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Prime Tailgating Locations Identified At MetLife Stadium

When I started LevysBakeryProductions.com I wanted to keep people and Jets fans informed about my documentary, Gang Greed and other projects.  I soon began writing about more than that.  About my experiences while filming both Jets games and NFL alternatives.  Focusing on Jets fans and tailgating before and after games.  It seemed that the more I did at the stadium, the more I was learning about what it takes to have a successful and entertaining tailgate.

It seemed no matter how much I tried to focus on the Jets and how their decisions affect their fans, the more tailgating became a focus at many points.  Yes many would like to be season ticket holders and attend the game.  But many of those fans also want to tailgate to have a true football experience.  Tailgating has become just as important as attending the games to many.  Some do it small with just themselves while others go above and beyond to create a lavish affair.

Everyday people come to my website to look for the best places to park, how to get parking passes, what tailgating foods people prepare, where Fireman Ed’s seats are, and other topics related to Jets tailgating.  All of those searches let me know how my website has become a destination for those looking to tailgate at Jets home games .

I have journeyed over the blacktop landscape at the stadium.  So today I will start with three things that will hopefully make your tailgating experience at, ugh, MetLife Stadium that much better.  Location, location, location.  Now here we have a map of the MetLife stadium parking.  Now depending on what color parking pass you have will determine where one might think they will have a great location to tailgate.Now many feel the best areas to tailgate are the concrete or dirt borders that surround each parking area.  I happen to agree.  It gives you space to put your grill, tent, and other tailgating items.  It also provided room for those groups that have mass tailgaters.  But one must arrive before they open the gates and wait on line, this happens five hours before kick off.  This will ensure you get a prime spot on the outlying border.
Many of those with Winnebago’s, trailers, campers, smokers, will set up along borders.  The key is to find the spots before they do or get into the mix.  The tailgating security will not tell you how to set up your tailgate in these areas hence why many go for it off the bat.  If you have a lot of people coming or a lot of gear, get there as early as possible.  If not, expect to wait on long lines, maybe over an hour.

Now, if you are not one of the lucky few to get a spot on the outskirts, I suggest setting up next to the lot markers.  The lot markers are easy to find, they are also the night parking lights.  Easy to find your car after the game and if you get a few cars parked in a row there it makes a group tailgate easier to set up.  Many do this in the yellow parking lots.  The green ones fill in closer to game time as those fans seem to care more about the game than tailgating.

In some lots, at the end of each parking aisle is a small blocked off section.  Nothing big, but small areas outlines for non parking use.  Some take the end spots so they can have this small area to enhance their tailgate.  I have seen some good set ups within this space and their parking area.  These are mainly in the Yellow lots and very few in the green.  The further away one parks from the stadium the easier it is to get away with certain tailgating set ups.

Parking lot D in the yellow section provides a good combination of both.  There are only four rows/two lanes of parking so the tailgating there seems to be more compact and easy to set up.  Bathrooms are close and if you get a lucky enough spot, you could park under the bridge from the stadium to the Izod Center for shelter from rain.  There is even a dirt section close to Route 120 where one can set up a tailgate well.  It may be tight over there, but there are good spots for setting up your tailgate.

I have yet to make it over to the NON PSL parking.  From what I understand, one can not tailgate in the garage.  If one does decide to tailgate over by the Izod Center, you need to make it quick.  The time it takes you to pack up and walk over the stadium is not a hop, skip, and jump.  Only in Lot B is tailgating easy for NON PSL holders.  In the numbered parking, same rules apply as if you parked in the PSL parking.  One just needs to have a quick set up to ensure making it over by kickoff.

It does not matter where you park, the stadium has employees walking around making sure people keep their tailgate limited to only one spot.  Keep any grill or tent close to your vehicle and do not stick out far into the driving area.  They will tell you to move it.  That is why people tailgate in groups or find areas they can set up that does not fall in designated parking areas.  Groups like L7 Tailgate, L5 Tailgate, Frank Conway and his friends, and others always tailgate in big numbers.  They know with more space comes better room to have fun before any game.

Some friends and family look forward to tailgating before every home game.  Sometimes more than the game.  It gives people a chance to catch up, reminisce, and for others, a chance to meet someone new.  I know of a couple who met during Jets tailgating and several years later, went to a Jets game  the same day they were married.  So always choose your spot wisely when deciding where to set up to tailgate.  It may determine not just how big your tailgate can be, but the kinds of memories it will create. 

Bing.com: Making Great Travel Decisions With Dhani Jones

Last Wednesday, I made the trip into New York City to attend an event sponsored by Bing.com.  Bing had as their special guest Cincinnati Bengals Linebacker Dhani Jones.  Dhani has pretty much seen it all when it comes to travel, and he has partnered with Bing Travel to provide his tips, recommendations and personal stories on traveling the world.  Go to www.bing.com/travel for video interviews and personal photo slideshows from Dhani’s travel, as well as more recommendations and his “Wish List” for future destinations.

Dhani Jones – NFL superstar, author of “The Sportsman: Unexpected Lessons from an Around-the-World Sports Odyssey” and former host of the Travel Channel’s “Dhani Tackles the Globe” – is not your average linebacker. Sure, he stands 6 foot 1 and weighs 235 pounds, but when he’s not on the field with the Cincinnati Bengals he is folding himself into an airplane seat and flying to wherever his abundance of curiosity takes him. Dhani began traveling at an early age with his parents; his father was in the military based in Southeast Asia, and they took family trips to Kenya, Thailand and Bermuda, among other places. It instilled a sense of wanderlust in Dhani that continues today.

