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Jets Keep Winning, Veteran Fans Debate Future Tailgating

This past Thursday night, the Jets gave their fans a true win to celebrate over.  On Thanksgiving night, they beat the stuffing out of those turkeys called the Cincinnati Bengals.  Three wins in under a year.  The Jets defense came alive when the team needed them to the most.  That was a key piece missing the past few weeks.  Sanchez and the offense was picking up the slack for the defense.  But Revis and the Defense proved they want it just as bad.  Two interceptions, a fumble recovery, three sacks, and a safety kept their juices flowing.  It was great to finally see the Jets have a decisive win that they did not have to pull out in the final seconds of the game.

Where has Brad Smith been hiding his potential?  For weeks now he has barely cracked double digits when running the ball or in the Seminole package.  Mr. Every Position sparked New York to its second-best start after he scored on an 89-yard kickoff return — during which a cleat slipped off — and also had a 53-yard touchdown run.  Brad Smith is showing why he is an integral part of the Jets offense.  It seems when guys are needed on the team, they come to life.  I think some are still waiting for Joe McKnight to come around.

Now the Jets may be 9-2 and that gives many fans a reason to celebrate.  Everyone will.  Many younger fans have not seen a Jets team like this and older veteran fans have not seen a team this good in decades.  But it is still not enough to keep some long time tailgaters happy.  Long time tailgaters The Jet Nuts, Jet Pack, and a few others have considered putting a halt to their mass crowd tailgating ways.  They are not seeing the people they once saw come to their tailgates to pay.  Many blame it on friends opting out of the PSLs and continuing their season tickets.  The groups that charge per head is not seeing the same income come in to help fund a large tailgate party each game.

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Caesar who helped create the Jet Pack back in 1967 said over 80% of the crew did not continue their season tickets.  Now, they tailgate in two separate groups and do not really have the bond they used to have.  Cesar has tried to get Robert Parrin over at the other group to come over to no avail.  One group has about eight while the other has about a handful.  Really down from the dozens I have seen at their combined tailgate before.  To them, the game is not the same experience without being able to tailgate the way they used to, with their friends.

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The Jet Nuts though have a larger tailgate.  Sometimes catering to over 100 fans, depending on the game.  But this season has seen a considerable drop.  They say the crowds are not coming to them like they used to.  They are putting out more money and not seeing much of a return.  Not to mention the bus they drive up from Port Redding with the TV’s, industrial sized grills, and generations of family members.  The Jet Nuts are thinking this could be their last year of group tailgating.  They have been a focus on Jets tailgating for years and they are on their forth bus.

Some could argue the economy still has a hold on some, only paying for the essentials when it comes to the games.  Spending what they had on the PSL, parking pass, and tickets.  Maybe some do not have the $20-$30 per game for a tailgate.  IF you have a family, that can add up.  So it could be cheaper to do a few burgers and dogs yourself.  But people will always party in the parking lots.  You will always see the few and the many.  The groups who take up 4-5 spots who will cook for a few dozen friends.  Not to mention Lobel’s of New York and Weber Grills teaming up to do your tailgating for you, for a price.    They will offer grills to rent in the future.

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As long as the Jets keep wining, the fans will find a reason to celebrate.  But at the home games, not everyone will celebrate together.  Some are doing it by their cars, while their friends are doing it for the first time from their couches.  Many fans note he inside of the stadium has changed.  Not just the building, but the fans inside as well.  It is a different atmosphere all around.  From parking, to the building, to the fans seating around you, to how you leave the stadium parking.  Everyone sees a difference inside when attending a game.  But the biggest difference is how many new younger fans there are compared to the old regime of fans who were with the team since the New York Titans days, or even Shea Stadium.

Even if the Jets win the Super Bowl, it will not bring back the fans who have already left.  They will continue to cheer on their team.  Just no longer from seats inside the stadium.  But from the ones in front of their TV or at their favorite sorts bar.  Sometimes a bigger better stadium does not mean your fans will be better.  You never hear too many people recall memories from walking around a stadium, from visiting VIP lounges or suites.  Sitting at the stadium bar or carving station.  Not even from what concession stand they get their beer from.  They recall the memories of the game itself, memorable plays seen on the field watching with their friends.  Memories recapped while tailgating in the parking lot, passing those memories on to the next generation.

NY Jets Tailgating Creates Friends & Memories

I have talked before how there are a lot of new faces in the Jets parking lot during tailgating.  There are also fewer recognizable faces from years past.  Not only that I see, but others see less and less of their friends who did not get a PSL.  As the Jets organization pressed hard for the PSL’s, many long time ticket holders felt pushed away by the organization.  While others, felt they had no choice if they wanted to continue to see their team live.  Everyone has a choice, no one can say they were pressured into buying a PSL.  The pressure comes from yourself, and maybe some friends who already made their decision.  Some do not do it for the game alone, but for the tailgating as well.  It has become such a ritual for some, their warm up to the game itself.

