Sunday, August 14, 2016

How to Go to a Giants or Jets Game at the Meadowlands -- 2016 Edition

A new football season will soon be upon us. Despite my disillusionment over the game -- brought about by the frustrations over the poor performances of the football teams at East Brunswick High School and Rutgers University, the fecklessness of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, the cheating of the New England Patriots, and seeing what the game of football has done to men, including to their brains...

I bring you my updated guide for how to go to an NFL game at the Meadowlands. 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.

As I did last year, I'm doing this for the New York Giants and the New York Jets at the same time, and I'll also be doing this for each of their 2016 away opponents, including (should they make it) any teams they go away to in the Playoffs.

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 guess Sports 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.
For those of you not old enough to remember the 1980s,
those really are professional football players of the time,
not the leaders of a gangsta rap group and a hair metal band.

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 this season. For the Giants, those teams would be: Washington Redskins, Baltimore Ravens, Philadelphia Eagles, Cincinnati Bengals and Detroit Lions. 
For the Jets: Cincinnati Bengals, Baltimore Ravens, New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts, Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills.

It's 1 hour ahead of the Central Time Zone. The Jets aren't hosting any teams from that time zone this season, while the Giants are hosting the New Orleans Saints, Chicago Bears and Dallas Cowboys. It's 2 hours ahead of Mountain Time, but neither team will be hosting any teams from that time zone. It's 3 hours ahead of Pacific Time, and while the Giants aren't hosting any teams from that time zone, the Jets are hosting the Seattle Seahawks and Los Angeles Rams.

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 2015, the Giants averaged 78,967 fans per home game, about 96 percent of official capacity, and 2nd in the League only to the Dallas Cowboys. The Jets? "Only" 78,160, or 95 percent of capacity.

As with Giants Stadium, MetLife Stadium has 3 main decks. In the lower level, expect to pay $180 on the sidelines, and $132 in the end zones. In the middle level, $132 all around. In the upper level, $105 sidelines, $95 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.

* Baltimore Ravens: Get on Interstate 95 North, switch to Interstate 295 North in Delaware, then get on the New Jersey Turnpike. About 3 hours. With a rest stop, probably about 3 and a half hours.

* Washington Redskins: Get on Interstate 95 North, and then follow the directions from Baltimore. 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 Interstate 80 East, and take that all the way until Wayne, New Jersey. Take U.S. Route 46 East to NJ Route 3 East. About 7 hours, maybe 9 hours with rest stops.

* Detroit Lions: Take Interstate 75 South to Toledo, then I-80 East, then follow the directions from Cleveland. About 9 hours, at least 11 hours with rest stops.

* Cincinnati Bengals: Take Interstate 71 North to Columbus, then Interstate 70 East to the Pennsylvania Turnpike, which becomes Interstate 76. Take that East to Harrisburg. Take Interstate 81 North to Interstate 78 East. Take that to the New Jersey Turnpike, to Exit 16W. About 9 and a half hours, at least 11 hours with rest stops.

* Indianapolis Colts: Take I-70 East to Columbus, and then follow the directions from Cincinnati. About 10 and a half hours, at least 13 hours with rest stops.

* Chicago Bears: Get on I-80 East, and then follow the directions from Cleveland. About 12 hours, at least 15 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.

* New Orleans Saints: Take Interstate 10 East to Mobile, Interstate 65 North to Montgomery, then Interstate 85 North into Virginia until it merges with I-95, and then follow the directions from Washington. About 19 hours, around 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.

* Los Angeles Rams: Forget it, fly. If you really want to drive (almost) Coast to (almost) Coast, take I-10 East to Interstate 15 North, to Interstate 40 East to Oklahoma City. Take Interstate 44 East to St. Louis, then I-70 East, and then follow the directions from St. Louis. About 40 hours, at least 46 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.

* Seattle Seahawks: Forget it, fly. If you really want to drive (almost) Coast to (almost) Coast, take I-90 East, and then follow the directions from Chicago. About 42 hours, at least 48 hours with rest stops.

Be advised that traffic around the stadium 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 9,164 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 the town.

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).

The 7th Avenue entrance to Penn Station
and Madison Square Garden

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.
Times Square

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.

But the Giants and Jets don't play in New York City -- the former hasn't since 1975, the latter since 1983. So here's pertinent information for New Jersey: ZIP Codes in North Jersey tend to begin with the digits 07, including 071 for Newark and environs, 072 for Elizabeth, 073 for Jersey City, and 075 for Paterson. Central and South Jersey got ZIP Codes starting with the digits 08, including 084 for Atlantic City, 086 and 086 for Trenton, and 089 for New Brunswick and environs.

New Jersey's original Area Code was 201. 609 was split off in 1958, 908 in 1991, 732 in 1997, and 856 in 1999. Now, they serve as follows: 201, with 551 overlaid in 2001, serves only Bergen and Hudson Counties (including the Meadowlands, and thus MetLife Stadium, and Harrison, and thus Red Bull Arena); 609 serves Mercer County (including the capital of Trenton and Princeton University) and the Southern Shore region (including Atlantic City); 732, with 848 overlaid, much of Central Jersey (including Rutgers University) and the Northern Shore region; 856, the Delaware River region that serves as suburbs of Philadelphia; 908, the Counties of Union, northern Somerset, Morris and Warren; and 973, with 862 overlaid, the Counties of Essex (including Newark, and thus the Prudential Center) and Passaic. 

