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This Sunday, Jets Fans Must Make Tough Decision

Super Bowl XLVI is here. We can’t avoid it, Jets fans.  Regardless of all the promises made and past AFC Championship appearances, we need to get through this Sunday.

Super Bowl 42, the Giants’ historic upset of the then undefeated Patriots was a bit easier to swallow for Jets fans.  I don’t recall many Jets fans, if any at all, cheering the Patriots to cap off the first unbeaten season since the ’72 Dolphins.  Especially since Eric Mangini selling out his former boss in the Spygate scandal sent the Pats on the destroy everything and take no names streak that brought them to the precipice of 19-0. If it took our city rival Giants to knock them off?  So be it, I guess.  Would have been better if it was the Jets, huh?

I may not have been one of the only Jets fans who wasn’t exactly enamored with the fact that the Giants won that game. Here was my rationale: by about Week 14 or so when the Patriots were steamrolling the NFL, I kind of made up my mind that the Pats were going undefeated and winning the Super Bowl. Who thought the Giants, or any NFC contender for that matter,  had a chance?  I had plenty of time to digest it so that when it happened, it wouldn’t have really mattered all that much.  And then when Plaxico Burress caught that pass in the end zone, I thought to myself “Now I have to hear about this from Giants fans the rest of my life.”  The fact the Giants defeated the undefeated Patriots instead of the Jets.

But this year isn’t as clear cut. After the Giants won that Super Bowl, it kind of became a Jet town. I know, I know, the Giants WILL ALWAYS OWN NEW YORK YOU STUPID JET FAN. But, the Jets signed Brett Favre for one weird season (they were Super Bowl faves at 8-3, then collapsed) and the Giants lost in their first playoff game after a great regular season. Then the Jets hired Rex Ryan, drafted Mark Sanchez and made two straight AFC Title games while Big Blue missed the playoffs.  Not your typical New Y0rk football seasons, huh?

And while the Jets have no one to blame but themselves for this most recent debacle of a season, everything was made worse by the Giants making the Super Bowl. Not only have the Giants made it again, their run started by essentially ending the Jets’ season in Week 16. Victor Cruz’s 99-yard touchdown reception sent the Jets one way and the Giants the other. The Giants two Super Bowl appearances basically takes everything a Jets fan could hang their hat on these past few seasons and demolishes it.

Then of course there are the Patriots. The last thing I want, as a New York sports fan, is for another Boston team to win a championship. Any agony of the Red Sox’ hilarious September implosion would be softened with another Patriots Super Bowl win. The Pats are the Jets’ chief rival, no matter if they share a city with the Giants. Had the Jets beaten the Patriots in both of their meetings this season, the Jets would have made the playoffs, so they have no one to blame but themselves for not knocking off New England (as Rex Ryan pleaded for the rest of the league to do). And what makes New England being back in the Super Bowl so unbearable for Jets fans is that the Patriots were so beatable this year.

The breaks both the Giants and the Patriots got on Championship Sunday are breaks that us Jets fans seem to never be on the right side of.  Ask any Jets fan and they’ll tell you that if Tynes was wearing green and white, he would have Cundiff’d it. Billy Cundiff is the new Ray Finkle.   Had Ahmad Bradshaw been a Jet, they would have never called his forward progress stopped, and that surely would have been a fumble. There’s no way a punt returner is muffing a kick and fumbling another one against the Jets in a title game. Of course it sounds like sour grapes because that’s exactly what it is. That’s what us Jets fans have been used to for so long.

There are millions and millions of people who would never not watch a Super Bowl, no matter what. For those fans of the Jets who will still watch on Sunday, who do you root for? There’s no such thing as watching a game just to watch it. Sports fans, no matter what they say, have a rooting interest in every game they watch. You either get a pit in your stomach when you watch a player celebrate a victory or your stomach turns. When Sunday’s game is over and either Tom Brady or Eli Manning is raising the Lombardi trophy, you’ll either wish it was the other guy or you won’t. So who do you cheer for?

If you hate all things Boston no matter what, you root for the Giants. If you have nothing but annoying Giant fan friends who you just want to shut up, you pull for the Pats. Maybe you want former Jets Shaun Ellis & Danny Woodhead to win a title.  Maybe you want Eli to win a second Super Bowl so that Peyton can’t stand the idea that anyone will think Eli is better than him, so he decides to come to the Jets to try to upstage his little brother. Maybe you’ll throw some money down and root for that — totally acceptable.

Either way, if you watch Sunday’s game, you’ll have a rooting interest. It’s a no-win situation for Jets fans. I will cheering on the Giants since my wife and her family are Giants fans.  Plus, I’d rather see a team from New York beat a team from New England.  Or you can be like some and not watch. That’s also acceptable.

