interstate 90/Massachusetts Turnpike West to Exit 9, take Interstate 84 West to Hartford, take Exit 86 onto I-91, and then follow the preceding directions.
** From New Hampshire, take Interstate 93 South until you get to Interstate 495, and take that until you get to the Pike, and then follow the directions from Boston.
** From Maine, you could take I-95 all the way, but it will probably be faster if you take it to I-495, and then follow the directions from New Hampshire.
** Once you get into New York City, cross over the George Washington Bridge, then get on the New Jersey Turnpike South, and take Exit 16W, and follow the signs for the stadium.
** The time you will need will also vary, depending on what part of New England you start from, but, from Boston, figure on at least 4 hours; northern New England, at least 5 hours. Counting a rest stop, count on at least 5 hours.* Philadelphia Eagles: Get into New Jersey and take the Turnpike North to Exit 16W, and follow the signs for the Stadium. About 1 hour and 45 minutes.

* Washington Redskins: Get on Interstate 95 North, and then follow the directions from Philadelphia. About 3 hours and 45 minutes. With a rest stop, probably at least 4 and a half hours.

* Buffalo Bills: The simplest way is to get on I-90, the New York State Thruway East, to Syracuse, then take Interstate 81 South to Scranton, switch to Interstate 380 South, to Interstate 80 East, then take that to Exit 53 for New Jersey Route 3, and take that to the Stadium. About 6 hours, maybe 8 hours with rest stops.


* Cleveland Browns: Get on I-90, and then follow the directions from Buffalo. About 7 hours, maybe 9 hours with rest stops.

* Carolina Panthers: Take Interstate 85 North until you hit I-95 in Virginia, and then follow the directions from Washington. About 9 and a half hours, maybe 12 hours with rest stops.

* Atlanta Falcons: Take Interstate 85 North, and then follow the directions from Carolina. About 13 hours, more like 16 hours with rest stops.

* Jacksonville Jaguars: Take I-95 North the whole way. About 13 and a half hours, more like 18 hours with rest stops.

* Miami Dolphins: Take I-95 North the whole way. About 18 and a half hours, maybe a full 24 hours with rest stops.


* Dallas Cowboys: Uh, yeah, you're flying. But if you really want to drive all the way from North Texas, take Interstate 20 East until you reach Atlanta, and then follow the directions from there. About 24 hours, maybe 30 hours with rest stops.

* San Francisco 49ers: Forget it, fly. If you really want to drive (almost) Coast to (almost) Coast, get on the Bay Bridge, and take I-80 for, literally, its entire length. About 42 hours, at least 48 hours with rest stops.

Be advised that traffic is going to be hellacious, even though (unless you're foolish enough to drive to a New York hotel) you'll never actually be entering New York City. So, whatever driving time I gave you, allow yourself at least half an hour to get from Exit 16W to your parking space.

Once In the City. East Rutherford is a Borough of 9,798 people in Bergen County, New Jersey. Its most famous native is basketball announcer Dick Vitale. If not for the Meadowlands complex, which opened in 1976 with Giants Stadium and the Meadowlands Racetrack, added the arena now named the IZOD Center in 1981, and replaced the Stadium with MetLife in 2010, it might very well be best known for producing Dickie V, bay-bee! It's not like, aside from the Complex, there's anything noticeable about it.

So if you're flying in, and your hotel isn't at the Complex or by the Airport, most likely, you'll be staying in Manhattan -- a.k.a. The City. Even people from Queens and Staten Island, which are in New York City, call Manhattan "The City."

Pennsylvania Station, a.k.a. Penn Station, is between 31st and 33rd Streets, between 7th and 8th Avenues. Port Authority Bus Terminal is between 40th and 42nd Streets, between 8th and 9th Avenues. They are one stop apart on the Subway's A, C and E trains. Outside Port Authority, there is a statue of Jackie Gleason dressed as bus driver Ralph Kramden on The Honeymooners, one of a series of statues commissioned by cable network TV Land (but the only one of these anywhere near New York).