Going In. What was originally named New Meadowlands Stadium opened on April 10, 2010, and became MetLife Stadium the following year, named for an insurance company.

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 $9.00.

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 rail fare from New York's Penn Station is $11, and from Newark's Penn Station (from which you would also transfer at Secaucus Junction) it's $8.75. Service usually begins 3 1/2 hours before stadium events, with departures every 10 to 20 minutes, and every 10 minutes afterwards for 1 to 2 hours after events.
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.

The U.S. national soccer team lost to Brazil 2-0 at MetLife on August 10, 2010, and tied Argentina 1-1 on March 26, 2011, in front of 78,926 (myself included). It recently hosted a preseason friendly between European club giants Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, with the Spanish club winning 1-0.

Bon Jovi played the 1st concert at the new stadium. Paul McCartney played there this month, and in the next few days, Bruce Springsteen and Beyoncé will both make return engagements.

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, 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 39 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 1941 team that finished 2nd in the NFL's Eastern Division: Two-way end Jack Lummus (29). He 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.

* 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. A native of Garfield, Bergen County, New Jersey, Blozis played 3 seasons for the Giants before being drafted, and was killed fighting the Nazis in France. 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), athletic trainer John Johnson, 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, trainer Johnson, 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, Johnson, 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, Johnson, 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, Strahan, head coach Tom Coughlin (to be added in a ceremony this season), guard Chris Snee (76), defensive end Osi Umenyiora (72), and trainer Johnson. Strahan is in the Hall.

* From their 2011-12 Super Bowl XLVI winners: Coughlin, Snee and Umenyiora. Quarterback Eli Manning (10) will surely be added after he retires as a player.

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 with the name "WEEB" on the back previously stood in for a "retired number"), quarterback Joe Namath (Number 12 retired), receiver Don Maynard (13, retired), running backs Emerson Boozer (32) and Matt Snell (41), 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, running 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, or the 2 so far at MetLife, by the U.S. soccer team, or any other national team, or the New York Cosmos. 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.

Both teams hold auditions for National Anthem singers, rather than having a regular do it. Neither team has 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. He even made the trip to London for the Jets' game against the Dolphins at Wembley Stadium last season.

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's Boomer 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. 

If you're visiting New York during the European soccer season, as we are now in, there are many places where you can watch your favorite team. The best "football pub" in The City, and, indeed, in the country, is The Football Factory, downstairs at Legends NYC, at 6 West 33rd Street, across from the Empire State Building. B, D, F, N, Q or R train to 34th Street-Herald Square.

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.

UPDATE: On February 3, 2017, Thrillist made a list ranking the 30 NFL cities (New York and Los Angeles each having 2 teams), and New York came in 6th, in the top one-quarter. They said: 

New York is the city equivalent of one of those claw-crane machine hand games -- it has all these plush and fancy-looking things that look like they're available to everyone, and so you spend your money to go there and then you come to find out that ALL OF THE NICE STUFF IS ESSENTIALLY IMPOSSIBLE TO GET UNLESS YOU ARE ONE OF THE PEOPLE WHO ALREADY OWNS A CLAW-CRANE MACHINE BUSINESS. But you come so damn close to winning those prizes and they seem so attainable that you just keep pumping money into it. This usually goes on for people's entire 20s and early 30s, until they give up playing the machine and move to Jersey to eat tomato pies in peace.

But in all seriousness, there's a feeling that goes along with being in New York that just isn't replicable anywhere else. It's almost like a country unto itself, which makes comparing it to other places extremely difficult. 
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.
Judging by the color of the uniforms, this is probably
a Titans home game in 1960, 1961 or 1962.
They became the Jets, and green and white, in 1963.

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 last year, it began hosting expansion soccer team New York City FC.
A nearly-as-rare color shot of Yankee Stadium hosting a Giants game.
Considering the white exterior, this has to be between 1967 and 1973.

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. Judging by the scoreboard,
this is sometime between 1964 and 1980.

With Yankee Stadium undergoing renovation, Giants Stadium not yet being ready, and Mayor John Lindsay, angry at the Giants for leaving the City, refusing to let them play at City-owned Shea (his replacement, Abe Beame, relented for 1975), 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

Giants Stadium, at the Meadowlands Sports Complex in East Rutherford, Bergen County, New Jersey, was home to the Giants from 1976 to 2009, the Jets from 1984 to 2009, and Rutgers University football occasionally from 1976 to 1995 and their entire 1993 home slate there while Rutgers Stadium was being renovated.
It was also home to 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.
* Early NYC pro football teams. Brickley’s Giants, founded by former Harvard football star Charlie Brickley, played a game at the Polo Grounds (but the crowd was mostly there to see the halftime show, a dropkicking competition between Brickley and Jim Thorpe), a game at Ebbets Field, and 2 games at Commercial Field.

