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Jets Fans Coping With New Parking & Fewer Friends

Today the Jets returned home to the Meadowlands to face the Green Bat Packers.  It was one of the better days for tailgating.  After the abysmal rain and hail from the Monday night game a few weeks back, today was a relief for many.  Not just great weather, but there were an abundance of great tailgates.  Seemed there were a ton of set ups, large and small.  Sixto and I passed by so many that we were invited to stop by and share in their partying.  But we were on a tight schedule with planned interviews and to find some we had interviewed over the past few years,  Also seems some are coping with fewer friends since some did not purchase a PSL while others just tailgate separately now.

We arrived around 8 AM over to the Sheraton across from the stadium to park and then cross over Route 3 to the stadium parking.  I did that the first game as it was close and did not cost anything.  Man did that change.  It appears StubHub now charges $25 for off site parking there and provides a shuttle bus to get across.  I told the parking attendant I was meeting someone at the hotel and he waived me in.  Saved myself $25 as it is crazy to charge parking at every off site location independently.  The hotel next door was charging $20 and many business locations off Route 120 were charging parking at their locations.  Seems many are taking advantage and trying to make a buck off the Jets and Giants parking situation.

We got there early enough to see the guys from the Smoken Pit setting up and those who prefer to start their tailgate even before many are awake.  We made our way over to a bunch who started their tailgate by meeting on Twitter.  The L7 Crew sets up in, Lot L7, obviously.  A group that met on Twitter as Jets fans and decided to have a Jets tailgate group.  Erik Manassey of Jets Twit was there, and Twitter users @L7Tailgate, @JetsBoy, @LaPortal, amongst others.  They have a certain food I really wanted to try, but did not have.  They call it the “Rex Ryan”  A hot dog, wrapped in a cheeseburger, wrapped in bacon.  I brought along a Vytorin AND a Lipitor just in case.  We will be going back to try that and get some words with them as to how Twitter has helped improve their Jets game day experience.

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After there we started talking with a gentleman who was telling me about his PSL issues.  Turns out, the Jets moved his PSL payment due November 1st to next year.  To try and make it easier to sell them, they pushed off peoples payments to next year in order to sell the off faster.  Now this is just one annual payment.  But this is something that will not happen again.  The Jets made certain concessions not just to help fans with payments, but to make it easier on them to offload the PSLs.  The Jets want to come across like they care about their fans, but the fans think differently from what they tell me.  This fan also told me his friends were coming soon and one was a guy named Kevin who drove a Jets hearse.  I met Kevin during the Baltimore game and could not wait to see him again.  Also coming was long time season ticket holder Ken ikowski, who I have interviewed over the past few years.  It is amazing who you run into in the parking lot.

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Sixto and I were on a schedule and we spent some time with Ken and Kevin as they pulled in for a bit.  Always fun to see what Kevin puts in the casket in the hearse.  Now I was not expecting to see some old faces from the Jets Pack over by where Ken was tailgating.  It seems one of the Jets Pack founders Caesar and a few others set themselves up over there, not where Richie and a few others were set up some weeks back.  Seems Cesar never got a straight answer from Richie about where to set up and many tailgate where Cesar has been setting up.  Cesar told me about 80% of the old Jets Pack did not buy a PSL, they did not feel it was worth the investment.  So they get about 10-15 per game now, a large drop.  Where I saw Richie set up there was maybe about three or four.  The PSLs took this longtime group and separated them to a point where their game day tailgating experience is no longer the same.  Cesar looked like it was not as enjoyable anymore.

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By this time we had a scheduled interview with Don LaGreca.  Don does the Jets pregame and post game show on 1050 ESPN Radio along with New York Jets alum Greg Buttle.  Don is also on the Michael Kay show on 1050 during the week.  Now they used to broadcast outside Gate D of the old stadium.  Made it easy to walk right up and talk with them.  With the new stadium, one has to present their ticket just to be able to walk around outside the stadium.  Since I am not a ticket holder, I had to wait outside.  Also, since i have no media credentials as Bruce Speight would say” I am technically not the media”. I could not get even close to inside.  I called Don and he was able to do the interview before going inside which was great.  Always a plus to get some face time with a broadcaster who not just has face time with fans but hears from them while on the air.  He does provide a unique perspective.  I wish more in the media/broadcasting industry would be as open as Don.  I have tried contacting Mike Francessa and got nowhere.

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We met up with Mary Lou Wilson and her son Tommy Jr.  I have written about Tommy Wilson in the past.  He was one of the more die hard Jets fans I have met.  Tommy won a Visa contest to represent the Jets in the Hall of Fame and passed away last year unexpectedly.  Mary Lou thought about giving up the seats but knew Tommy would not have wanted that.  Last year was a hard season but this year is different.  Once again, many people who used to tailgate with them at 13A are not there.  Some did not get PSL’s, others do not have the right parking permits, while others feel it is not the same.  For the remainder of tailgating last year, it was very somber without Tommy.  He was the nucleus that held that tailgate together.  Tommy Jr; got a tattoo to remember his father, even though his father did not like tattoos.  I will have more about Tommy this week along with more about my day in the lot.