Bing’s purpose was to let people know they could use Bing to find anything they needed when it comes to travel.  From choosing a destination to securing a hotel.  When it comes to travel, Bing will provide you information you need to answer any question to make your next vacation or day trip the most enjoyable.

Lockouts Showing Who is Always On The Losing End

Allow me to speak for every NFL and NBA fan (which I am not really one of) when I say, end the lockouts.  I know there is a supposed end to the NFL lockout coming next week, but are we sure that date is set in stone?

Get it figured out, do not miss any of the season and just play ball.

While I understand the reasons for the work stoppages & lockouts, as a fan of football I want this to get settled and figured out as quickly as possible.  For basketball fans, you have a little time but not too much time.  That one should be over soon as well.  But all fingers point to non-favorable odds.

In the same breath, I am not going to stay glued to the television, internet and newspaper like this is some breaking news story.  Just get these issues solved and let all of us fans know when you are done so we can watch our teams again.  Let us know so we can prepare for fantasy leagues and get our gear together for tailgating.

When the battle is millionaires (players) versus billionaires (owners), it is difficult to pick a side. Most of America and myself are on the side that ends these lockouts and gets them back on the field and court ASAP.  More importantly, I am on the side of the fans who are always the silent majority in these cases.

Maybe if our side had seat at the negotiating table then these issues would get solved a little quicker.

While these lockouts are more complicated than strictly millionaires versus billionaires, money is basically what is keeping the leagues from operating as normal. But it is hard for fans to care about millions of dollars being exchanged when some struggle to make ends meet on a weekly basis.

Reaction to the lockouts have been mostly passive so far but if regular season games are missed due to the work stoppage then expect the fans to ignite with anger. Fantasy football owners are already starting to undergo anxiety and withdrawal symptoms because their annual shot to look like a football genius with a witty team name is in jeopardy.  But in one week, that could all change, supposedly.

With the NBA only entering a lockout a few weeks ago, the NFL has seen the effect that the work stoppage has had so far. One year after setting an NFL Draft record of 8.3 million viewers, viewership fell to 7 million for the first round this year. Ticket sales are down and NFL.com’s traffic has decreased also.

Luckily for football fans, the NFL has too much to lose for them to miss some, if any, of the regular season. As America’s new favorite pastime, NFL reigns king over all other American sports in terms of viewership, revenue and popularity. Missing regular season games would kill part of the momentum that the NFL currently has.

With most training camps supposed to start soon, these next few weeks will be essential in ending the NFL lockout so that the season can semi-start on time. There has yet to be a free agent period and once that happens mayhem will occur with teams scrambling to sign players. If you are upset about preseason games possibly being missed, well you are on your own there.

For the NBA, things look even bleaker. Former NBA legend and current TNT analyst Charles Barkley recently stated that, “It’s going to get ugly. I’ve already been on the record saying I don’t think they’re going to play at all next season.” Those cannot be good words to hear for NBA fans.  The last time a league halted play was the NHL in 2004-2005.

But with the NFL and NBA lockouts in full swing it gives other sports attention they might not have gotten before. The MLB slides into the top sport and should be able to continue to build off of its strike in 1994-1995. Other sports organizations such as the NHL, MLS, WNBA, NASCAR and PGA all stand to benefit from the NFL and NBA work stoppages.

Entering this fall, the NCAA counterparts of the NFL and NBA will garner most of the attention and might be the only national exposure of both basketball and football if the lockout continues.  NCAA Football 12 was just released for all game systems.  Madden 12 comes out in a few weeks.  Some might look forward to that more than the regular NFL season.

But hopefully for the sake of both sports’ fanbases the players and owners work out their issues and not only do what is best for the sport, but for the people who help support and fund them, the fans.

With One Lockout in Place, Another Seems Likely

Sports fans of all sports are battling what seems to be a hydra. A four headed monster of a CBA whose heads are the NFL, MLB, NHL, and NBA.  The first head of the NFL seems to hurling fire at the fans and they are reeling. It seems no matter what the fans do, there is nothing that can make  the NFL take notice .

The remaining heads have the fans against the NBA, MLB and NHL with their collective bargaining agreements expiring today, December 2011 and September 2012 respectively. If the fans fight the way they have in against the NFL, it is most likely that the fans will have no chance against the bigger monster that is professional sports.

Here we are in month three of the lockout, there have been rumors over the past week that the two sides may be getting close to an agreement. Unfortunately, these recent actions have absolutely zero to do with players and owners being afraid of their fans reactions. To date, the most the fans have done is briefly chant “we want football” at the beginning of the NFL Draft in April, and participate in Roger Goodell’s joke of a conference call tour with hand picked fans from across the country.

Other than that, there has been a Marcel Marcel like silence from fans related to the latest insult by a league generating over $9 billion a year in profits; keep in mind that $9 billion comes from the pockets of the fans.

The NBA is close to having their lockout as well.  Both sides have the same issues that keep them from making any settlement.  Now this could be another lockout in the same year fans will have to go through.  There are plenty of football fans that are also basketball fans.  How slighted do fans feel knowing they will not be able to enjoy two of their favorite sports.

The current CBA, which was negotiated six years ago, is set to expire at the end of the day. However, team owners and the players’ union remains “worlds apart” in critical issues and aspects of the CBA including salary cap, salaries,  and league revenue-sharing.

