Growing up, Sundays were time for my dad and I to bundle up and head to the Meadowlands. Sure, throughout my childhood the Jets were nothing to write home about, but he had season tickets and we went. One of my fondest memories will always be the game my dad and I went to in the dead of winter, easily the coldest day of the year. I don't remember who the Jets played, I don't remember the outcome of the game. What I do remember is that we layered up in so much warm clothes that we were barely able to move our extremities. I remember the thermoses of soup my mom made and the hand warmers, foot warmers, and even padded seat warmers she sent us with. I remember climbing all the way up to the top of the corner end zone section where our seats were practically the farthest from the players in the whole stadium. I remember it all because it was one of those bonding experiences with my dad that has and always will stay with me. It was hysterical. We didn't stay all game. But we went. We suited up and supported Gang Green like I have for 22 years.
This past Sunday, my dad decided that he was going to the game. He hadn't been to a game all season. In fact, the last game I remember going to with him was when he flew my whole family out to Indianapolis to see the Jets beat Peyton Manning and the Colts in the Wild Card playoff game in early 2011. You see, my parents are far bigger baseball fans than anyone I've ever met (and I work for Major League Baseball.) My parents live and breath for the Yankees. They love football, but for them, watching it from the comforts of home is far more appealing than freezing their asses off and sitting in traffic for hours. But Sunday, my dad and I headed to the Meadowlands to see the Jets take on the Cardinals.
I was pretty skeptical about Sunday's game. I knew rooting for a loss would help insure a better draft pick, but how do you root against your own team? I was also curious how the stadium would be. I expected a pretty small, hostile crowd. We decided for the first time in as long as I can remember, not to tailgate. Tailgates are high energy and about getting everyone pumped for the game ahead, but we had little to pump ourselves up about. I knew it had been awhile since my dad had been to the Meadowlands as soon as we went to get food. Ordering chicken fingers and fries for himself and a pizza for me, my dad took 10 dollars out of his wallet. I looked at him and laughed, "Dad, it's been awhile, huh? That's going to be at least 25." We got to our seats and watched as the majority of the loyal season ticket holders in our section showed up. One after the next we laughed as another friend would file in admitted, "I almost didn't come." All of us almost didn't come, but we were there.
As the team ran onto the field, I looked down below us to see a hole where Fireman Ed once sat. Sure the team brought out a group of adorable kids from Play 60 to lead a pregame chant, but the tradition was gone. As the opening kick off came, I became very anxious. Would the fans join together and chant as the ball sailed down field? Unfortunately, that didn't happen and thus started the post Fireman Ed era. The stadium was completely deflated. After a seven play drive, the Cardinals punted. On the Jets' very first offensive play, Mark Sanchez threw an interception. My dad stood up yelling and cursing the team in front of him. I sat and laughed. What more can you do? Apparently, watching at home, as he explained, it much more removed. You can change the channel, you can leave the room. When you're at the stadium it's you and the game, all the time.
The first half was nothing short of painful. We watched three interceptions. We saw the possibly half-full stadium start emptying out far before halftime just as it had at the Thanksgiving game. My dad even turned to me and said, "So when do we leave?" "A little longer," I responded, "Let's see what happens after half." I was nearly positive that Sanchez wouldn't be benched. I thought that the stubbornness of the coaching staff and front office would make third string QB, Greg McElroy's chances very slim. Nevertheless, the crowd booed Sanchez every time he touched the field, every failed play, and the "Mc-El-Roy" chants grew increasingly louder throughout the game.
When halftime came and went, we hoped, with little faith, that there would be a change. And then we saw the most encouraging sight we had seen all day: Greg McElroy wearing a helmet having a catch with a baseball capped Mark Sanchez. Could it be? The fans started to take note and the boos began turning into a roaring applause. I couldn't believe my eyes. Rex Ryan was actually benching Mark Sanchez in favor of McElroy. The stadium was alive for the first time all day.
We stood watching in awe as McElroy took the field. It was a great moment to see the powers that be seemingly working to better the team for the first time in weeks. No, I don't think that Greg McElroy is the answer to all of the Jets' problems, but what we've been doing thus far is not working. Something needs to change. Maybe bringing in some life at the quarterback position, some new, young blood, is exactly the spark we needed. McElroy is not only benched for this Sunday's contest in Jacksonville, but he's been made inactive in order for Tim Tebow, the hometown boy, to get the nod as Sanchez's backup. It's a travesty, if you ask me. I'm ready for the 8-8, just miss the playoffs, and ruin draft position season. I know it's coming, it does every year. But for that one day, boy did my dad and I have something to cheer for.