Sunday’s Jets/Patriots Game Critical For Team & Fans

For the past year and a half, New Meadowlands Stadium now MetLife Stadium has been home of the New York Jets. But Sunday will feel like their first game in the new billion dollar stadium.

When the Patriots come to East Rutherford in a gigantic AFC East match against Gang Green,  it will be a test to see if all those years of waiting will make this stadium be home to the Jets and their fans or just another upscale VIP event.

To date, this will be the Jets biggest game they will play in the new stadium.  But to the fans and everyone watching, will it feel like it. More importantly, will the Jets play as it is their biggest game played in MetLife Stadium.

For as long as I have been filming at MetLife, the former New Meadowlands Stadium, no one has enjoyed it.  Fans have had reason to hate the PSLs.  The fans hate the way it looks like a prison from the outside.  It has no life.  The stadium feels like a shell of something that could be grander.

The Jets want fans at MetLife Stadium on Sunday vs. the Patriots to give Gang Green an advantage they have yet to see at home.  They want the fans to be louder than they have ever been.  To show that the Jets can defeat their AFC rivals with confidence and certainty.  The Jets biggest opponent are themselves, and that needs to be defeated easily before they can defeat the Patriots.

But maybe this game is what the new stadium has been waiting for. Maybe Brady, Billichik, Ochocinco, and the rest of the Pats walking into the Jets home is what has been needed. The sight of the Justin Bieber wannabe has done it time and time again. The most memorable home game of Jets coach Rex Ryan’s tenure was his first. On that Sunday back in September of 2009, Giants Stadium vibrated as the Jets defeated the Patriots in an opening day battle.

The past three years has been a period of change for many sports fans, and not just of football. We’ve seen Yankee Stadium, Shea Stadium and Giants Stadium torn down. Rising in their place have been buildings that seem to be more about profits than the roar of the fans, that prefer the upscale, casual sports viewer than the outspoken die-hard fan.

Since I started filming, I have heard stories & watched fans who saw Joe Namath play at Shea leave overpriced seats behind where they could have watched Mark Sanchez in a new stadium . Tales of longtime season-ticket holders fuming and forced out in droves have seen masses not come back to watch all their local sports teams.

For the Jets, MetLife Stadium was supposed to represent their first real home. The franchise has wandered like gypsies from other peoples home stadiums beginning with the Polo Grounds. MetLife is shared with the Giants, but the franchise does everything possible to make the stadium feel like home by making it look green on game day.  So fans feel like it belongs to them, not the Giants.

Like the new homes of the Mets and Yankees, though, the Jets are limited in how they can make MetLife stadium feel like home. Most of it has to do with what’s happening on the field & the green colors outside on game day. Yankee Stadium felt like doppelganger to some until they had their series with the Boston Red Sox during the opening season. Citi Field needs a Mets makeover before it becomes a tough ticket.  It has yet to feel warm and inviting to Mets fans.

On Sunday, it is zero hour for Gang Green and their fans. The Jets have a chance to see what their home field can truly sound and feel like. They have played 12 games at MetLife Stadium to date. Brett Favre’s return last year had the place shaking. The season opener with the Cowboys this year got loud when Joe McKnight blocked a punt in the fourth quarter.  But that is nothing compared to what the fans can truly sound like.

Nothing compares to the present, though. Bill Belichick and Brady enter this game vulnerable. With both teams at 5-3, this feels like an AFC Title game. It could determine whether the Jets bring a playoff game to MetLife this year.  Something the fans have demanded for years.  The ability to watch their team at home in the playoffs.  To give their Jets a home field advantage the likes the team has not seen.

Is that enough for those in the VIP boxes and Coaches Club sections to put down their over priced drinks and prime rib? Maybe Woody Johnson needs to sit with the real fans to find out what it truly feels like to be at a home Jets game.  At about 8:30 Sunday night come kick off, we’ll find out.

Gang Greed: More Than A Documentary Title

When I set out to film this documentary in August of 2008, I set out to tell the fans side.  To let the fans speak about what it means to be a Jets fan.  How the new PSL’s were going to affect their status as a season ticket holder.  Were they going to invest in them or stop going to games altogether.  Now, it seams, no one may be going to any games in 2011.

National Football League team owners locked out the league’s players Saturday, shutting down professional football for the first time in 24 years and plunging the nation’s most popular and prosperous sport into a time of uncertainty.

The owners acted after labor talks with the players’ union collapsed Friday afternoon and players decertified the NFL Players Association, moving the bitter dispute into the courts and ending an era of NFL labor peace that had lasted since players went on strike in 1987.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, joined at left by Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, speaks with reporters as negotiations between the NFL owners and players go unresolved

Decertifying the NFL Players Association enabled the players to file antitrust litigation against the owners, which they did late Friday, with superstar quarterbacks Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees among the 10 named plaintiffs. Lawyers for the players also announced that they are seeking an injunction to lift the lockout.