When you get to your hotel, Penn Station or Port Authority, go to a Hudson News stand and pick up copies of The New York Times and the Daily News. Don’t read the New York Post. Like anything owned by Rupert Murdoch, it’s a bunch of right-wing lies with an occasionally good sports section added. The Times and the Daily News, however, are not only manned by responsible journalists, but have great sports sections. The Times is the face New York City likes to show the rest of the world. The Daily News is the face the City prefers to show itself. The Post is a face only a mother could love. Not my mother, though. Nor hers. 

The sales tax in New York City is 8.25 percent, in New Jersey 7 percent.

The city of New Amsterdam, and the colony of New Netherland, was founded by the Dutch in 1624. In 1664, the English took over, and named both city and colony New York, for the Duke of York, brother of King Charles II. As none of Charles' many children were legitimate, when he died in 1685, that brother became King James II -- and his reign did not end well, and let's leave it at that.

New York County, a.k.a. the Borough of Manhattan, was also named for James. "Manahatta" was an Indian word meaning "island of many hills." Kings County was named for King Charles, but the Dutch name Breuckelen stuck, and it became the City, and after 1898 the Borough, of Brooklyn. Queens County, or the Borough of Queens, was named for King Charles' Portuguese wife, Catherine of Braganza. Richmond County was named for one of Charles' sons, Charles Lennox, Earl of Richmond, but the Dutch name Staaten Eylandt stuck, and it became the Borough of Staten Island. And Jonas Bronck settled the land north of Manhattan, which became known as Bronck's Land, which somehow morphed into "The Bronx." Apparently, the "The" became attached because of the Bronx River that passes through it, as rivers are still frequently called that: The Hudson is, although never "The Harlem" or "The East." Anyway, it's the Borough of The Bronx and Bronx County.

New York has been the most populous city in America since surpassing Philadelphia in the post-Revolutionary period, and now has about 8.5 million people living in the Five Boroughs. About 20 million live in the New York Metropolitan Area, a.k.a. the New York Tri-State Area.

New York has a street grid, but doesn't quite follow a centerpoint system. For the east-west numbered Streets, below Washington Square Park, Broadway is the divider between the East Side and the West Side; above Washington Square to the Harlem River, it's 5th Avenue; in The Bronx, it's Jerome Avenue, which borders the 3rd-base stands of the new Stadium.

On the East Side, the Avenues go 5th, Madison, Park (which takes the place of 4th Avenue above Union Square), Lexington, 3rd, 2nd, 1st, York, East End. Numbered Streets will reach an address of 1 at 5th, 100 at Park, 200 at 3rd, 300 at 2nd, 400 at 1st. On the Lower East Side, this extends to 500 at Avenue A, 600 at Avenue B, 700 at Avenue C and 800 at Avenue D. (A, B, C and D, hence the nickname for this neighborhood: "Alphabet City.") The Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive (FDR Drive), formerly the East River Drive and once so dangerous it was called the Falling Down Roadway, separates the island from the East River.

On the West Side, the Avenues go 6th, a.k.a. Avenue of the Americas, Lenox Avenue or Malcolm X Blvd. above Central Park; 7th, a.k.a. Fashion Avenue, or Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. above Central Park; 8th, Central Park West above 59th Street, or Frederick Douglass Blvd. above Central Park; 9th, Columbus Avenue above 59th, or Morningside Drive above 110th; 10th, Amsterdam Avenue above 59th; 11th, West End Avenue above 59th, merging with Broadway at 108th; and Riverside Drive. The West Side Highway, a.k.a. the Joe DiMaggio Highway, separates the island from the Hudson River.



The north-south numbered Avenues start with 1 at their southern ends, and the addresses go up going Uptown, but there's no set pattern (every X blocks = 100 house numbers), and the vary as to where they begin:
Broadway, The Battery at the island's southern tip; 1st and 2nd, Houston Street (roughly, Zero Street -- and that's pronounced HOW-stin, not HEW-stin like the Texas city); 3rd, 9th Street; Lexington, 21st Street; Park, 32nd Street (Park Avenue South extends to 17th Street); Madison, 23rd Street (at Madison Square); 5th, Washington Square North (roughly, 6th Street); 6th, Franklin Street (the only numbered Avenue below Houston, so it's about -12th Street); 7th, 11th Street (7th Avenue South extends to Carmine Street, roughly at Houston or Zero); 8th, Bleecker Street (roughly 10th Street at that point); 9th, Gansevoort Street (roughly 12th Street); 10th and 11th, 13th Street; 12th, 22nd Street.