The negotiations need to make “significant progress” in order to avoid a dreaded lockout, the Associated Press reports. The last NBA lockout came in 1999 resulting into a shortened NBA season, significant drops in gate attendance and television ratings and hundred millions in lost salaries and league revenues.  Not to mention merchandise sales and fans interest in the sport which has just began to pick up in recent years.

Team owners are pushing for a harder salary cap as 17 out of the 30 NBA teams have lost money last year. In fact, storied NBA franchises such as the New Orleans Hornets and the Sacramento Kings experienced well-documented financial woes during the season, resulting to the Hornets being sold to the NBA while the Kings almost relocating to Anaheim, California.  In MLB, the Los Angeles Dodgers have also been run by the league due to financial issues. 

Team owners and representatives from the players’ union can still meet after the expiration of current CBA but that depends on the progress of the talks scheduled today. With just hours before the end of today’s deadline, the NBA is on the verge of experiencing its first lockout since 1999.  Fans are on the verge of not just being caught in the middle again, but facing the loss of another sport’s season. 

The NfL and the players could set a precedent on how the other leagues might have to handle their CBA’s.  Keep in mind, back in 1999 and 1987, there was no social media.  In 1999, the internet was in its infancy.  There was only the traditional print and broadcast media.  Everyone is under a larger microscope and news is reported everywhere about everything.  The NBA needs to take note from what the NFL did in order to make things run more smoothly.

The fans need to come together in some fashion.  Keep speaking out through whatever voice you have freedom to use.  We all need to show not just our displeasure with these owners and leagues, but that we are an integral part of their discussions.  In the end, it is our hard earned dollars that make sure there is a league.  Without fans, who would they play for?  Themselves?  There is no money in that.

Players & Fans Wait Together On End To NFL Lockout

When sports crown a new NBA champion & NHL Stanley Cup winner, it begins the summer sports lull that is usually filled by the start of NFL mini-camps and the start of training camp.  A buzz normally fills the air on what teams are looking good in training camp, even before the preseason opener.

This year is different. This year we are being submitted to endless baseball highlights & whatever else ESPN can show during SportsCenter due to continued arguing over a billion dollar industry.  A summer that should be filled with players and teams preparing for gridiron battle.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has reduced his pay to $1 for the duration of the lockout. With each passing day not being paid, players miss out on crucial practices and playing tim. However, fans have it much worse: they are stuck at home with no hope of a Super Bowl come January. Stuck with Packers fans bragging about their epic title run.  Stuck talking about a season that may never come.

Goodell says that the lockout isn’t just to benefit players and owners though; fans will benefit as well.  Fans never benefit when players and owners talk about what money they are owed.

Fans wait to make certain decisions before the season starts.  What single games do they want to purchase, what away games to attend, what to buy in preparation for tailgating, when to buy that new HDTV, and other decisions usually made before football begins.

Certain fans have already given up their season tickets.  Some have had it with riisng ticket prices and others just feel the lockout was the last straw in seeing how little the fans mean to the NFL.  Some Jets fans have not just given up their seats, but trying to sell their PSL’s as well.

“That’s why we are trying to get a better economic model” Goodell told reporters last week. “And I think everyone understands that. You (the fans) are not being left out of the equation. The fans are a big part of that equation and a big part of the success of NFL football.”  He sees costs being passed down to the fan that would be prevented with a better business model.  Costs are already too high so any economic change for the fan is good.

Free agency is a critical time for teams to acquire new players to help supplement their squad. The big signings that occur every year and change the landscape of the NFL excite fans for the coming season. This is when we can stop talking about the Super Bowl champion and have a reason to feel that this year is different.

Last year former Carolina Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers was probably the biggest name amongst free-agent signees. Peppers went on to be a contributor for the Chicago Bears with 8 sacks against constant double teams. Bears fans were sure they were on the right path to win the big game.

Kenny Britt awaiting judges decision. Credit: NJ.com

This year it’s supposed to be whatever team can land Nnamdi Asomugha, a cornerback who has proven that he can shut down half the field. Unfortunately, he won’t find a home until the lockout finally comes to an end.  Same goes with the NFL rookies.  Drafted by their new organizaton, they can not be signed or talked to.

Our favorite players are also getting into trouble because they have too much time on their hands.  Tennessee Titans wide receiver Kenny Britt was charged with resisting arrest and tampering with evidence this week when he crushed a joint as police approached him.  The police didn’t find any drugs on him, but this is likely a situation that would have been avoided if players were focused on the season.

Now the Titans are entering the season with a diminished receiving group and are likely facing another sub-par year.  Less time to work with coaches, less time to improve.

Former Giants and Steelers wide receiver Plaxico Burress just got out of jail but can’t sign with a team because of the lockout.  The best he can do is workout and practice with others so he can get into some kind of playing shape.

Formerly a dynamic game changing receiver and Super Bowl hero, Burress will enthuse the fans of whatever team he goes to – if and when he does actually get signed.

I hope Goodell is sincere that the resulting post-lockout business model reduces costs that are being passed down to fans. We are the reason the league is so successful, and the more of the league year us fans lose to the lockout the more interested we will become in things not related to the NFL.  Goodell should learn from what happened to MLB and the NHL.

Whose Business Hurts If There is No 2011 Football Season?

Tuesday nights I am a panelist on Pro Football NYC presented by Football Reporters Online that airs on Blog Talk Radio.  We talk Jets and Giants football and it is usually a lively discussion.  Bu since the lockout, there has not been much to talk about.  Sure there was the NFL Draft, the court dates, Jets West, Eli Manning holding some practices in Hoboken, and some other tidbits.  But there has not been any concrete story to talk or report on.

