I had the pleasure of making a road trip down to Washington, DC last week for the Jets’ at times frustrating yet ultimately very satisfying 34-19 win over the Redskins. As usual, the game has been discussed at length and everyone is rightfully looking forward to the task at hand: the Kansas City Chiefs. But I wanted to quickly recap some of the non-game facets of the trip.
There has been a fair amount of criticism in this space and elsewhere regarding the atmosphere at Jets games, the shortcomings of MetLife Stadium, the behavior of Jets fans and so on. All of that criticism is still justified, but after visiting FedEx Field, I realized that things in East Rutherford might not be so bad after all.
A friend of mine, who lived in Washington, DC for four years, described FedEx Field as “a soulless venue.” This mostly has to do with the fact that the Redskins have had five winning seasons and four playoff appearances since 1992. Still, there was little to no energy in the building at kickoff. As a matter of fact, about half of the stadium was empty, and people were still finding their seats with as late as 1:45 left in the first quarter. The Jet crowd (and most New York crowds nowadays) is notoriously late-arriving, but it has never been like that.
One cool moment occurred after the Redskins scored a touchdown on the opening drive. After the extra point, the Redskins Marching Band (yes, they have a band, and yes, it sort of makes you feel like you’re at a high school game) broke into “Hail to the Redskins”, with the entire crowd singing along.
As an aside: I’m a big soccer fan and part of the reason I became one was the incredible atmosphere at English Premier League games. Hearing 40,000 people sing in unison to spur on their team is something that struck me, even only on television. So even though “Hail to the Redskins” has a decidedly college football feel, I was reminded of a soccer crowd. But in terms of positive atmosphere and energy from ‘Skins fans, that was it.
From a road fan perspective, I expected to sit quietly and watch the game, so as not to draw the attention and ire of the home crowd. However, section 430 at FedEx Field might as well have been section 317 at MetLife stadium, as there were hundreds of fellow gang green supporters nearby. As the game progressed, my exaltations (and frustrations) were expressed out loud, with no threat of retribution. As a matter of fact, it seemed like ‘Skins fans were indifferent to the result of the game.
Seeing so many Jets fans at a road game renewed some of my faith in what I called one of the most negative fan-bases in sports just last week. Almost every fan I came in contact with was positive about the team, excited about the game and ready to show their support on the road.
They always say that the Steelers and Packers travel best, but when roughly 15,000 Jets fans at FedEx Field made the “J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets!” reverberate through vacated seats and concourses, I knew the trip was worth it.