The Subway system looks complicated, and it is. The blue lines (A, C & E), orange lines (B, D & F) and red lines (1, 2 & 3) are on the West Side; the green lines (4, 5 & 6) on the East Side; the yellow lines (N, Q & R) go from the East Side when Downtown to the West Side in Midtown, and then cross over to Queens. A single ride is $2.75, and you're better off getting a multi-ride MetroCard. There will be a $1.00 charge for a new card.

Going In. Despite the fact that the Meadowlands Sports Complex is just 8
miles from Times Square, if you're in the City, getting to there by public transportation has never been easy. It used to be that the only way to do it was to get to the Port Authority Bus Terminal at 41st Street & 8th Avenue (A, C or E train to 42nd Street), and then take the New Jersey Transit 320 bus in. This is still possible, and, theoretically, you can get from bus station to stadium gate in 20 minutes. But, as I said, the traffic will be bad, so make sure you leave Port Authority no later than an hour before kickoff (12:00 or 3:00 for most Sunday games). Round-trip fare is $8.50.

The new option, established with the new Stadium, is by rail. You can get to Penn Station, at 32nd Street & 7th Avenue (1, 2, 3, A, C, or E train to 34th Street), and then switch to New Jersey Transit rail. Even then, you'll have to change trains at Secaucus Junction. At least then, it will only be one more stop, although why the rail spur goes around the Stadium, and not right to it, I'll never know. NJ Transit makes no sense whatsoever. But if you do it right, it should take about half an hour. Round-trip fare from New York's Penn Station is $10.50, and from Newark's Penn Station (from which you would also transfer at Secaucus Junction) it's $8.00.

Meadowlands Station

The official address of the Stadium is 1 MetLife Stadium Drive. Parking is $30. Tailgating is allowed in the Stadium parking lots. The Stadium has 5 gates, all named for corporations: MetLife (an insurance company, in case you didn't know), Bud Light, SAP, Verizon and Pepsi. The SAP Gate is the closest one to the train station.
For Giants games, the exterior of the Stadium lights up in blue. For Jets games, it lights up in green. This is a way of finally giving the Jets and their fans, who for a quarter of a century were stuck playing "home games" at a stadium named for another team, a sense of home-field advantage. (To avoid bias, as Giants Stadium had with Giants' blue & red seats, the seats at MetLife are gray.)
There are large video boards at each of the four corners of the stadium. The field is artificial turf. And while summer clothes may be fine for September or even early October, the wind can be nasty, so if you're going in November or later, bring a winter coat, a hat, gloves, maybe even earmuffs.

Food. I don't want this post to be any longer than it has to be, but the food options at MetLife are quite extensive. Whether they're appetizing is for you to decide. So here's a link.

Team History Displays. As the only stadium in the NFL that had, as they would say in soccer, "groundsharing," it was difficult to have team history displays at Giants Stadium. The Jets would hang banners with their retired numbers on the sideline, but the Giants, who naturally (as the older team and the more successful team) did not. And neither team, thus far, hangs representations of their World Championships (the Jets only the 1, the Giants 8, more than any team except the Green Bay Packers' 13 and the Chicago Bears' 9).

But with the opening of MetLife Stadium, and the electronically-aided switching between home teams, signs can be turned out around the lip of the upper deck, showing the Giants' and Jets' Rings of Honor.
The Giants honor the following 35 individuals: 

* From their 1927 NFL Champions: Founders/Owners Tim and Jack Mara, and two-way tackle Steve Owen (Number 55). Tim Mara and Owen are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. So is two-way end Ray Flaherty (1, retired); and quarterback Benny Friedman (6), who came a little bit after this and didn't stay for the next title.