Last Tuesday we did a show on the fly.  A lot of the topics were done on the cuff.  It was a great show, do not get me wrong, but we were grasps at straws for topics.  All of a sudden I thought of an issue regarding the lockout.  An issue some may have touched on but very, very few report on.  We all know the players, teams, and the NFL are being hit financially by the lockout and possibly no 2011 NFL season.  But what about the other businesses that derive revenue off football before, during, and into the post season?  This can range from sports bars to merchandisers.  From the NFL Sunday Ticket package to beer sales.

There are many businesses that look forward to not just football on Sunday’s, but for the season.  Many start to see sales increase and more visits to their website the closer it gets to the preseason.  There is a certain itch people get.  When you know your draft for fantasy football is around the corner, so is the preseason.  Many businesses gear up because they know fans and customers will be spending extra dollars on football related businesses.

But, if there is no 2011 season, many businesses will see a downturn.  There will be losses in sales, establishments will not be visited as much, food service workers may not receive the same level of tips on Sunday, on top of a chain reaction of businesses losing football season generating revenue.  Let us do a rundown of some businesses that might be affected.  If you believe more might be affected, feel free to contact me or list them in the comments.

Sports Bars/Restaurants
This seems to be the obvious place to start.  Every Sunday, if one is not home or at the game, one is out with friends to watch the game and throw back some beers and wings.  There are countless places across the country where many go to watch their favorite team and other games.  There is the 1 PM game, 4:15 PM game, and the 8:30 Sunday night game.  We can not forget about Monday Night Football here as well.  The sports bars always play more than one game to keep fans there and ordering.  These are times where people flock en mass and order up round after round and appetizer after appetizer.

These establishments know they will be busy and place larger orders so there is enough on hand.  They expect to make more money than usual.  Beer, liquor, dinners, appetizers, and so much more are expected to be ordered in mass quantities.  Servers and bartenders expect to make more than usual as patrons are expected to fill some of these places.  I would not be surprised if some make several hundred in a matter of hours.

Sights like these could be a memory on Sunday's during the season

Now, if there is no football, those places will not be as busy.  Beer sales will be down which will affect the beer companies.  If the same quantities are not ordered as on a football Sunday the suppliers to these establishments will also see a decrease in sales.  Servers will see a decrease in tips and revenue.  Some bars and restaurants may not need extra help and not have as many workers on the schedule.  Anyone associated with business at a bar or restaurant on a football Sunday will see a drop in business that day.

Sports Merchandise/Sporting Goods
This is a business that I am sure has started to take a hit.  Before any season begins many go out to get their new jerseys, hats, shirts, sweatpants, sweatshirts, flags, magnets, and anything else that shows how much of a fan they are for their team.  This is the time many stock up, to find the latest and greatest to showcase their team spirit.  But if there is no game to attend, no tailgating, no bar to go to in pride, does it matter if you went and bought the latest and greatest?

Many fans will go out and buy certain draft picks jerseys before or during the preseason.  With the draft picks not signed to their teams how could they make these jerseys?  We are less than 100 days away from the start of the 2011 season and I am sure not much merchandise is being moved right now.  Many are content to wear or use the items they have had for a while now.

With no football games of any kind, there is no merchandise to sell at any stadium.  There is a loss right there.  Not just to the companies like Starter, Reebok, Big Apple, and everyone else that put out the clothes and sporting goods, but the teams and league itself.  Reebok has an exclusive contract with the NFL to manufacturer all NFL apparel.  They will take the biggest hit.  If Reebok does not make a profit, neither will the NFL or the teams.  It is the trickle down effect.

Will fans still purchase merchandise if there is no football?

The NFL makes money off the licensing agreement.  They also see a piece off what Reebok sells.  The teams also see a piece of anything that is sold with their name on it.  But with no season for fans to show off their wares at a game or tailgating, what good is it?  To have it and hold onto it for next season?  Some will still go out and buy what they can in hopes their is a season.

Let us take an example.  Reebok has replica jerseys from $55-$85 a piece.  Actual jerseys can range from $100 on up, depending on where you buy it.  If at minimum 100,000 jerseys are bought at those prices you can see the millions that could be made if there is a football season.  We are not taking into account the other sporting goods and t shirts, hats, jackets, sweatshirts, and countless other merchandise.

For those who tailgate who adorn their home with the latest wares, there is a loss there.  Many could still just use what they have and not bother to get anything new.  No need for the new grill, tent, cooler, flags, chairs, tables, or anything else many add to their tailgate.  Now this may not be a big business changer but if companies do produce more because they see a slight increase because of football, they may not happen now.

Advertisers
Think of all the commercials one sees during a football game.  The car commercials, beer commercials, electronic ads, and so much more.  If they are not buying the time, the network does not get paid to air those ads.  The companies whose ads are on TV may not be able to reach their target audience they get with football.  They may still run ads, but not the same volume as they would during a Giants vs Cowboys game.  Not having the right placement for ads can hurt sales for a business.

The other way advertisers can be hurt is no one at the stadium sees their logo or ads.  There are sponsors for post game shows, pre game shows, stadium entrances, and the stadiums themselves.  There are so many ads being paiod for at the stadium.  If no season, no ads and the teams lose out on that advertising revenue.  Pepsi may see a drop in soda sales on Sunday.  Companies who have promotional days will not be able to get their name out to fans.

Advertising helps to bring in revenue teams and networks count on.  Without that, they need to find alternate methods to keep their advertisers happy.  Look for ways or broadcasts to push their brand and still reach the public and demographic they look to get from football.  Teams and the NFL are already cutting costs how they can.  If they can not generate revenue from outside sources, employees may not return to work sooner than they think.

