MetLife Stadium is now over seven years old. It is a drab, grey slinky that is home to the New York Jets and New York Giants. It sits next to a perpetually under construction, abandoned shopping mall originally called Xanadu, which is both the epitome of Chris Christie’s New Jersey and some type of metaphor for the teams who play next door.
On October 1st, I attended the Jets home game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Seven days later I was back in the building for the Giants hosting the San Diego Chargers (despite barely watching any of the game, but we’ll get back to this later). What is the atmosphere like right now for a team many thought would be the worst team in the NFL and a team who actually may be the worst team in the NFL?
“I Don’t Know…I Just Like These Guys More”
Predictions about the Jets going 0-16 or 1-15 were always unfounded hyperboles. It is hard to be that bad in the NFL. They won five games last season and did not get worse from a talent perspective despite releasing all the names on the roster casual fans would know. Eric Decker was hurt last year, so was Nick Mangold. Brandon Marshall showed signs of being past his prime. Darrelle Revis mailed the season in. Ryan Fitzpatrick was a tornado of bearded incompetence. They have less names but also less overpaid, over the hill veterans.
The Jets 2017 schedule also opened with a manageable five game stretch, which we have watched them take advantage of with a 3-2 start. On the 1st, they were fresh off a 20-6 drubbing of a sleepwalking Jay Cutler and the Miami Dolphins. I arrived in the parking lot around 10:30 to a decent sized crowd with a few sprinkles of Mark Brunell, Keenan McCardell and Leonard Fournette jerseys. Jets fans were mostly still wearing jerseys from the team’s brief Rex Ryan glory years: Mark Sanchez, Braylon Edwards, David Harris, Darrelle Revis and Santonio Holmes remain popular picks from gun shy consumers hesitant to invest in the new jerseys yet.
Most of us in attendance figured the game would be a low scoring, coin flip between two quarterback challenged, defensive first teams. We were able to buy tickets the day before online for $40 that put us in the second level, making me not regret my decision to give up season tickets which locked me into ten games at over $80 per ticket to sit in third level.
I got held up in the bathroom lines so I arrived at my seat just as the National Anthem was wrapping up. Ironically there were multiple people wearing “I STAND for the Anthem” shirts forming those bathroom lines and in line to buy food as I was jogging to my seat.
When kickoff hit, the stadium was about 70% full. People gradually started moving down from the third level to the open seats in the second level. Despite not being anywhere near capacity, the crowd was still into what was a surprisingly big play filled, albeit weird game. The team’s young defense, led by rookie safety Jamal Adams (who does not like being compared to other safeties, in case you were wondering) is constantly bouncing around, playing fast and looking like they give a damn. This may sound like a given but when you spent 2016 watching Revis and Sheldon Richardson, it matters and is refreshing to watch.
We filed out after the 23-20 overtime win to a collection of “J-E-T-S” chants and discussions of an impending winning record with 0-4 Cleveland on deck. My phone died on my train ride home forcing me to be an actual human being and converse with the people around me. In the last leg of my trip from Secaucus to Penn Station, I sat with a Jets fans in his 60s wearing an enormous throwback Joe Klecko jersey. He still needed to go from Penn Station to the Long Island Railroad and we commiserated over our shared awful public transportation options, like all New Yorkers default to in their passing conversation.
Before we separated, he asked what I would write about the game and what I thought about the team (I had told him about my site). I turned the question around to him and asked what he thought after today and also attending the Dolphins game the week before?
He said “I don’t know if we are good or where we are actually going but I just like these guys more. I can stomach rooting for these young fellas.”
Seemed fair enough to me.
“Oh My God, The Jets Are Playing The Browns”
The life of a Jets fan can be lonely on football Sundays, particularly when you attend a Giants/Chargers game while they are playing at the same time. I subjected myself to this for three very good reasons: free food, free alcohol and tailgating with friends from college. My one friend was able to get us access to the Pepsi Suite at MetLife. You can sit outside to watch the game in the stadium you are inside or you can do what I did:
Despite it being a rainy day, the stadium was probably 80-90% full, although there were a decent amount of Chargers fans wearing LaDainian Tomlinson jerseys or “Spanos Sucks” shirts. Giants fans perpetually believe their team is on the precipice of a 10 game winning streak, no matter how bad they are, thanks to 2007 and 2011. The ones I encountered this past Sunday up until the fourth quarter had no doubt they would beat San Diego, prompting a charge up the NFC East Standings.
At least five times during the game, a Giants fan would walk into the suite, look at me (wearing a Jets shirt), look at the screen and say something like “oh man, Jets vs. Browns? Yikes!”…not fully wrong but also completely ignoring the fact their 0-4 team was currently losing in their building to another 0-4 team.
After the Jets secured their 17-14 win, I went out to watch the last few minutes of the Giants failed effort to come back for a late victory. The fans had already begun heading out, lacking confidence in a last second drive that required Rhett Ellison to play wide receiver because they had no other bodies left. Sometimes you get a season from hell, as a Jets fan, I have seen plenty. The Giants have one right now and their fans finally accepted it as they left MetLife on Sunday. As we walked out, “Let’s Go Yankees” chants echoed down the escalators amid conversations of how quickly Ben McAdoo could be fired.
As I headed back towards the car, a Giants fan saw me in my Jets shirt and yelled “now we are taking the quarterback next year!” Things change fast in the NFL.