* From their 1934 NFL Champions: The Mara brothers, now head coach Owen, center/linebacker Mel Hein (Number 7, retired), and running back/defensive back Ken Strong (50, retired). All of these except Jack Mara are in the Hall, as are Flaherty and two-way end Red Badgro (17).

* From their 1938 NFL Champions: Each of the preceding, running back/defensive back Alphonse "Tuffy" Leemans (4, retired), two-way end Jim Lee Howell (81). All of these except Howell and Jack Mara are in the Hall.

* From their 1944 team that lost the NFL Championship Game to the Green Bay Packers: The Mara brothers, Owen, and two-way tackle Al Blozis. Blozis' Number 32 is retired -- not because he was a great player, but because he then went into the service and was killed in action in World War II. So was another Giant from that 1944 team, two-way end Jack Lummus. Blozis, from Garfield, Bergen County, New Jersey, played 3 seasons for the Giants before being drafted, and was killed fighting the Nazis in France. Lummus only played the 1941 season for the Giants, then enlisted in the Marines, and died fighting the Japanese at Iwo Jima, from stepping on a land mine, but not before his heroics there got him the Congressional Medal of Honor, though he never knew it. Blozis and Lummus both had plaques in their memory on the center field clubhouse at the Polo Grounds, along with baseball Giants John McGraw, Christy Mathewson and Ross Youngs, former Mayor and Giants fan Jimmy Walker, and a monument for Eddie Grant, the baseball Giant killed in World War I.)


* From their 1956 NFL Champions: The Mara brothers, Howell (now head coach), quarterback Charlie Conerly (Number 42 retired), running backs Frank Gifford (Number 16 retired) and Alex Webster (29), offensive tackle Roosevelt Brown (79), defensive end Andy Robustelli (81), linebacker Sam Huff (70), and defensive back Emlen Tunnell (45). Each of these except Howell and Jack Mara is in the Hall. But two of Howell's assistant coaches are, though not for what they did with the Giants: Offensive coordinator Vince Lombardi, and defensive coordinator Tom Landry, who, after the early 1950s' switch to two-platoon football, was the first great defensive back (49), who did not also play defensive back, but retired and switched to a coaching role in time for the 1956 title, and may have made that title possible as much as anyone. Also in the Hall, but leaving the Giants before their 1956-63 glory days, was two-way tackle Arnie Weinmeister (73).

* From their 1958-63 teams that reached 5 NFL Championship Games and lost them all: Each of the preceding (Tim Mara died during that run), quarterback Y.A. Tittle (Number 14 retired), running back Joe Morrison (Number 40 retired), and defensive back Dick Lynch. All of these except Jack Mara, Morrison and Lynch are in the Hall.

* From the 1964-85 interregnum: Owner Wellington Mara, kicker Pete Gogolak (3), linebacker Brad Van Pelt (10), and punter Dave Jennings (13). Mara is in the Hall. So is quarterback Fran Tarkenton (10), who was a Giant between his two stints with the Minnesota Vikings.

* From their 1986-87 and 1990-91 Super Bowl XXI and XXV winners: Mara, general manager George Young, coach Bill Parcells, quarterback Phil Simms (Number 11 retired), tight end Mark Bavaro (89), defensive end George Martin (75), and linebackers Lawrence Taylor (56, retired), Harry Carson (53) and Carl Banks (58). Mara, Parcells, Taylor and Carson are in the Hall. Why isn't Young? Or Simms?  

* From their 2000-01 team that lost Super Bowl XXXV: Mara, co-owner Bob Tisch, running back Tiki Barber (21), receiver Amani Toomer (81), defensive end Michael Strahan (92) and linebacker Jessie Armstead (98). Mara and Strahan are in the Hall. Barber is not, despite being the all-time leading rusher in New York Tri-State Area football history (slightly ahead of Curtis Martin, who is in).

* From their 2007-08 Super Bowl XLII winners: Toomer and Strahan. Strahan is in the Hall. As yet, no player who was on their 2011-12 Super Bowl XLVI winners has been enshrined, mainly because so many of them are still active, such as quarterback Eli Manning.