There could be no one around to hear or see ads for products and not visit merchandise stands

Now, this could all change if there is a football season this year.  But even if there is a shortened season and no preseason, businesses will still see a small effect.  I know there are many other businesses that will see the effect if there is no season.  I just wanted to bring attention to what could be a loss of revenue to other businesses rather than just the NFL, teams, and players.

Many are out of work or have seen a loss of income due to the down economy.  If there is no 2011 season, many will feel the chain reaction of the lockout into their businesses.  Many look forward to certain sports seasons.  Some companies cater to those who are sports fans or involved with teams and leagues.  If there is no season, I am confident people will feel a hit to their bottom line.

Everyone wants the 2011 season to happen.  There are a few who will remain nameless who do not care if the season happens.  But from the fans, to advertisers, to business owners, to those who make any profit off the football season, we all want to see kick off.  Sports writers and beat reporters more than anyone want the season.  They need training camp and the season to have fresh material to write about.  No one more than the fans want to see the season happen.  Well, maybe not more than the players, or those who will see an increase to their bottom line.

NFL Lockout Not The Worst In Sports, Yet

With NFL labor talks in a standstill, it’s quite possible that there will be no football played in the states this coming September.  If you think you’d get a bad case of football withdrawal by next week, wait ‘til September when you’d be madly searching for the Toronto Argonauts-Ottawa Rough Riders epic somewhere on the Internet.  Or maybe catch that Arena League game on the NFL Network you have been waiting to see.

More sports leagues than the NFL have issues that might be halting play before next season. All four major sports leagues are facing potential shutdowns. It wouldn’t be the first time for stadiums & arenas to have no cheering fans in them, either. Baseball has had eight work stoppages, the NHL and NBA three apiece, and the NFL two. Some lasted a few days, others a few weeks, and one even wiped out the whole entire season and the playoffs.

To be sure, labor trouble isn’t confined to American sports. Sports leagues from Asia to Europe have had games canceled or postponed because of issues between players and management. As professional athletes earn more money, their collective representation becomes more powerful. And with additional revenues coming from television, endorsement deals and increased attendance, millions and billions of dollars are at stake in these negotiations.  No matter what country you play in, there is always a debate over money.

Sometimes the players have their way. Baseball, in particularly, has the most powerful union and its players have been able to get the owners to cave time and again because of their solidarity. At other times, the owners win big. The best such example was the 1987 NFL strike, in which the owners all but annihilated the players union by fielding replacement players (scabs) and cracked the union ranks by encouraging stars to cross the picket line.

1982 NFL Strike Sports Illustrated Cover

And there are cases when strikes are purely symbolic, with both the players and management unable to do much about decisions made by a higher power. No, God may not care who wins or loses, but courts surely decide arguments in someone’s favor and it’s not always strictly along labor lines.

The 1995 Bosman Ruling by the European Court of Justice, which caused a brief strike in Italy’s Serie A, famously made a few players and teams very rich while leaving others – players and teams alike – either without a job or bankrupt.  Sometimes it is not up to the players or the teams to show who has the true power in negotiations.

When courts don’t intervene, it’s then up to the warring sides to come to some kind of middle ground. While the average fan cannot find himself sympathizing with either the millionaires or the billionaires, it’s important to realize that professional sports is a business that goes way beyond the fun and games.  There is more concern for the dollars lost & gained rather than the faces in the crowd.

George Santayana famously cautioned, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Well, no time is like the present for some history lessons. Let’s recap some of the pasts strikes and work stoppages to see just how sports has not just affected the players and owners, but the fans as well.

NHL 2004 Lockout

The NHL became the first major North American sports league in history to cancel a whole season, as recently as 1994-95, over a labor dispute. For the first time since 1919, the Stanley Cup was not awarded at the end of the season. That dispute — where the main issue was the salary cap — lasted 310 days and caused the cancellation of 1,230 games.

A salary cap was instituted, to be adjusted annually to guarantee players 54 percent of NHL revenues. A salary floor was also implemented, and player contracts were to be guaranteed. Revenue sharing and two-way salary arbitration were ushered in.

1981 MLB Strike

The 1987 season was the last time the NFL experienced a work stoppage. Players went on strike as they argued for liberalized free agency rules. However, only 14 games were lost that season and it was seen as a big win for the owners.  42 were played by the replacement players.

The league had another work stoppage in 1982, the result of a players’ strike over the sharing of revenue with owners. There were 98 games canceled that season and by the time play resumed, both sides claimed victory.  It seems with the NFL, history does repeat itself.  Despite abbreviated regular seasons in both strike years, the NFL still staged the Super Bowl.

The main issue in this year’s ongoing NFL labor dispute revolves around the splitting of a $9 billion revenue pool. Owners want a bigger share while players are reluctant to agree until they’re provided with transparent financial data from the league. Other issues under discussion & dropped are: expanding the regular season to 18 games (not happening), instituting a rookie wage scale, and improving benefits for current and retired players.

The 1998 NBA season was shortened from 82 games to 50. A total of 928 games were lost.  It was the first NBA work stoppage that resulted in a loss of games.

The owners wanted a cap for the league’s highest paid players and a larger share of the revenue. The players were relatively happy with the current structure but wanted an increase to the league minimum. The lockout swung in the owners’ favor when an arbitrator ruled that the owners didn’t have to pay the players their guaranteed salaries while play was halted.

