“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
– Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
It should be so exciting: the Jets are playing their first game in a new stadium. But sadly, it is not. The pre-season game played by the Jets and Giants tonight at the New Meadowlands Stadium is not so much a tale of two teams, but rather of two cities. In Dickens’s novel, it was about two unrelenting forces in history: London and Paris. In the saga of Gang Green and Big Blue, it is New York City and East Rutherford, New Jersey. Uh, yeah, New Jersey!
The point is, as a Jets fan I feel like someone without a home. Fifty years of existence has brought us to this moment: the Jets play a game tonight as a “home” team in a city that is anything but. The Jets haven’t truly had a home since December 1983, when they left Shea Stadium for the decidedly unfriendly confines of a place called Giants Stadium in the state of New Jersey, no less.
I grew up as a fan of the New York Jets, and I have never been able to get comfortable with them playing someplace other than New York. I went to one game at Giants Stadium, and I couldn’t enjoy it at all. It was kind of like having your mother’s Christmas dinner in a stranger’s house. Yeah, mom is still there and serving her turkey, but I am sitting at somebody else’s table.
I am the first to admit that Shea Stadium was never really home either. As a Mets fan, I didn’t mind the Jets sharing space with their baseball cousins. Both started in the Polo Grounds and then made the move to Queens, but at least it was in New York City. Shea was built as a baseball stadium, but it still felt better than going to the alien world of the Meadowlands. It is as if the Mets would have moved to Yankee Stadium and had to play their games there. How do you call a place “home” that is named after your crosstown rivals that most of your fans despise worse than an Elvis impersonator?
Some of you have heard this rap before, as the Jets and Mets are always playing second fiddle to the established titans of the Giants and Yankees. They are supposedly the teams that own this town, and no matter what the Jets and Mets do, it isn’t good enough. Well, after all these years, there is no way to undo this perception, and it has not helped that the Jets and Mets have performed poorly in recent years.
Last year, however, the Jets were steps away from the Super Bowl. Rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez led a team that defied expectations, and we excitedly watched playoff games that mattered to us as Jets fans. Now the team is back better than ever, though lacking Darrelle Revis on defense. And that has many of us nervous and worried.
Still, as the Jets step on that field tonight, they do so as a home team. Unfortunately, their home is still not their own. They share it with their rivals the Giants, and it is located in a state that is not New York. It is a tale of two different teams and takes place in two different cities. As Dickens noted in his famous book, A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us.”
Yes, Jets fans, it is another season where we have it all. And yet, we have nothing. If only Citi Field could have been built as a home for both the Mets and Jets. But that was not to be. The Dodgers left us and so too did the baseball Giants.
It’s time for New York Jets fans to wake up and realize we are empty nesters. Our little green birdies flew the coop a long time ago. We can either be fans without a home or fans without a team. For now, I’m staying with the Jets, but like it has always been since 1983, it will not feel like a homecoming by any means.