The Jets honor the following 15 individuals:

* From their 1968-69 Super Bowl III winners: Owner Leon Hess, Coach Weeb Ewbank (a representation of a green coach's jacket stood in for a "retired number"), quarterback Joe Namath (Number 12 retired), receiver Don Maynard (13, retired), offensive lineman Winston Hill (75), defensive lineman Gerry Philbin (81) and linebacker Larry Grantham (60). Ewbank, Namath and Maynard are in the Hall of Fame. So is running back John Riggins (44), who arrived after the Super Bowl win, and played enough seasons to qualify as a "Jet in the Hall of Fame," although he's better known for his play with the Washington Redskins. Riggins is not, however, yet in the Ring of Honor.

* From their 1982 team that got to the AFC Championship Game: Hess, unning back Freeman McNeil (24), receiver Wesley Walker (85), and 3 of the 4 members of the defensive line known as the New York Sack Exchange: Tackle Marty Lyons (93) and ends 
Joe Klecko (73 retired) and Mark Gastineau (99). Tackle Abdul Salaam (74) has yet to be added.

* From the late 1980s and early 1990s: Hess, and receiver Al Toon (88). Defensive end Dennis Byrd, whose struggle to walk again led the Jets to retire his Number 90, has not yet been enshrined.

* From their 1998 team that won the AFC East and got to the AFC Championship Game, and their 2002 AFC East Champions: Hess, running back Curtis Martin (28, retired), and receiver Wayne Chrebet (80, retired). Parcells, the architect of this team after coaching the Giants and the New England Patriots, is in the Hall, but, as yet, enshrined only in the Giants' Ring of Honor, not the Jets'.

* No players from their 2009 or '10 teams that reached the AFC Championship Games, have yet been honored.

Giants Mel Hein, Roosevelt Brown and Lawrence Taylor were named to the NFL's 75th Anniversary Team in 1994. They, Emlen Tunnell, Sam Huff and Fran Tarkenton, and Jet Joe Namath, were named to The Sporting News' 100 Greatest Football Players in 1999 -- Taylor at Number 4, the highest-ranking defensive player. Hein, Huff, Tunnell, Tarkenton, Taylor, Strahan and Namath were named to the NFL Network's 100 Greatest Players in 2010 -- Taylor at Number 3, still the highest-ranking defensive player. Namath, Don Maynard, Bob Talamini, Gerry Philbin, Larry Grantham, Winston Hill and Jim Turner were named to the AFL's All-Time Team.

There is no representation at MetLife Stadium for the many college stars who played at Giants Stadium, either for Rutgers, or in the now-defunct Kickoff Classic, or in the Army-Navy Games of 1989, 1993, 1997 or 2002. It was also held a few times at the Polo Grounds, the old Yankee Stadium, and, way back in 1905, at Osborne Field, then the football home of Princeton University. Nor is there a mention of the 9 games played at Giants Stadium by the U.S. soccer team, or any other national team, or the New York Cosmos. Or of the August 10, 2010 U.S. loss to Brazil, or the March 26, 2011 draw with Argentina, both at MetLife. Or of Syracuse, which, due to its large amount of NYC-based alumni, plays 1 "home game" per year at MetLife.

Stuff. On the first floor of the outer edge of the stadium, along the west sideline, is The Flagship Store, as big as most Sports Authority or Modell's outlets, that sells both Giant and Jet gear. Which includes Giants' and Jets' hard hats, which so many fans in the urban Northeast and Midwest like to wear, imagining themselves to be as tough as construction workers. Ha ha.

It does not, however, sell team DVDs or books about the teams. I can, however, make some recommendations for those. New York Giants: The Complete Illustrated History, by Lew Freedman and former Giants player turned broadcaster Pat Summerall (who has since died) was updated in 2012.

Jack Cavanaugh's Giants Among Men tells how, as the subtitle puts it, the 1956-63 Giants "Made New York a Football Town and Changed the NFL." (Those Giants changed the NFL in 2 significant ways: They helped move pro football into the TV era, and made defense something to cheer for the first time. In fact, the now-familiar "Dee-FENSE!" chant was invented by Giant fans at the old Yankee Stadium.) Linebacker Jim Burt and Daily News sportswriter Hank Gola told the story of the next great Giant team in Hard Nose: The Story of the 1986 Giants.

