Friday, June 20, 2008

This House is Our Home (I Guess)

Recently I had a chance to drive by the Meadowlands and see the progress on our new stadium. (image from Baseball Fever, ironically enough) Its initial supports are raised, and with no one living within its reaches, there are no chances of urban crane accidents here. Incidentally, it has recently been christened "MetLife Stadium," one of many corporate logos the stadium will have over its first decade of use. Such a plan finally casts aside the illusion of permanence involved in the corporate naming and renaming of stadiums throughout the country. Cut to the chase, in other words: John Mara and Woody Johnson are paid to use these names and by these many names will parts of this house be known. As more than one science fiction writer has predicted, we are not too far off from the time when you can choose to corporately brand yourself, maybe even just so someone finally read your blog.

First, some background. You can gripe about sharing a stadium with the Giants, but as you'll see from this link, there is actually considerable precedent for strange bedfellows and stadium sharing in New York. If you already know the story, you can skip it, of course.

Isn't it a shame, though, that we didn't get our own stadium? Frankly, no. I don't know what we would have done with a midtown stadium, with its million dollar views and its high priced parking and victuals. As evidenced by the knuckle dragging cretinism of the slobs at Gate D, Jets fans don't really belong at an address anywhere near the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Speaking as one myself, albeit from a considerable distance, the fans of the Gotham Football Club are falling further and further from the graces of basic civilization. (image taken from the Daily News) This shouldn't come as a shock to anyone who has also noted the increasing appeal of ultimate fighting. I also know football's not exactly for brain scientists, but the now upscale people living on the Lower West Side are grateful that no one will be asking them to remove their shirts to show us (under pain of being hit by beer bottles) their rack.

And isn't the West Side debacle just grist for the mill? Jets fans have always been a regretful lot by nature. I mean, what would we do without regret? We regret that we traded Bob Talamini to Boston in 1970. We regret letting John Riggins go in 1975. We regret hiring Lou Holtz. We regret not getting Walt Michaels psychiatric help when he needed it. We regret three-fourths of the Sack Exchange crossing the picket lines in 1987. We regret drafting Kenny O'Brien and not Dan Marino. We regret drafting Roger Vick, Johnny Mitchell, and Blair Thomas. We regret drafting Kyle Brady and not Warren Sapp. In fact, Jets fans show up at Radio City for the draft exclusively for the purpose of expressing their disappointment and regret in advance. We regret Dade County pulling up the tarp for a rain storm before the Mud Bowl.

We regret Pat Leahy missing a field goal in 1981. We regret Bill Belichick rejecting us in favor of New England, further compelling us to regret his very origin in this world. We regret Mo Lewis' hit on Drew Bledsoe. We regret Parcells' decision to have the Meadowlands changed back to artificial turf in 1999. We regret Joe Namath ever agreeing to speak with Suze Kolbert. We regret letting James Farrior go to Pittsburgh and Kevin Mawae to Tennessee. We regret drafting Kellen Clemens. We regret leaving Shea in the first place. The West Side Stadium itself is merely the Jets fan's imaginary Fortress of Regretful Solitude. We regret everything. When you don't have much to celebrate, you inundate yourself with the stories of Regret, the Janitor of Fate. Two missed field goals in the 2004 playoffs by Doug Brien still make me nauseous and dizzy, but at least that feeling lets me know I'm still alive. I'm a Jets fan.

So I can live with the sharing. But here's where I object. As I understand it, according to what's planned for the stadium, the technology is available and will be used to change the arena's colors and appearance from green to blue from game to game, its decorative holographic touches from Jets to Giants, depending on who is playing that day. (photo taken from Baseball Fever again) At the flick of a switch, you can have a Jets stadium or a Giants stadium. There is cynical truth implied in the stadium's scheduled name changes, and the changes of shades from green to blue belies this. These teams do not belong to the fans, but to Mara and Johnson, and so too does the stadium. The fans swarming into its surrounds are like their mice in the maze, being lead to through the various turns and gates, looking for familiar signs and, ultimately, to the metaphorical cheese, i.e., beer. Recall again what Horace Stoneham of the baseball Giants and Walter O'Malley of the Brooklyn Dodgers taught us 51 years ago. Teams don't belong to their fans. (Except in Green Bay.) I just hope none of the fans going in and out of its doors won't get fooled by the (G)iant-sized images of George Sauer accompanying them to the new Gate D. There's one of Spider Lockhart just behind it at the touch of a button. But imagine if someone pushes the wrong button....

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