Commissioner David Stern set a deadline of Jan. 7 to get a deal done or he would cancel the season. A deal was reached on Jan. 6 that most believe favored the owners.  Salaries were capped at $9-14 million, depending on years of service and a pay scale was put in place for rookies. There was a modest raise to the league minimum.  A first in NBA history.

The NBA was at its peak before the lockout and it took a big hit. Attendance and TV ratings declined and its biggest star, Michael Jordan, retired during the lockout. Only recently with stars like Dwyane Wade, Dwight Howard and LeBron James has the NBA been able to fully recover.  The NHL saw a similar decline after it lost a year of play.

1987 NFL Strike

After the NHL, the next-highest number of games lost because of a work stoppage have both occurred in Major League Baseball. There were 920 games canceled in the 1994-95 strike, including the 1994 World Series. MLB also lost 712 games because of another strike in 1981.

In all four major North American sports leagues there seems to be a continued dispute in the same areas: salary and salary cap, revenue sharing from both the team and media outlets, and miscellaneous financial alternatives.  This years NFL debate is the first one to have a suit centered on retired players health care.  One will wonder if the other leagues will follow suit when the time comes.

There are labor disputes all the time.  The Teamsters, AFL/CIO, UFCW, Air Traffic Controllers, Cab Drivers, and dozens of other unions have either gone on strike or had a work stoppage.  They get attention from everyone, but not the same amount professional sports gets.  Plus, fans always seem to be caught in the middle of a sports strike or lockout.  You do not see fans complaining when Wal Mart employees are not working, do you?

As it stands now, football seems like a dream come September.  The other major sports in North America seem to have their issues looming on the horizon.  This is a vicious cycle.  If the players and owners can not learn now, then when will they?  How long do they expect the fans to to wait?  No matter what sport you follow the most,  when there is a strike or work stoppage, the fans seem to wait for the outcome more than the parties involved.

(Statistics & dates compiled from Wikipedia)

Fireman Ed Tells A Tale Of Two Stadiums

With football in a standstill right now, people can only talk about the upcoming draft.  Next season seems like something Santa should be bringing as everyone has it on their wish list.  But you will find those who are hopeful.  The ones who are already counting the days until the Jets have their first ever home game in the new stadium against the rival Giants.  A game many always look forward to.  Some fans look forward to it more than others.  One in particular is Fireman Ed Anzalone.

I sat down with with Ed in June of last year to get his thoughts in many areas.  Ranging from the Jets chant to the Jets, to the new stadium and the PSLs.  This time, I wanted to get his thoughts on what he thought about the season, the stadium, and if there will be a 2011 season.  Ed, like always, shares some thoughts for the camera and has other thoughts off camera.

The Fireman Ed/Christopher Black Fiasco Credit:CBS News

In the old stadium, Ed sat along the 20 yard line and had a great view of the field.  Everyone knew where he was and it was easy for him to get up and lead the Jet faithful in the chants.  Now, he has his seats in the end zone behind the goal posts where people have to look and see if he can be located.  Not the best place to be to lead the crowd.  But with the cameras and video screen, it helps the situation.

Ed knew the people he sat around in the old stadium.  These were people who had their seats for over 20 years.  Now, he is surrounded by different people every game.  When Green Bay came to face the Jets, there were two rows of Packer fans surrounding him.  Ed says it is a revolving door of fans who sit in the seats in the end zone.  At least by him.  Certain ticket holders look at the seats as an investment and will make their money back charging for tickets on a per game basis.

Ed notices how many are not really there to see the game.  Ed says that they diehards are the ones who sit in the end zone to about the 20 yard line in the lower section.  From about the 20-25 yard line to the other 20-25 yard line are the fans who are not truly there to see the game.  They care more about the VIP clubs, Coaches Club, bars, lounges, and other places to watch the game.  Ed says those seats are empty during the game, but the TV camera will not pick that up.  The seats are gray for a reason.  It makes the seat look filled on TV, even when it is not.

Ed on WFAN's Boomer & Carton Credit:WFAN

Ed has paid for four PSL’s in the lower part of the end zone.  He went for the cheapest PSL’s he could afford.  People question him actually purchasing them or if the Jets gave them to him.  Ed knows that if he takes anything like that from the team, he will have to owe them something.  He does not want to take anything form them or owe them anything.  He pays like everyone else, and does not like it.  He is stuck sitting around a revolving door of fans.  Ed knows the real fans, the ones who stick it out in the worst weather sit closer to the top.  Sounds like the hierarchy in the Roman Coliseum.

Speaking of true fans, Ed has even spoken with several Giants fans.  Many fans do not like the new stadium at all for several reasons.  For one, this stadium does not have their name on it.  There are no red and blue seats.  They have to share it equally with the Jets kills some Giants fans.  Plus, some feel cheated by John Mara.  They know his father would have never have approved anything his son has done.  They feel fans have been treated better over their 90 year history and they have been slapped in the face.

Ed is optimistic the 2011 season will happen.  if it doesn’t he does hold the team owners responsible.  They have so much power and finances that they do not have to worry.  This situation shows just how greedy they really are and not willing to give in to the players.  He does feel the fans are caught in the middle and are always caught in situations with no thought.  Ed believes if there is no 2011 season, then shame on the owners for doing so.  Sometimes, there has to be give and take.  Not just take.