Carlo DeVito and Sam Huff wrote Wellington: The Maras, the Giants, and the City of New York, about the late owner's relationship to the team and the Tri-State Area, with significant attention to how the Giants got forced out of The City by the impending renovation of Yankee Stadium, and how the team and The City have reacted to each other ever since.

Just as Summerall assisted on the Giants' version, Joe Namath co-wrote New York Jets: The Complete Illustrated History, with New York Post sportswriter Mark Cannizzaro. Shortly before Parcells brought the Jets back to respectability, longtime New York Times sportswriter Gerald Eskenazi wrote Gang Green: An Irreverent Look Behind the Scenes at Thirty-Eight (Well, Thirty-Seven) Seasons of New York Jets Football Futility. And Andrew Goldstein recently published Growing Up Green: Living, Dying, and Dying Again as a Fan of the New York Jets.

NFL Films produced installments in their The Complete History of the... series for both teams, in both cases going up through the 2007 season (enabling them to include the Giants' Super Bowl XLII win). And all 4 Giant Super Bowl wins, and the Jets' even more significant 1, are all available in DVD packages.

The film Little Giants is about youth football, and has nothing to do with the Big Blue Wrecking Crew. And one (oh-so-slightly) Jet-related film you do not want to get is the 1980 version of Flash Gordon. This piece of outer-space camp cast Sam J. Jones as an updated version of the 1930s film-serial hero, identified as a professional polo player then, now identifying himself as, and I quote, "Flash Gordon, quarterback, New York Jets." (I have to admit, though, he did bear a resemblance to the Jet quarterback of that time, Richard Todd.) The 1980 version of Flash Gordon not only failed to show any football action (even The Dark Knight Returns showed one play), it failed to properly ride the rise of science fiction generated by Star Trek and Star Wars, and made Flash look even more ridiculous than did the then-current TV version of Flash's long-ago contemporary, Buck Rogers. To put it another way: If your film's theme song is sung by Queen, and Freddie Mercury is the least campy person in the film, you've got a problem.


During the Game. According to a recent Thrillist article, both sets of New York football fans finished in the Top 10 Most Obnoxious Fans in the NFL: The Giants 8th, the Jets 4th.

Although New Yorkers and New Jerseyans can be intense, a visiting fan will probably be safe attending a game at MetLife Stadium. Giant fans may verbally harass people wearing Eagles or Cowboys gear, but if you don't provoke them, it won't get any worse than that. As for Jet fans, they'll probably leave you alone unless you're wearing Patriots gear. (Even Dolphin and Raider paraphernalia won't get under their skin.) But, again, don't provoke them, and you should be all right.

Neither the Giants nor the Jets have a mascot. The Giants have never had cheerleaders. The Jets didn't, either, until the 2007 establishment of the Jets Flight Crew.

The teams really don't need cheerleaders. These are, after all, New Yorkers, New Jerseyans, and Connecticutians... uh, Connecticutites... uh, people from Connecticut.

As I said, it was Giant fans in 1956 that invented the "Dee-FENSE!" chant. Jet fans, however, are content to chant, "J! E! T! S! Jets! Jets! Jets!" Giant fans may wonder if that's the best that Jet fans can do, but Jet fans can say, "At least we've proven we can spell." Of course, Giant fans could come back with "'Jets' is a four-letter word."

The man who long led the J-E-T-S chants from Section 134 (an end zone) of Giants Stadium, New York fireman Edwin "Fireman Ed" Anzalone, still went to games, but stopped going "in character" for a while -- a
pparently, it was Mark Sanchez's "Butt Fumble," on Thanksgiving Night 2012 against the arch-rival Patriots, that made him give up -- but with Sanchez and coach Rex Ryan both gone, he's back. (UPDATE: He even made the trip to London for the Jets' game against the Dolphins at Wembley.)