The more I walk around during tailgating, the more I see friends and family partying like it was a major holiday.  Everyone comes to the game with what they feel are the essentials.  The necessary items to make their pregame ritual the best it can be.  The long time Jet faithful feel that friends are the best for the games.  Who better to share it with than those who you have followed the team with since the Polo Grounds or Shea Stadium.  It is the continuing of these memories that makes the next one that much better.  You can consider your memories your own personal NFL Films that many have viewed but only your friends will remember the way you do.

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There are some necessities to tailgating.  A grill, burgers, beer, chips, and a spot to have it all in.  Some prefer to add a lot more to make it exciting for them and their friends.  You can add a tent, a 10×10 canopy, or for the major league tailgater, a camper.  One camper I walked around in cost the fan about $75,000 complete with Jets memorabilia, fridges, bed, flat screen, and everything else he feels is needed for a Jets tailgate.  Some are towing grills/smokers behind their vehicles.  Nothing says tailgating like burgers for 120 people.  Now, one can have Lobel’s of NY and Weber grills prepare it all for them.  Just sit back and fork over your cash.

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Other people feel there are other necessities to tailgating.  Some prefer to grill steaks, lobster, pork chops, crab legs, sausage, vodka chicken parmigiana, and other foods based on the Jets opponents.  For the Patriots, some had New England clam chowder, seafood jambalaya, mussels, and a Tom Brady jersey over open coals.  Now a couple of guys said a necessity was hot girls at a tailgate.  When one is young and drunk, one will say anything.  But everyone agreed you do need close and dear friends to make every tailgate that much better.  Now one group forgot their propane, but they did not forget their friends.  So it really does not matter how big of a set up you have or what you prepare, as long as you have friends around you to share in the festivities.

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The Jet Pack, founded by Robert Parin in 1967, was all about fun with friends before the game.  IN  years past, they always had each tailgate a themed one.  They would do a pig roast one game, seafood buffet another game, and other great themed tailgates.  They were even responsible for the Spark Plug Award.  At the final tailgate of each season, it would be given to who the fans thought the season’s MVP was.  The last one was handed out in 2008.  As the members of the Pack dwindled due to many not investing in a PSL, they stopped the award.  Last Sunday, only a handful out of the 70-80 that had accumulated over the years of the Jet Pack were back.  Robert and a few dedicated others only had two small grills going compared to mega set ups they had grown accustomed to.  The prices kept many away.  Now Robert and others sit farther away from where their seats had been previously.

It does not matter how much the Jets charge for PSL’s, tickets, parking, or overpriced food inside the stadium.  Fans will always set up in the parking lot like nomads in the desert, looking for a place to rest, eat, and celebrate before moving on to their final destination.  That is something the Jets can not take away from their fans, no matter how confusing or expensive they make their parking.  I guess that is why I enjoy walking around and talking to everyone there.  It is where Jets fans show their true self.  Not just inside being led by Fireman Ed, but outside getting ready for the battle yet to be witnessed.

The Jets seem to have a separation between themselves and their fans. Many fans I talk to feel the Jets really do not listen to them or care about them. I guess that is why I listen to the fans so much and want to get their message across. Maybe if the Jets had people in the parking lot talking to fans rather than having employees paint peoples faces for $10 they could get more in tun with their fans. If anything, I would like my documentary to let teams know what they could do to come down to their fans level. To really let your fans know that you care about more than their checkbooks.

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Jets Fans Celebrate Season Opener & Filming Continues

Yesterday was the inaugural game for the New York Jets in their new home, the New Meadowlands Stadium.  It was a Monday Night Football game that ended in a loss to the Baltimore Ravens 10-9.  But before the game even started, many fans were still getting acclimated not just to the new stadium, but to the parking and tailgating as well.  With it being a Monday night game starting at 7 PM, it did not leave much time for those coming right from work.  Some were able to get the day off while others battled traffic and the incoming elements to get there in one piece.

The start started off great, the sun was out and had a ride schedule to get myself & my friends Paul and Sixto who were helping me film into the stadium.  Since I did not invest in a PSL or non PSL seats, there was no way I could park at the Meadowlands.  Bruce Speight from the New York Jets mentioned he might be able to get me a parking pass for $25 but that never happened.  So Sal & Carmine who run one of the best tailgates was to be our ride into the parking area.  Sal & Carmine have been “base camp” while filming the past few years.  They have been great and so have the guys who party with them.  But since Sal was taking a different route, we had to meet him close to the stadium and they picked us up as we made our way over.

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Sal                                                                          Carmine

Just trying to find the right sport to enter the parking at the stadium was not too easy, for the first time.  A lot of people were waiting on long lines just to get into the parking section they wanted.  Depending on the lot you wanted to get into depending on how long of a line you waited in.  We were headed into Yellow Lot J and the line was not too long.  Some people got into the lot a little early and were asked to leave, then come back.  One of Carmine’s friends made it into the lot.  They asked him to leave around 1:52 PM and to come back in when it opened, 8 minutes later.  Crazy.  The thought they were making it easier for everyone to park but people just felt waiting on the lines were stupid.

