EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Blood spurted from
Of course, I only received a full picture of what had happened to the Giants' quarterback, in all its 12-stitch-requiring gruesomeness, more than three hours later, when I finally made it back to my apartment in Manhattan and flipped on the highlights on my HDTV. From my vantage point inside the New Meadowlands Stadium -- Section 328, Row 26, Seat 4, one of the worst seats in the house (capacity: 82,566) -- all I could see was that a number of tiny figures had converged, and that one of them might have been left holding a hand to his forehead. From up there, even the picture on the 40-by-130 HD video boards positioned in each of the stadium's four corners looked small and fuzzy. All one could make out from the replays shown on them that Manning had botched a handoff to -- was that
Judging the modern experience of attending an NFL game in person based upon a preseason game -- even if it's Giants/Jets, in a brand new stadium -- is something like assessing the current state of American cinema through a single viewing of
"Just be honest with me," Paul said. "The Giants are in an arms race with the rest of the NFC East, and Giants Stadium was one of the league's oldest stadiums. It produced a fraction of other teams' club seating revenues. I understand that.
"But don't try and tell me that you're building the stadium for the fans when you are screwing 80 percent of the fans with the deal. Don't lie to my face. My seats are 100 feet further from the field, and I had to pay $1,000 to keep them. It's gotten to the point where I don't even want to go anymore. Tell me what I should be excited about? So there are more places to buy a $160 jersey? I just want to be as close to the action as possible, be able to get in and out of the stadium and get a beer and get to the bathroom as quickly as possible. That's it."
Mitesh, who had just committed to a season's worth of tickets for the first time, sat quietly in the back seat. Surely, checking out the new, $1.6 billion stadium would be a worthwhile experience, right? And it's Jets-Giants! Fun!
Whatever optimism I'd retained slipped away once we finally reached the New Meadowlands Stadium -- after picking up the tickets from the StubHub desk at the nearby Sheraton Hotel, parking the car there and completing a death-defying walk across a highway and through various swamplands to the stadium. It was new, and it was shiny, and that various lights and LED boards can be changed from green to blue, based upon whether the Jets or Giants are playing (they were on this night green, as it was a Jets home game) is a clever touch. But then we hit the escalator -- and another escalator -- and another escalator -- and then we climbed and climbed the stairs to our last row seats. Then we turned around, and the view was something like that on a coach's tape, if the video camera boasted half a megapixel and a fish-eye lens. Perhaps the only thing down on the field that was clearly visible with the naked eye was
"I'm getting dizzy," Paul said, looking distressed.
The guys sitting to our left seemed to be true old-time Jets fans. One wore a hearing aide and a thin, V-necked T-shirt of the lighter hue of green that the Jets used to have. The other peered through binoculars. "Oh, flea flicker!" V-neck kept exclaiming, trying to follow along with the far-off action. "Nope," said binoculars. "Just a handoff."
After the Jets scored their first touchdown --
By the time the brand new Public Address system broke down at the end of the first quarter, there wasn't much sound of any sort, making it difficult indeed to determine what was going on down on the field. The only way we could determine who had been involved in a play, without the announcer's cues, was to try to catch a jersey number on the big screen replay, and then look it up in the glossy pamphlets that had been distributed at the front gates.
The silence seemed particularly deafening at the quarter's very end, when we were treated to a three extended stoppages in play, and 20 or so total seconds of action. The Jets'
It seemed a perfect opportunity for Mitesh -- the only one of us with a wi-fi-enabled phone -- to check out the
"If there's one good thing I can say so far," said Paul, who had acclimated to the altitude, "it appears that they used better concrete than they did at Yankee Stadium.
As halftime approached, after Manning had staggered off the field for good and the scrubs started to take over, we walked around the stadium, checking out its ballyhooed amenities. There were many, many obnoxiously branded food stands (see sidebar). The bathrooms were plentiful and clean, even if they featured strangely shaped, undoubtedly water-efficient urinals that seemed to confuse some fans ("What, are you supposed to do the other thing in there, too?" asked one fan in a Giants cap with a mesh back). We ended up eluding a vigilant usher to take some seats in the corner of the mezzanine level -- and the view here was better, and the atmosphere too, but not nearly as good as the seats a few sections over to our right, which were monitored by ushers who were beefy, scowled and had little hair. The seats there were 21 inches wide -- that's three extra inches! -- and offer a midfield view. Tickets there cost up to $500 each, and require a purchase of a $12,500 Personal Seat License. But, you know, the seats are padded.
Some legitimately exciting stuff happened in the second half, after we'd hired Sherpas to lead us back up to our last-row seats. A Giants receiver named
V-neck and binoculars were still up in Row 26 of 328, though, and, as they stood on their toes to peek over the concrete wall behind them, and out at the Manhattan skyline, they pondered an important question.
"You think if you jumped off this thing, you'd kill yourself?" asked V-neck.
"Nah," said binoculars. "Look there -- even if you jump out far enough, there's a little ledge about 30 feet down."