A native of College Point, Queens, not far from the Jets' former home of Shea Stadium, he wears a fireman's hat decorated with Jets gear, and a jersey, Number 42, in honor of former Jet running back Bruce Harper. (Briefly, he switched to 6 in support of the beleaguered Sanchez, until he, too, gave up on "The Sanchize." Oddly, while continuing to work with the FDNY, he actually lives in East Rutherford.
As for the Giants, I previously thought that they don't have any fans who are any more noticeable than the others. But this isn't true: Joe Ruback, a.k.a. License Plate Guy, has attended every Giants home game since Giants Stadium opened in 1976, and has attended every away game since 2003, too. He first came to a Giants game with his original plate, one of the old orange New York plates with blue lettering, reading "G1ANTS."

He now has a collection of 31 plates, rotating them, including a vanity plate with a Giants helmet (available from New York's DMV even though the Giants play in New Jersey), reading "XXIXX5" for their 1st 2 Super Bowl wins. (I guess someone already had "XXI XXV.") My favorite of his tweaks the New England Patriots for the Giants' smackdown of them, ending their shot at a perfect season: "18END1."
That's got to be heavy. Certainly, heavier than Ed's helmet.

Like Fireman Ed, he's no dope: He's trusted enough to be the athletic director at a school in Yonkers, and runs a design company. He's also appeared a few times on WFAN'sBoomer and Carton show with former Jet quarterback Norman Julius "Boomer" Esiason and Craig Carton.

After the Game. Traffic may be even worse after the game than before. After all, those 80,000 people have tried all day to get into the parking lot, some to tailgate, some just to see the game. Afterward, they all want to get out as soon as possible. (Well, maybe not all. Some fans like to do a postgame tailgate, too.) Be advised, it may take a while to get out.

Route 3 is probably your best bet for a postgame meal, as there are plenty of chain restaurants. It's a typically tacky and commercial Jersey highway. However, Manny's Cocktail Lounge, a.k.a. "Manny's of Moonachie" (that's pronounced Moo-NAH-key), made famous as a watering hole by fans of the 1980s Giants, has long since gone out of business. Its location, at 110 Moonachie Avenue, has been replaced by a Cuban-themed restaurant and banquet hall, La Havana 59. 

Sidelights. This is where I discuss other sports-related sites in the metropolitan area in question, and then move on to tourist attractions that have no (or little) connection to sports. Since most people reading this will be from the Tri-State Area, I'll keep it short as possible.

Both the Giants (1925-55) and the Jets (1960-63) used to play at the Polo Grounds. So did the baseball Giants (1890-1957), the Yankees (1913-22) and the Mets (1962-63). 155th Street & 8th Avenue in Upper Manhattan. D train to 155th Street. Definitely visit in daylight only.

A rare color shot of the Polo Grounds set up for football.

The original Yankee Stadium, the former home of the Yankees (1923-2008) and the Giants (1956-73), was on the south side of 161st Street at River Avenue. The new Stadium is on the north side. D or 4 train to 161st Street. Starting this season, it began hosting expansion soccer team New York City FC.
A nearly-as-rare color shot of Yankee Stadium hosting a Giants game.

Shea Stadium, the former home of the Mets (1964-2008) and Jets (1964-83), and where the Yankees played while the old Yankee Stadium was being renovated (1974-75), was in Flushing Meadow, Queens, just to the west of the new Mets ballpark, Citi Field. 7 train to Mets-Willets Point. The Giants played 1 season there, 1975.

Shea in Jets mode.

The Giants played half of 1973 and all of 1974 at the Yale Bowl in New Haven, Connecticut, about 80 miles northeast of Midtown Manhattan. Metro-North from Grand Central to New Haven, then walk from Union Station to Chapel Street, and take the F bus.
The Yale Bowl, set up for a recent game with Harvard

The Giants played at Giants Stadium from 1976 to 2009, the Jets from 1984 to 2009, Rutgers University football occasionally from 1976 to 1995 and their entire 1993 home slate there while Rutgers Stadium was being renovated, the old North American Soccer League's New York Cosmos from 1977 to 1984, and MLS' New York/New Jersey MetroStars, now New York Red Bulls, from 1996 to 2009. Games of the 1994 World Cup and the 1999 Women's World Cup were held there.
The current version of Madison Square Garden, home of the Knicks and Rangers since 1968, is at 32nd Street & 7th Avenue, on top of Penn Station. 1, 2, 3, A, C or E train to 34th Street-Penn Station. "The Old Garden" was at 49th Street & 8th Avenue, and is now home to an office and residential tower, Worldwide Plaza. C train to 50th Street, and the station contains a mural about the Garden.

