Posted October 16, 2013
All Rex Ryan needs is a pair of pom-poms to complete his transformation into a cheerleader this week. The Jets coach exhorted fans to recreate the frenzy of the 2009 game against the Patriots when Ryan’s Jets won 16-9 in his second game as coach. You may remember Ryan giving the fans a symbolic game ball afterward because the noise level was so high the Patriots had 11 penalties, including four delays of game. “If you make it like that,” Ryan said on ESPN Radio, “we’re going to beat this team.” Here is the problem: That scene never will be duplicated. Any hope of that ended when the wrecking ball took down Giants Stadium a few months later and fans were given the $1.6 billion MetLife Stadium in its place. The 3-year old stadium has as much charm as a parking garage, with its gray, metallic exterior and its drab interior. The Jets are 16-11 in the new building, but it’s hard to remember any games when the fans were a factor. Any home-field advantage the Jets ever had left with the last remnant of the old stadium. The new stadium’s main issue is a problem many franchises are facing across sports — many true, rabid fans have been priced out of the stadium entirely, or at least the good seats, thanks to PSLs and high prices on everything from parking to a bottle of water. In their places are the fans whose wallets are bigger than their knowledge of Jets history. When building the stadium the Jets put a higher priority on the bottom line than making sure the place was loud when the opponent was on the goal line. The Team Marketing Report put together a “Fan Cost Index” that evaluates the fan experience based on a game for a family of four. The Jets are the fifth-highest priced team with an average cost of $577.12, including tickets, parking, food, drinks and souvenirs. The Giants, who face the same home-field problems as the Jets, are third on that list. There is also the basic structure of the building. The larger, newer buildings never seem to contain noise the way the old buildings did. We’ve seen it in The Bronx with Yankee Stadium and in East Rutherford. It’s hard to fault the Jets for wanting to score a profit, but at what cost? The lower bowl between the 20-yard lines, where the highest-priced seats are, clears out just before halftime and remains empty deep into the third quarter while those ticket-holders head to the club areas to eat their sushi and shrimp cocktail. It’s a sea of gray in these areas when the second-half kickoff hits. Then you have the issue of people trying to recoup some of their money by selling their tickets to opposing fans. There were so many “Terrible Towels” in the stands Sunday it looked as if the Jets were giving them out. Steelers fans took over the stadium by the end of the game the same way 49ers fans did a year ago. I don’t blame the fans for selling their tickets. I blame the Jets and the NFL for creating an environment where people feel the need to sell their tickets in order to offset the costs involved with going to the games. The Jets are trying to improve the fan experience. Led by team president Neil Glat, the team has introduced things like the “Aviators,” a drum line shown on the big screen during games and the team walk through the parking lot before the game. They are also studying the decibel levels at the stadium and trying to figure out when the building is the loudest and what they can do to keep it loud. The problem is these ideas were conceived in a board room not Section 308. The best fan traditions are organic. “Potvin Sucks” at the Garden or the “J-E-T-S” chant that for years dominated Jets game. Like him or loathe him, “Fireman Ed” did bring something unique to Jets games, something which is now missing. Sometimes you wonder if the Jets understand their fan base, too. All I have to do is check my Twitter mentions or my email to get reminded of how jaded and cynical Jets fans can be. “Jet Up” videos on the big screen might work in Indiana. Here they’re likely to get a “Bleep You.” Four years ago, Ryan delivered an automated voicemail to season-ticket holders asking for the crowd to get loud, and it worked. The stadium that day was stick-your-head-in-an-airplane-engine loud as the fans embraced their new coach and beating Tom Brady for the first time in East Rutherford. On Sunday, the Jets hope to give their fans another moment like that. How loudly will the Jets fans cheer it?