While NY tends to be a baseball town, which makes sense as the Yankees are the most successful franchise in the history of American sports and one of the most recognizable brands in the world and the Mets have finally turned around from being a joke for years to make the World Series in 2015, football is still big in NY.
But while you can make some assumptions about there not being much difference overall between the fans of teams in the different sports, there is a clear difference between the fans of the Giants and Jets. Stereotypes, of course, but overall, the general perception is that the Giants fans are older, used to more success, and a more intelligent fan who understands the nuances of the game and appreciates the little things more and as a result are more subdued and quiet (ie- "down in front"). Meanwhile the Jet fan is looked at as younger, rowdier, louder, dumber and ultimately, will watch their team fade away and fail as they look for other fans, or each other, to start punching.
Back in 1989, HBO Inside the NFL decided to do a "Road Show" and focus on the fortunes of the Giants and Jets at midseason. They couldn't have found 2 teams going in more different directions. The Giants were coming off a big Monday Night win over the Vikings to put them at 7-1, their best start in team history (until they would beat it in 1990 by going 10-0). Meanwhile, one day before at the Meadowlands, the Jets would get blasted by the Steve Bono led 49ers 23-10 to fall to 1-7. For their cover story, HBO put Lisa Burkhardt on report to find out just how different the teams were. And it's funny to look back at this now 26 years later and see how the more things seem to change, the more they stay the same
We are treated almost immediately between the dichotomy between Giants and Jets fans, namely success. If the message wants clear enough, a scene of Jets fans with bags on their heads spelling out "HELP" should do it, and also since most Jets fans vocabulary only can go up to 4 letters, it fit the bill.
We are then also given the opinion of one of the NY media's thoughts on the differences, in this case, a young Steve Serby from the NY Post, rocking a nice poof/mullet. And he summarized the differences by looking at the organizations themselves
The Giants have better players, better coaches, and a front office with a plan. The Giants play to win and the Jets play not to lose, and it's been that way for most of (Jets' coach Joe) Walton's regime...The difference between Walton and Parcells is like night and day. Parcells is a leader and motivator and has a feel for every player on that team. And Walton does not.Fair enough. Walton would be fired after the 1989 season and a 4-12 season. Parcells would go on to a 12-4 record in 1989 and lose in OT to the Rams in the 2nd round of the playoffs.. He would come back in 1990, and would overcome a season ending injury to Phil Simms and go on to beat Chicago, end the 49ers Threepeat in San Francisco, and then beat the heavily favored Bills in the Super Bowl to win his 2nd championship before he quit the Giants due to health reasons. Parcells would resurface with the Patriots in 1993 and build them into a Super Bowl team in 1996, he would then go to the Jets and turn them from 1-15 to the AFC Title game in 1998, and then he would turn the Cowboys into a playoff team before retiring after the 2006 season and would go to the Hall of Fame. Walton would turn up as the Steelers offensive coordinator for 2 seasons and would leave the NFL to become the head coach at Robert Morris until 2013 when he retired. But Serby's ultimate point that Parcells was better than Walton...noted.
The story went on to talk about the personalities of the franchises. The Giants had the glitz and glamour in the 1950s and early 1960s with Sam Huff and Frank Gifford. Meanwhile the Jets wouldn't get noticed until they brought in Broadway Joe Namath in the late 1960s and won Super Bowl III in one of the most famous games in NFL history, beating the powerhouse Baltimore Colts (though rumors of the Colts throwing the game for gambling reasons, as well as to allow the merger to happen and increase revenues for franchises, give the Jets their day). Since then, the personality has gone back and forth, but in 1989, it was clear who had the upper hand
Per another young looking NY media guy, WFAN's Chris "Mad Dog" Russo, his point was the Giants were more of a NY type of team, with toughness, pointing specifically to LT, Simms, and Bavaro. Meanwhile the Jets had no personality to latch on to. Calling their QB Ken O'Brien a "laid back Californian" and Walton had "no personality" and their only guy with any personality, WR Al Toon "never gets the ball, so it doesn't matter." The bottom line, the Giants had players the fans could identify with and cared about. The Jets, not so much.
