Saturday, January 2, 2010

Giants Stadium: The Working Class Stadium

East Rutherford, New Jersey has always laid home to one of American sports most quieted nuances; The New York Giants, and the New York Jets actually play in New Jersey. That same complex, better known to tri-state residents as The Meadowlands, has also been the home to many of the greatest concerts and sporting events ever to take place.

For all the hoopla that was the end of the old Yankees and Cowboys stadiums, Giants stadium may be as big of piece, if not more of a piece, of American history than both.

Unlike the empirical feeling of Yankees stadium, and the big-top nature of the Cowboys stadium, Giants stadium has always been "the working mans stadium." Not just because it's the only place in the universe worth watching a Bruce Springsteen concert, or the place chosen to Pope John Paul II's largest gathering in America, but also because of the identity of the teams that called it home.

In 1976 the New York Giants moved into their new home in Jersey, the Jets joined them in 1984. In the 1980's, the New Jersey Generals played there, and in 2001 the New York/New Jersey Hitmen. Of all of those teams, the only that can compare to the "Broadway" nature of the Yankees, Knicks, and Rangers, were the USFL's Generals, owned by Donald Trump, featuring star athletes such as Doug Flutie and Herschel Walker.

And that's the thing, in that 34 year history, Giants Stadium has been the home of three Super Bowl championship teams, none of which stand out as flashy;

The 1986 Giants won with a bruising defense and a tough as nails offense. Phil Simms, the teams starting quarterback, didn't go to USC or Alabama or Texas, he went to Morehead State. The team went 14-2 and beat NFL glamour boys Joe Montana and John Elway by a combined score of 88-23, en route to winning Super Bowl 21.

In 1990, without Phil Simms (who was out win an injury), the Giants beat the favored Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXV. A veteran running back in Otis Anderson was named the games MVP, and the Giants won on a missed field goal by Buffalo's kicker Scott Norwood. The Giants persevered based on heart, and the fact that they never gave up.

Coming off of a Super Bowl XXXV loss, the Giants entered the 2001 season looking to go back, but the cause of their season changed on September 11th of that season. Giants stadium was used as a place for people to donate blood, and as an emergency staging area.

And in 2007, the Giants defined the epitome of the working-class-American spirit by defying all odds and beating the undefeated New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. The Giants were lead by a scrutinized quarterback, a brash defense, and a controversial wide receiver, but the play of the game came not from Eli Manning, Justin Tuck, Michael Strahan, or Plaxico Burress, but from an unheard of, relatively ineffective wide receiver out of Syracuse named David Tyree. The Giants won Super Bowl XLII in the same season that Tom Brady and Randy Moss ran up scores on opponents, Tony Romo went to Cabo with Jessica Simpson, Brett Favre and Peyton Manning won a combined 25 games, LaDanian Tomlinson kept being Complainian Tomlinson, and the leagues arrest count catapulted into an alarming number.

But in that unforgettable season, ridden with TMZ-esque storylines, the no-name Giants won the Super Bowl, because all they cared about was playing football, and they never gave up. They won perhaps the most unforgettable game in the history of the league, and they won their cities first professional sports championship post-9/11; something the Yankees, Knicks, and Rangers, failed to do, despite spending well over a billion dollars combined.

Though they never won a championship in their long stay at Giants Stadium, the New York Jets and their fans represented the same sort of American spirit as the Giants. Always the underdog, their team kept fighting. Every time they'd fall, both the team, and its fans would rise again.

In the eyes of many, the Jets are the laughing stock of the NFL. Peyton Manning avoided coming out of college early because he didn't want to land there in 1997, in 2000 Bill Belichick resigned as the Jets head coach to become the Patriots head coach. But the team never stops moving.

In 2002 the Jets beat the Colts 41-0 in a playoff game in Giants stadium, the week before, the Jets clinched the AFC East, embarrassing Belichick by preventing the Patriots from making the playoffs the year after they won the Super Bowl.

What really sums up the Jets working class mentality are their iconic players. Though the team has few standout wins in its history, they have a lot of standout players; all of whom share a workhorse quality.

Joe Klecko, Abdul Salaam, Marty Lyons, and Mark Gastineau teamed to form the New York Sack Exchange. Vinny Testaverde came to the Jets and revitalized his career which hadn't been the same since college, the year after the Jets parted ways with over-paid quarterback Neil O'Donnell. Curtis Martin built a hall of fame career by putting up huge numbers, but never speaking out in the media. Wayne Chrebet put his body on the line every game as an undersized wide receiver coming out of Division I-AA Hofstra.

Freeman McNeil, Al Toon, Aaron Glenn, Chad Pennington, Thomas Jones, Adrian Murrell, Jericho Cotchery, Mo Lewis, Kyle Clifton, Marvin Washington, Leon Washington, and Ken O'Brien. All these players were very good, some were great, none were flashy.

Both the New York Jets and the New York Giants played in the same New Jersey stadium for the past three decades. After tomorrow nights Sunday Night Football game that stadium will never host another professional football game, barring a Jets vs Ravens AFC Championship game. Though we may not remember the stadium in the same vein we remember Ebbets Field or Yankees Stadium, to me there's no denying that Giants Stadium will forever be America's Working Class Stadium.

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