After we got ourselves set up we decided to get a lay of the new land.  Felt weird walking across the parking lot where the old Giants Stadium stood.  Was a strange feeling not seeing it there.  I saw it come down for weeks in front of my eyes.  Just hard to stand on the exact site where it stood and knowing the parking structure was now sinking into the lot.  A huge stadium was there just a few months ago.  And now, just a basic parking lot.  The Green parking where the Club and Suite PSL holders park is the site of where the stadium once stood.  I am sure many others feel strange about parking and tailgating on the site of the old stadium.

It seems Weber Grills and Lobel’s of New York have teamed up to give fans an option in tailgating.  If there are fans who do not want to bring the grill, food, or even a cooler to the tailgate, Weber & Lobel’s will do it for them.  Yes, one can either rent the equipment & buy the raw ingredients or have them cook it for you there.  That is, if you do not mind paying $18 for a steak sandwich.  It was very pricey, once again it shows the clientele they are catering to at the new stadium.   They had all kinds of cuts of meat and chefs who were ready to prepare them all for you.  They will offer these services every Jets and Giants home game.  Keep in mind their stand is set up between Lots F & G of the Green parking.

From there were toured around the new lots.  Not too many people were there yet.  Was somewhat empty in many lots until people got out of work.  We did however come across some people partying it up and did not care who was around.  There was the 40 foot tall inflatable gorilla one fan had purchased off Ken Pikowski that wore his Jets shirt.  One tailgate had their own Revis Island complete with Revis and Ravens jerseys.  But everyone still had opinions on the PSL’s.  Everyone did not like the fact they were used but felt if they wanted to see their team live, in person,  they had no other choice.  Some were even proud to pay to them and said those who didn’t were f’n morons who were stupid not to since they did.

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Paul, Sixto, and I went all the away across to yellow Lot D by Route 120 to visit a guy who had a Jets hearse with a casket in back with a Ray Lewis jersey.  Another one not proud to pay for the PSL’s but felt the need to as he wanted to keep coming to the stadium to see the Jets.  Seems many who have the cheapest PSL’s thought they did the least of all the PSL evil’s.  Seems not many are proud they have them, but still feel fortunate to have kept their tickets.  A confusing situation to some.  The sky was looking very ominous.  The clouds were dark and looking like they were about to open up very soon.

As we were walking back over to Sal & Carmines, I managed to get some words with some Baltimore Ravens fans.  They had to endure PSL’s back in the late 1990’s.  They instituted them not too long after the Carolina Panthers brought them into the NFL.  Seems if you wanted seats 3 rows back from the 50 yard line all one had to pay was $3,000 for a PSL.  Higher up in the mezzanine it was $750 a seat.  Now this was over 11 years ago but still a bargain.  They said for the prices they were asking there was not much of a complaint by the fans.  Even the ticket prices were low.  But the Ravens fans did feel the Jets and Giants prices were too high and felt sorry for the New York fans.  Some ravens fans even sold their PSL’s making a profit.  One who had two $2,500 PSL’s sold them off for $8,000 a piece not long after they won the Super Bowl.

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The closer we got to Sal and Carmine’s the closer rain was coming.  We got pulled over to some Jets fans burning a Ravens hat on their grill.  Some Ravens fans came over and thought it was cruel.  Come on.  That is how fans are.  Well, maybe after a few beers.  Before the rain started to fall we got some footage of a band playing at one of the tailgates.  Seems every year some group has a band playing.  We managed to get all the gear away just before the clouds opened up on us.  Lightening was coming down pretty close by so we got out of there as fast as we could.  Tailgating was cut short by at least an hour and 20 minutes.

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As we were walking out to our car parked on the other side of route 3, the lines getting into the stadium were jammed.  Seemed no matter what road you came in on there were long lines backed up at different points.  Those who came from work or any time after 5 PM had to wait in long lines as the rain poured down.  It was coming down heavy at times and I Know it is not a good feeling coming to a game in the rain, stuck in traffic , and you think you will be parking far.  But I guess with the new parking some felt that no matter how long they waited, they would have a close enough spot.  Unless you had to park over by the Izod Center and had to walk all the way over to the stadium.  Guess everyone learned to get there early from now on and try to avoid the lines.

Now that I know the parking lot sections better it will make it easier to find people I would like to go back and interview.  Plus, I will be finding out from others their input for the season.  I want to see if by the end of the year if the Jets are not living up to expectation, how people feel about their PSL purchases.  Will they think they invested in a team that did not live up to their expectations.  Will they stand by a team that is all hype and no bite.  Only time will tell.  One game down and seven to go.  Still plenty of time for the Jets to turn it around and give their fans something to cheer about. Read more