And then Inside the NFL started to get to the real meat of the matter and the touchy subjects. Beginning with the real rub for many Jet fans for many years. If the Giants were a Manhattan and Northern NJ commuter team, with their history at Yankee Stadium and eventually to East Rutherford, NJ at Giants Stadium in 1976, the Jets were a Long Island team, playing their games at Shea Stadium. In 1984, the Jets decided to move to the Meadowlands as well. But big problem for the Jets and their fans. The Stadium wasn't called "the Meadowlands". Oh no. In big letters on the outside of the building, it said it clearly "Giants Stadium". Inside the seats were all red. The walls outlining the inside the Stadium were all blue, including the can't miss walls that wrapped around the benches and the end zones. So Burkhardt went out to the parking lot before a Jets game to talk to some tailgaters and after who knows how many tries, was able to find some lucid Jet fans for their comments. Apparently the best ones they could get, without the slurring or cursing, summed up their thoughts
"It's like playing your whole career at an away game."
"We play in the Meadowlands, not Giants Stadium. It's got nothing to do with the Giants."Burkhardt would find NJSEA President Bob Mulcahy to give his perspective and that they were aware of the perception problems Jets fans were having. So they wanted to make it better for the Jets by changing the end zones with their logo and colors, adding bunting for the Jets around the Stadium walls, and their retired numbers. However, if you ever actually saw these things, it looked like a joke. The bunting was this Jets banner that was tied around the stadium along the huge blue walls that looked like it was picked up at Party City and would be used to decorate for a Bar Mitzvah. You couldn't help but see the blue. Even though the teams have since moved to MetLife Stadium, and the color scheme has been made this drab gray/ lighter gray thing to avoid the issue, the Jets continue to have their hang ups. The Giants have the hallways decorated with their team pictures, specifically their Super Bowl trophies. The Jets covered it up with a curtain to try to hide in 2011 as the "home" team in their matchup. After the Giants beat the Jets, David Diehl and Zak DeOssie went over and literally ripped the curtains open to show the trophies and announced that "this is Giants Stadium".
If Burkhardt would tackle that one touchy subject, she would go ahead and focus on the other. The differences between the fans themselves. As she herself would say
"If the entire Giants experience seems a bit more uplifting, how come the Giants fans aren't?"Recall, this was 1989. We still hear the same things today. The 25 year old Jets fans being talked about here are now in their early 50s, but this stereotype remains. A man who is as good a judge as any to weigh in on this subject, Burkhardt talked to Marty Glickman for his opinion. Glickman's life story can fill up several novels. From his time on the US Olympic team and how he was not allowed to compete in the 1936 Berlin Olympics due to prevailing antisemitism and not wanting to embarrass the host Adolf Hitler by having a Jewish athlete win a medal (so the spot was given to Jesse Owens). To the fact that Glickman essentially created the job of basketball play by play man, invented phrases for game that have been used today, and was the mentor of several legendary play by play men, including Marv Albert and Bob Costas. Glickman was also the radio voice of the Giants for 23 years, and then on to the Jets for 11 years. As a New York institution, and long experience with both fan bases, Glickman's take would carry weight.
"The Giant fans go to a ballgame as if they are going to a concert or the opera. The Jet fans go to a ballgame as though they were going to a pop rock, swinging session and they participate that way. When the Jet fans are unhappy, they get very angry. When the Giants fans are losing, they are disappointed. It's quite a difference."
Again, as noted above. Giants fans are the older crowd. The quieter crowd. Glickman noted this over 25 years ago, and it's generally the same way today. The Giants fans get disappointed, and boo when they think the team isn't performing well because we are upset with them. Jets fans boo from a more visceral place, and get more rowdy/fighting. Today, while PSLs have ruined much of the fan atmosphere...I can say that from 1987-2009 I sat next to the same guys pretty much every week. Since 2010, with PSLs, I see people with stubhub print outs, and different people each week. It's a sad reality. However, the fans still trend older at Giants games, particularly the 1 PM games. Night games, you get a younger, rowdier crowd, even for the Giants. But not close to the Jets game in and game out.