The old Garden was home to the Knicks from 1946 to 1968, the Rangers from 1926 to 1968, and the old New York Americans of the NHL from 1925 to 1942. It hosted the NCAA Final Four (as we would now call it) in 1943 (Wyoming over Georgetown), 1944 (Utah over Dartmouth), 1945 (Oklahoma State, then known as Oklahoma A&M, over New York University), 1946 (Oklahoma State over North Carolina), 1947 (Holy Cross over Oklahoma), 1948 (Kentucky over Baylor) and 1950 (City College of New York over Bradley).

The NBA's Nets and the NHL's Devils used to play at the Meadowlands Complex, at the building now named the IZOD Center. The 1996 Final Four was held there (Kentucky over Syracuse). Now, the Nets play at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, and the Islanders will join them there for the 2015-16 season. 620 Atlantic Avenue & Flatbush Avenue. 2, 3, 4, 5, D, N or R train to Atlantic Avenue.

The Islanders played their 1st 43 seasons (well, 42, the NHL lockout killed the 2004-05 season) at the Nassau Coliseum. The Nets also played their best years (1971-77) there. 1255 Hempstead Turnpike in Hempstead (the mailing address is Uniondale). Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) from Penn Station to Hempstead Terminal, then transfer to N70, N71 or N72 bus.

The Devils now play at the Prudential Center in Newark. 165 Mulberry Street & Edison Place. New Jersey Transit rail from New York's Penn Station to Newark's station of the same name. Red Bull Arena, home of the New York Red Bulls, is across the Passaic River, at 600 Cape May Street in Harrison. PATH train to Harrison.

However, because of the distance involved, I'd say forget the Long Island and Connecticut places, unless you're a sports nut with an entire weekend to spare.

In terms of college football, Rutgers plays 36 miles from MetLife Stadium, Princeton 49 miles, Columbia 13 miles, Army 48 miles, and Yale 80 miles. (Seton Hall, who don't play football, have their gym 14 miles away.) Rutgers is the most popular college football team in North Jersey and Central Jersey (no surprise there), but can't seem to dent the stranglehold that Syracuse, 242 miles away but still in the State of New York, has on the title of New York City's favorite college football team. Penn State (especially in Central and even more so in South Jersey) and Notre Dame (especially on Long Island) also make inroads in the Tri-State Area. 

If you have more than 1 day (and more than a little money) to spend in and around New York, I do recommend the American Museum of Natural History (79th Street & Central Park West, C train to 81st Street), the Metropolitan Museum of Art (82nd Street & 5th Avenue, 4, 5 or 6 train to 86th Street and then walk 3 blocks west to 5th Avenue), the observation deck of the Empire State Building (34th Street & 5th Avenue, B, D, F, N, Q or R train to 34th Street-Herald Square and walk 1 block east), and the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site (the only President thus far born in The City was born at 28 East 20th Street, N or R train to 23rd Street).

However, I can't recommend the Statue of Liberty, as it's not cheap, it's time-consuming both to get there and to get through, and the view from the crown isn't what you might hope. The observation deck of the new World Trade Center is now open, but I haven't been there yet, and so I don't know whether to recommend it. And the 9/11 Memorial is expensive and has long lines.

*

The New York Giants and the New York Jets no longer play in New York City, or even in New York State, but still represent the Big Apple after all these years. To be fair, the Meadowlands Sports Complex is only slightly farther from Midtown Manhattan than Shea Stadium was, and not that much further than Yankee Stadium. So they're still a good match for The City.

If you follow these instructions carefully, you'll be able to get in, through and out of a Giants or Jets game safely. Not without stress, to be sure, and I can't guarantee a win (I'm Uncle Mike, not Broadway Joe), but safely.

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