Leading The First Chant In New Stadium Credit:JetsTwit.com

There comes a time when some know their time is up.  When a torch needs to be passed.  Ed knows that time is coming soon for him.  He is over 50 and knows he can not do the Jets chants much longer.  He said if someone came along and thinks they can do it or takes a shot and doing what he does, then he would step aside gracefully.  Ed believes in a few years, there will be some other Jets diehard fan doing what he does, and younger.  And Ed is ok with that.  he is content to just attend and watch the games.

Ed is not shy when it comes to giving his opinions.  I just do not feel like giving them all away right now.  Then what would be left for the documentary?  I may decide to give people more in a little bit.  It all depends on the lockout being lifted.  There are appeals and so much more that can happen.  So instead of writing about the Jets, I will have more on Fireman Ed.

Football is entering a new era.  The NFL will not be the same after this lockout.  The teams, players, and even the fans know that the sport of football has been replaced with the business of football.  Fans are not fans any longer, they are consumers.  Looked at for the dollar they spend.  Long gone are the days where you knew people names in the stadium.  Where you could get up close and personal.  Now that is done on Facebook and Twitter.  Ed saw the change coming years ago.  He may be known as Fireman Ed to everyone, but to the Jets, he is both a consumer and a brand they can push to make them more money.

Fans Remember The Past, Easier Than Thinking About Future

With no talk about free agency, contract negotiations, or off season workouts, there is not much football talk going on.  All people can do right now is discuss the draft in a few weeks and make their predictions.  It reminds me of the book/movie “All Quiet On The Western Front”.

Every football fan looks forward to going to the games.  Not just to see their favorite team, but to be with friends and family.  It is a time to relax, have fun, and have experiences that will turn into memories.  I am sure a lot of people are reflecting on some now, hoping there will be a season this year.  If not, they will reflect on seasons past and the fun they had.  For many Jet s fans, the memories are all we have the past 40 years.

Many of us reflect on previous seasons.  Games we attended with our father, brother, mother, sister, grandfather, uncle,  or other family members who may not be with us anymore.  It did not matter how bad the game was, one would always find something good to remember about the day.  Even if it was a bad game, there was something about it that made it a positive experience.  Many talk about how much they hated Shea Stadium and Giants Stadium.  But they will always mention how much fun those times were in those bad situations.

My brother Ean and my father Jerry

If you are like me, you recall games you attended with someone who passed away.  I always think about my dad when I think about the Jets.  Every time I went to a game without him and sat in Section 226 Row 8, Seats 7 and 8 in Giants Stadium, I would think about him.  Walking around the new stadium while filming, I would thin about him and wonder what he would think about the new structure built for the financially elite.  Sometimes I would talk aloud to him, as if he was walking next to me.

A funny story my dad would always tell me was about the time he was headed to the AFL Championship game between the Jets and Oakland Raiders.  He was speeding and was pulled over.  He was sitting in a line of a dozen cars that were pulled over, dead last behind them all.  He was running late and wanted to be there by kick off.  He calls an officer over and explains he knows he was speeding and deserves the ticket.  He then explains to the officer why he was speeding and shows him the tickets to the game.  The officer tells him to hold on and be patient.  Less than five minutes later, the officer returns with the ticket and tells my father to leave.  He left before the other cars pulled over did.

He was the type that would have looked at the new stadium in amazement.  Amazed at all the technology that was put into it and laugh when I would have to explain the reasons why.  He was the type that just liked to watch the game, not much else.  He would follow the changes in the game, but laugh and smile at the tech advances that are interwoven into it.  He would have been 76 today.  Still feels like yesterday.  Every time the football season begins I think of all those games we went to.  I know some others who feel the same as I do.

While filming in the parking lot at Giants Stadium in 2008, I came across Tommy Wilson. Such a dedicated Jets fan he owned the license plates “JETS” & “12 JETS”.  I later find out Jets owner Woody Johnson offered to buy the “JETS” plate from him.  Always wearing his #12 Joe Namath jersey and always at the games, his personality and presence felt like my father’s.  I guess that is why his story touches me even more than others I met while filming.

Tommy was honored in 2002 by the NFL and Visa Pro Football Hall for Fans.  He wrote the winning essay as to why he should be the fan to represent the Jets in the Hall of Fans.  He held 10 season tickets for close to 40 years.  His restaurants was named after the lot he tailgated in, Lot 12A.  A true “Super” Fan in my book.

There is more I can say about Tommy but do not want to give away his entire story.  I went back to get a follow up in September of 2009 and he pushed it to another game.  When I emailed him about it in early November of 2009, his wife Mary Lou informed me he passed away in early October.  I was deeply saddened to hear the news.  He had purchased several PSL’s too.  Tommy lived and breathed the Jets, helped to pay for the new stadium, is in the Hall of Fans for the Jets, but yet was just another fan to the Jets organization.

DSC07211

Tommy Jr, his sister, and Mary Lou Wilson

I met up with his widow Mary Lou and her son Tommy Jr this past October.   Mary Lou thought about giving up the seats after he passed but knew Tommy would not have wanted that.  Last year was a hard season but this year was different.  Once again, many people who used to tailgate with them at 13A were not there.  Some did not get PSL’s, others did not have the right parking permits, while others feel it is not the same without Tommy.  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.

Mary Lou and Tommy Jr. always reflect on their memories about Tommy.  It makes them smile and feel good about being a Jet fan.  Even with next season uncertain, they still reflect and always will.  Tommy was one of those fans that made you feel good when he talked.  I guess he holds a place in my heart because he reminded me of my own father.  There is a strange connection to fans from a certain era in football.  An era where it was about the game, not the politics.