Some still wonder if all of this was worth the headache.  Not just for the players and owners, but the fans as well.  Both the Jets and Giants issued apologies to the fans for the lockout.  The players feel they did what they could but were left with no other choice.

The team owners will complain they are losing money.  I am sure they will have no issues paying their bills though.  The income is a loss for their business, not them personally.  Some younger players will feel the crunch if they are not playing.  Many veteran players have investments and other business ventures that will help them get by.  But in the end, they will all be on the losing end.

Does anyone really win when this happens?  When the last lockout occurred in 1987, who won that battle?  The players were n strike while the owners went out and hired “scabs” to play out the season.  Will the team owners o the same thing this year?  Probably not.  They all want to get this rectified before training camp begins.  The fans would like it done sooner.

For season ticket holders, they would like to know sooner than later.  Many are pleased only 50% is due and not the whole bill.  It gives some longer to get that money together.  But knowing a season will happen is better knowing now rather than three weeks into a season.  We are on the outside looking in, wondering if a sport many of us enjoy will even happen this year.

Last week Judge David S. Doty ruled that the NFL violated the collective bargaining agreement with its players by renegotiating $4.078 billion in television rights fees for team owners to tap during a lockout even if no games are played in 2011.  Why should the owners be entitled to money if there is no season?  Should the players get paid if they do not play?

Both sides have their issues.  Many players feel the union walked away from a deal that sounded good and met their needs, despite the negative media attention towards the NFL and its owners.  According to that statement the NFL released the latest proposal’s details included:

1. The NFL proposed that the two sides split the economic differences between them, increasing their proposed cap for 2011 “significantly” and accepting the NFLPA’s proposed cap number for 2014, which was $161 million per team.

2. The NFL proposed an entry level compensation system that was based on the union’s “rookie cap” instead of a wage scale that the clubs originally proposed. In this proposal, the players drafted from rounds 2-7 would be paid the same amount of money, or even more money, than they are paid now. The savings that would come from the first-round picks would be reallocated to help veteran players and benefits.

3. After a player is injured, the NFL would guarantee that they would pay up to $1 milllion of that player’s salary for the contract year. This is the first time that the owners have offered a standard multi-year injury guarantee.

4. The following changes would be made immediately to promote player safety:

  • Reduce the off-season program by five weeks, reducing OTAs from 14 weeks to 10 and limiting on-field practice time and contact.
  • They would limit full-contact practices in the preseason and regular season
  • They would increase the number of off days for players

5. The NFL proposed that any change from a 16-game season to an 18-game season would only be made if the two sides agreed on the change. The 2011 and 2012 seasons would be 16-game seasons.

6. The NFL team owners would boost retirement benefits for more than 2,000 former players by nearly 60 percent by funding retirees benefits $82 million in 2011 and 2012.

7. The owners offered current players the opportunity to stay in their current medical plans for the rest of their lives.

8. The owners would allow third-party arbitrators in the NFL’s drug and steroid programs.

9. The owners would improve the Mackey plan (designed for players suffering from dementia and other brain-related problems), disability plan and their degree completion bonus program.

10. The owners proposed a per-club cash minimum spend of 90 percent of the salary cap over three seasons.

Now that you know the particulars of the deal, do you still agree with the NFLPA’s decision to decertify and go to court with the NFL?

    Yes, the negotiations have been messy and well-publicized but progress was made before the recent burning of bridges.  After having half the month of March in extensions of negotiations, both sides were reportedly off by $185 million on how much owners should get up from each season for certain operating expense before splitting up the rest of the revenues with players. That’s a far less amount than the $1 billion difference that separated the two sides earlier in discussions.

    New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, right, heads into labor talks with the league's negotiators.

    A recent poll by ProFootballTalk.com asked fans to place blame on who is responsible for the lockout and 27,000 have said that the player’s are to blame, barely. Just over 38% say the players are to blame, while 24.8% blame the owners and 36.7% blame both.

    Many say this is the billionaires vs the millionaires.  Two sides who get paid well, fighting to be paid more.  If you own a professional football team, one would think you already had enough.  Some of that may go to team operations and other bills to be paid, but many know where the bottom line ends.  Players put their bodies on the line and should see a little more compensation.  Let’s see Woody Johnson or the Mara or Tisch families out there to battle for that extra compensation.  I think not.

    So while the league and the union continue to bicker like a divorced couple fighting over bank accounts, the fans are the ones who are truly hurting from this dispute, like a child overhearing their parents argument.