The Brooklyn Horsemen of the 1926 American Football League, featuring Harry Stuhldreher and Elmer Layden of Notre Dame’s Four Horsemen, also played there. The field was bounded by Lefferts Avenue, Albany Avenue, East New York Avenue and Kingston Avenue, in Flatbush, not far from the site of Ebbets Field. It survives today as Hamilton-Metz Field. 2 Train to Sterling Street.

The Brooklyn Lions, set up by the NFL in 1926 to counter the Horsemen, played at Ebbets Field. Neither team lasted beyond that season. The NFL team named the Brooklyn Dodgers played at Ebbets Field from 1930 to 1944, known as the Brooklyn Tigers in their final season.

There were many pro football teams called the New York Yankees, all playing at the original Yankee Stadium. One, featuring Red Grange, began in the 1926 AFL, moved to the NFL in 1927, and lasted until 1929. The 1936-37 and 1940-41 AFLs also featured teams named the Yankees. So did the 1946-49 All-America Football Conference, a team owned by Dan Topping, who also bought the Yankees with Del Webb in 1946.

There was even a Boston Yanks, who moved to the Polo Grounds and called themselves the New York Bulldogs in 1949, then moved to The Stadium and called themselves the New York Yankees in 1950 and 1951, before moving to become the Dallas Texans in 1952 and the reborn Baltimore Colts in 1953. Perhaps fitting that these Yankees became Baltimore’s most popular sports team ever, because the 1901-02 edition of the Baltimore Orioles, sort-of, became the baseball Yankees in 1903.

Finally, the Staten Island Stapletons played from 1915 to 1928, then joined the NFL in 1929, establishing what they hoped would be a tradition of playing the Giants on Thanksgiving Day. That lasted until 1932, when the Depression knocked the "Stapes" out of the NFL. They played at Thompson Stadium, which was demolished to make way for Berta A. Dreyfus Intermediate School. 101 Warren Street. Bus S76 from the St. George Ferry Terminal. 

* Newark Tornadoes. The 1st NFL team to play home games in New Jersey was the Orange Tornadoes, an offshoot of the Orange Athletic Club, founded in Orange, Essex County in 1887. They put a team called the Tornadoes in the NFL for the 1929 season, at Knights of Columbus Stadium at 54 Bell Street, site of the current Bell Stadium of Orange High School. Bus 21 from Newark Penn Station.

In 1930, the team was moved to Newark City Schools Stadium, and renamed the Newark Tornadoes. The timing couldn't have been much worse, as the stock market had crashed during their 1929 season in Orange, and the NFL lost several teams in the Herbert Hoover years. The team dropped out of the NFL, played semi-pro ball as the Orange Tornadoes back at K of C Stadium, were admitted to the American Association (a minor pro football league) in 1936, moved back to Schools Stadium and became the Newark Tornadoes in 1937 and the Newark Bears in 1939, and then folded after the U.S. got into World War II.
Newark Schools Stadium was a 25,000-seat horseshoe, open at the south end, built in 1925, hosting both baseball and football at the high school level, and the occasional NCAA Division III college football game. By the time I first saw it in 1988, a point at which the Newark school system was practically begging the State government for money, it was beginning to deteriorate. By 2006, it was outright condemned, and Central, Barringer and East Side High Schools began to share the smaller Untermann Field with West Side, while Malcom X Shabazz High School (the former South Side High had been renamed for Malcolm X  in 1972 but is usually just called "Shabazz") and Weequahic High continued to share Shabazz Stadium.
In 2009, a new Newark City Schools Stadium opened, seating 15,000, with a considerably more decorated outer shell than the old one, and a FieldTurf playing surface. In the North Ward, at Bloomfield & Roseville Avenues. Bus 11, 28 or 29 from Newark Penn Station. Also a short walk from the Bloomfield Avenue station on Newark Light Rail (formerly known as the City Subway).
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.

Giants founder Tim Mara and his son Wellington are buried in Gate of Heaven Cemetery. So are Yankee Legends Babe Ruth and Billy Martin. 10 W. Stevens Avenue in Hawthorne, Westchester County. Mount Pleasant Station on Metro-North's Harlem Line is right outside.

Vince Lombardi, born in Brooklyn, educated at Fordham in The Bronx, a head coach at the now-defunct St. Cecilia's High School in Englewood, New Jersey, and an assistant coach with the Giants before coaching the Green Bay Packers, married Marie Planitz of Red Bank, New Jersey. They are buried across the Navesink River from Red Bank, at Mount Olivet Cemetery. 100 Chapel Hill Road, Middletown. New Jersey Transit's North Jersey Coast Line will take you to Red Bank, and its Bus 834 will get you to Chapel Hill Road.

Sonny Werblin, the former Jets owner who built the Meadowlands Complex and later ran the Madison Square Garden Corporation, is also buried in Middletown, but, being Jewish, not in the same cemetery. He's laid to rest at Fairview Cemetery, right across New Jersey Route 35 from Mount Olivet. Same transit.

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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