With that out of the way, it's time to talk brass tax. At the time, before PSLs, both teams sold out their games. So that wasn't an issue. It was time to talk about which fan base spent more money. They spoke with the GM from Harry M. Stevens, named William Brunette. His focus was on souvenir spending and when talking about a 7-1 team vs. a 1-7 team, it was easy to figure out how this was going to go
"Because the Giants are winning, they are buying more souvenir items. There is nothing like a winning team."Now, this still applies today and really focuses on how the Giants and Jets do business. Leon Hess sold the Jets to Woody Johnson and since that time, Johnson cared more about getting back pages and attention to the Giants method. He loved having Rex Ryan around. He traded for Tebow to sell jerseys. He always goes for any big name available to keep people talking and sell jerseys (Braylon Edwards, Santonio Holmes, Percy Harvin, etc) If the Giants have won 2 Super Bowls the past 8 seasons, the Jets needed to do something to compete for those dollars, so they made moves to sell merchandise rather than win games. The Giants have never functioned that way. In 1989, the Giants were in their glory days during the Parcells era. The Jets...well, same old Jets.
Finally, they would end with a quick statement from an older fan, who was asked what is the difference between the Giants and the Jets. He said it simply enough
"Winning and losing."
A few other items about the Giants vs. Jets
- The Giants are 8-4 vs. the Jets
- The first game where they both played as co-tenants in Giants Stadium was in 1984. The Jets were the home team, and were supposed to have both end zones with their logo and green color. However, some Giants fans working at the Meadowlands kept one end zone in the Giants color and logo, and it was too late to change before game time. The Giants won 20-10.
- The Giants have won 5 straight games against the Jets dating back to 1996. The Jets haven't beaten them since Halloween in 1993.
- Bill Parcells' only matchup vs. the Giants as the Jets coach came in 1999 and he lost 41-28, thanks to 341 yards passing by Kerry Collins, 181 yards receiving by Amani Toomer (and 3 TDs), and a career best 38 carry, 111 yard game by Joe Montgomery.
- Jim Fassel's final win as head coach came against the Jets in 2003, 31-28 in OT.
- The 2011 game on Christmas Eve was one of the most significant games for both franchises. The Giants came into that game at 7-7, in danger of falling out of the NFC East race to Dallas after a brutal loss to the Redskins. The Jets meanwhile, were 8-6, with their loudmouth coach Rex Ryan in charge. Ryan had led the Jets to 2 straight AFC Championship games in 2009 and 2010. They had come off a bad loss at the Eagles and were in position to challenge for a Wild Card of their own. The Jets had a 7-3 lead until late in the first half, when on a 3rd and 10 at their own 1 yard line, Eli Manning threw a short pass to Victor Cruz, who got the first down, but stopped short, allowing Antonio Cromartie to fall down, and Cruz would take off up the sidelines for a 99 yard TD. The Giants would roll the rest of the way, winning 29-14 and would go on to win the Super Bowl. Meanwhile, for Rex Ryan, that loss pretty much was the turning point of his Jets career. The Jets would lose their final game and finish 8-8. The Jets would fall apart in 2012, going 6-10, and then 8-8 until crashing and burning at 4-12 in 2014, finally costing Ryan his job.
- As much as they were picking on Joe Walton, people forgot that Walton was pretty successful as a Jets coach, making the playoffs in 1985 and 1986, and had a winning record in 1988 (8-7-1). Walton was also a former member of the Giants and held the record for most TDs in a game by a TE (3) which he did twice in 1962. His record was tied by Larry Donnell in Washington in 2014.
- To give a nod to the Jets, they did win a game which in my estimation was the worst Giants regular season loss in the past 30 years, when they beat the Giants 27-21 in the final game of the 1988 season. The Giants fell behind 20-7 and a furious rally gave them the lead 21-20. However, 8 sacks by the Jets, and a late drive where the Giants defense couldn’t get off the field set up a Ken O’Brien to Al Toon TD over Tom Flynn to give the Jets the win. Meanwhile, the Eagles beat the Cowboys to clinch the NFC East roughly the same time the Giants lost. And on Sunday Night, the 49ers, with nothing to play for, would as Phil Simms would later say “laid down like dogs” in a 38-16 loss at home to the Rams. Giving the Rams the Wild Card and kept the Giants home.
** One final note, yes, I"m being a wise ass making fun of the Jet fan stereotype. In my wedding alone, 3 of my groomsmen were Jets fans. We enjoy poking fun at each other. Remember, it's all just a game.