Everyone knows the kind of fans I refer to.  The ones where they smile when they talk about past seasons.  When memories were about actions on the field, not battles in courts off the field.  Older generations of fans seem to have this glow in their eyes.  Where you do not mind listening to their stories.  The kind where you can sit with a beer and listen for hours if you need a reason to smile.

Right now fans need a reason to smile.  They need a reason to believe a season will happen this year.  Many look forward to those home games, not just to tailgate, but to create memories with friends and family.  50% of ticket money was already due, PSL payment in several months.  Do the Jets think the season will happen?  But when a season looks like it may not happen, there is nothing to look forward to.

As it stands, all we can do is think ahead to a season that may or may not happen.  We can reflect about the games we have all been to before.  Many will talk about the past two seasons as they ended in trips to the AFC Championship game.  Looking forward to a season where a Super Bowl could be in the Jets grasp for the first time n over 40 years.  But all we can do is sit back and wait.

There may be no season.  Then all we can do is reflect on the 2011 season that never was.  How we all waited for players and owners to come to an agreement to end a lockout.  Where the courts made the decision instead of the NFL.  In 1987 at least there were some games played.  Who knows what will happen this year.

Ahh, the memories.

It’s A Typical Football Off Season, Or Is It?

No matter who you talk to, no one really wants to discuss football.  Let’s face it, there is not much to talk about.  With owners and players at a stalemate and leaving it up to the courts, even they have nothing to talk about.  For the first time since 1987, we are all at a standstill.

For once, all football fans are on the same page, waiting.  Waiting to see when this lockout will not just end, but how soon.  The media does not have much to report on.  Many should be reporting on free agent signings, contract negotiations, off season workouts, and so much more.  But there is not even that to discuss.  Sports writers and reporters have to scrounge for ideas and stories like they are going dumpster diving, trying to find any scrap to talk about.

Greg Bishop of the New York Times wrote a great piece concerning the Jets and what they are doing, or not doing.
“Players are not allowed inside the building. The Jets cannot make trades or sign their numerous free agents. Employees on the team’s business side, everyone from secretaries to executive vice presidents, are staring at the possibility of forced work furloughs. And those involved in the organization’s football operations — coaches among them — are working under a 25 percent pay cut.

Like all N.F.L. teams, the Jets are on a novel campaign to carry on as an organization. Some looming decisions, like how to refund tickets if games are canceled this fall, have nothing to do with football on the field. Others relate to more basic and familiar football questions — whom to draft, for instance, late next month. The Jets will not be able to sign their selections, but they still have to make them.

The greatest sense of paralysis probably is being felt by Tannenbaum and his staff. The Jets have 15 expiring contracts, including those of key players like Cromartie and wide receivers Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards.”

This is a key time for the Jets.  For the second consecutive year, they made it to the AFC Championship and lost.  They have the tools to go to the Super Bowl.  By not being able to negotiate with free agents, talk to players and agents, there will be little time to make up once the lockout ends.  Depending how close it is to opening day.  The Jets will have to run their own hurry up offense just to make sure the pieces are there to make a run in 2011.

Mike Tannenbaum might also have to make changes on handling the draft.  In previous seasons, he has selected high quality players, regardless of their position.  Vernon Gholston was a choice of Eric Mangini, not Tannenbaum.  In this season of the lockout, with needs on the defensive line, at safety, and with three key receivers potentially free agents, he could draft to key positions.  They need a big time pass rusher.  But when it comes to the Jets, they usually surprise many on their choices.

The players, for their part, face their own challenges and quandaries . During the lockout, players are on their own for their workouts.  Cornerback Darrelle Revis put the offer out to host all defensive backs at his home in Arizona to help with training and development. Some may take him up on it while others may not want to spend to make the trip. Many are working out at local colleges and high schools.  Five members of the Jets’ secondary are free agents, and if any are injured, their careers could be hindered without the backing of a team to help with their rehabilitation.

Let me show you where players are not currently training

For first year players, Kyle Wilson, Vladimir Ducasse, John Conner and Joe McKnight of last years draft class, they will suffer more. They will not receive any instruction from their coaches.  They will be missing out on key guidance.   First year rookies all over will not have the tutelage other players have had in the past.  They need to rely on veteran players right now.

Of course, many of these issues could become a memory, as the players have sought, a federal judge in Minnesota grants an injunction barring the owners from continuing to implement the lockout.

Still, fans remain positive on there being a 2011 season.  In a call with Fireman Ed, he knows they have months to go to settle things.  But if the judge makes the decision favoring the owners, then there is a chance this could go on for a while.  Ed knows the Jets have the right tools to build on this past season.  But when coaches and players can not talk, there is not much to build on.  Ed feels some of the smaller market team owners have a bigger say in this and are trying to get more out of it.  For a fan as passionate as Fireman Ed, even he has nothing to talk about regarding football.

Every player across the league is experiencing the same woes as the Jets players.  Many would love the chance to workout at their teams facilities, but have to make makeshift plans to schedule the same type of workouts.

Every team owner, coach, and General manager has to make plans about the upcoming season and put them away in a file.  Only to come back to them later on the chance there is a season to come back to.  Then they have to use their 2 minute drill to get those carefully laid plans into place.  Time is on their side, for now.

So we all wait collectively.  Like a $300 million dollar lottery hoping our numbers are the ones to be called.  Sitting on the edge of our seats for that big announcement of a 2011 season.  But no one will be happier than the team employees who were forced into pay cuts and furloughs.  The players will come next, followed by the team management.  But in the end, the fans will breathe a sigh of relief once they know there is an opening day kickoff.