We made it back to Ken and his friends not too much later.  Ken had 6 seats in the lower section.  He opted out of being a PSL holder.  Having two kids in college takes precedent over the PSLs.  But that does not stop him from cheering on the Jets.  He does still attend away game and pays less for a ticket there than at the Jets home.  Ken has paid anywhere from $25-$50 for a seat in Buffalo, New England, Miami, Cleveland, and other stadiums around the league.  He would rather pay the travel to take members of his family than the $120 a seat plus to attend a Jets home game.  He said with PSL costs and tickets one can attend an away game for less.  Even Ken’s friends who he tailgated with ofor years opted out of returning for another season.  Ken would never consider being a season ticket holder again.

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I also found the Jets Nuts and where they had moved their bus too.  They are on their 4th bus and may not make it back next year.  A lot more stuff to cover later this week about today.  It seems many people I have talked with in the past are not liking their tailgating situations.  To many, that experience alone made them want to come to the games.  Thre are many who are displaced and feeling like the team only cared about the PSLs.  Many would have liked the old parking structure.  The only ones who like it now are the ones who did not enjoy tailgating.  Maybe if the Jets took the right steps in the past and had an employee who was a liaison between them and the fans, things could have gone smoother.  Teams need to realize tailgating helps people decide weather to buy tickets or not.

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Jets Tailgating Changes In Many Ways, But Still Fun

Sunday turned out to be a great day for a lot of people.  Before the Jets beat the Patriots 28-14, the Jet faithful were having a great day getting ready for the game.  Since it was a Sunday, people arrived faster and had enough time to get set up and tailgate the day away.  I like the 4 PM kick off time.  It may eat into the day a little, but it gives everyone good prep time to get there and have fun before the game.  Met some new fans out there.  Looking for first time tailgaters and season ticket holders.  So walking around seeing old and new faces makes this a season to witness.  In a way, it is the changing of the guard.  New era of football experience in the New York era.  Feel’s a little more like George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”.

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Was fun to meet some new fans and get opinions on what they paid for. This new parking structure you find both old and new faces.. We came across a lot of blacktop chef’s. Two different types with some mighty big rigs. One in Yellow Lot J and one in Green Lot F. The Lot J one were the guys form The Smoken Pit on Staten Island, NY. This was the first game for his pit. They had wings, burgers, dogs, brisket, ribs, nachos, and more. He does it with his friends and also rents it out. Sunday was a day to break it in for football. The other big grilling set up in Lot J come every couple games and just use it with friends and family. Form Long Island, the had sausage and peppers, steak, ribs, burgers, and a great day of food prepared. I will have pictures later in the week.

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Seems everyone we went to was warm and inviting. Many long time ticket holders eager to talk about past seasons and other stadiums they have been to. Everyone was joyous and and wanted to feed us. We must of shared at just about every tailgate we went to. That is what I love about the Jets fans. They are always willing to share their bounty. Everyone is proud of their set up and their food. It was an endless buffet that every fan contributed to. No one wanted the day to end.

One fan we did stop and talk to was Michael Finizio. He was a former Giants season ticket holder who just became a Jets season ticket holder. Complaining about how the Giants charged more for a PSL and tickets than the Jets did. That was his reason, lower prices with the Jets. Thought both the Mara’s and Tisch’s could stick it and felt Woody Johnson was more accommodating to his fans. Seems many have their opinion on each team’s decision to institute the PSL’s. Another Jets fan, who paid $75 to park his camper, thought they should get free electric for that price. He said they had to pay mroe while others who took up two parking spots should pay more than their $25.

In one of the Green lats we came across a limo driver whose limo gets rented for Jets and Giants tailgates. He has clients from Long Island who pay by the hour for him to sit there as they tailgate out of the back of his limo. They managed to save a piece of fillet Mignon for him. A couple of ladies from ESPN made the trek down from Bristol. One was a Jets fan and the other a Pats fan. Neither wanted to be seen with the other but still tailgated together. A lot of verbal jabs were made but it was all in good fun. No one got out of hand.

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The prices at Lobel’s/Weber grills was outrageous though. Seeing those prices and the ones inside the stadium made one ponder who are the games being catered to? What fans with what pickets are they looking to attract? I am going to let the price;s speak for themselves.

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There were some groups missing members. The Jets Pack who I have been visiting for the past two years was down a considerable amount. They have been setting up at games since 1967 and this has been their smallest turnout to date. The PSL’s forced many long time season ticket holder to opt out. Not many wanted to pay up and it left Robert Parrin and company with a smaller group than usual. What was about 40-50 is now down to less than a dozen. A lot of groups are down member from precious years. Many have said the experience is not the same but they come anyway. The Jets & Giants really do not know how much the PSL’s have hurt game day friendships.

That is one aspect I have noticed from talking to people, the loss of friends. Some only saw people at games, ones they met there and partied with. Others who are long time friends who planned the tailgates and arrived together. The younger the fans are the rowdier the tailgates are. You can see the difference in those who have been coming to game longer than those who are more recent season ticket holders. The set ups and demeanor of the people are so different. But everyone is there for the same reason, to see their team win. That is what brings everyone together.

Everyone was ecstatic with a win over the Patriots. The attitude of the fans before the game let the team know how much they wanted a Gang green win. The team knows when their fans are into the game. With the home crowd as the 12th man, there was no way the Jets would lose to Tom Brady and the Pats. Fans were letting others know how much they hated the Patriots. We even came across our second Revis Island. Fans are getting more creative and letting everyone know how much they care about their team. I will have more later in the week. Too much to cover in one post.

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