Giants Will Always Be More Popular than Jets

The sports landscape in the New York metropolitan area is different than anywhere else.

We have at least two of everything in the major sports.

We have two baseball teams, two basketball teams, three hockey teams, and, of course, two NFL teams.

Throw in two all sports radio stations, four regional sports television networks, and a myriad of other sports franchises like the Dragons, Red Bulls, and Liberty, and you get, arguably, the sports capital of the world.

You can debate back and forth as to which teams are more popular in the other sports.

In some cases, you could make an argument for either team.

But the most unique battle for popularity among the fans in the metropolitan area could be between the Jets and the Giants.

The Giants have been around much longer than the Jets. Affection for the Giants and the handing down of season tickets from generation to generation dates all the way back to Big Blue's first season in 1925.

The Jets franchise began as the Titans in 1960 before changing to their current nickname in 1963.

But while expanding families continue to breed new and young Jets fans, there is still the perception that the Giants' fan base dwarfs those who bleed green.

Is perception reality?

While the Giants have always been popular in the tri-state area, the Jets have certainly made inroads in their quest to rid themselves of the label as a ‘Long Island' team.

After Woody Johnson purchased the Jets in 2000, the team stepped up its marketing and sales endeavors to make the Jets a New York/New Jersey franchise.

How did they do this?

Adding the "NY" secondary logo helped create awareness that the Jets were a New York team. Opening up an office in Manhattan also helped in expanding marketing ventures.

The Jets also pushed hard for a return to New York.

The West Side Stadium project brought excitement to a fan base that has never really embraced sharing a stadium with the Giants.

But now, the co-tenants at Giants Stadium have entered into a 50-50 partnership and are building a new stadium right next door.

By staying in the Garden State and moving their operations to Florham Park, New Jersey in the near future, the Jets will now have the opportunity to further market themselves to potential new fans.

Having draft parties and a training camp practice in New Jersey has already brought the Jets closer to the football fans on the other side of the George Washington Bridge.

If you look at the Jets and Giants, it takes more than just fans in the stands to figure out which team is historically the darlings of the metropolitan area.

Since both teams sell out all of the almost 80,000 seats at Giants Stadium for their home games, how do you quantify which is a hotter ticket?

While a lot of that normally depends on who's having the better season and who the opponents are, a look at the season ticket waiting list might be a better indicator.

The Jets have about 11,000 names on their waiting list which pales in comparison to the Giants -- who have roughly 70,000.

Television ratings are another way of determining a team's popularity.

Based on how many people are waiting for tickets, one might think that the Giants will always win the ratings war. And for the most part, that is the case.

Last year, both teams made the playoffs.

The Jets were one of the surprise teams in the NFL and averaged a 10.8 rating for 13 games that were on CBS -- which carried the bulk of the games as the AFC rights holder.

On the other hand, the Giants, who struggled down the stretch and just got in at 8-8, pulled in an average rating of 14.2 on FOX.

A reason for this could be that the Giants had big preseason expectations while the Jets, with a new coach and general manager, were an unknown.

The Giants also had a more attractive television schedule with prime-time games and more 4 p.m. kickoffs on Sundays.

In 2005, the Giants also beat the Jets 14.4 to 10.5.

The Jets did manage to squeak out a slight victory in 2004, edging Big Blue 13.9 to 13.2.

You could also get a sense of which team is more popular simply by walking down the street and seeing how many people are wearing each team's merchandise.

So where do the Jets and Giants historically rank?

"It's really dependant upon winning," NFL spokesperson Dan Masonson said. "While both teams were in the middle part of the league in 2006 merchandise sales, if you look at different years, generally if the team is winning the sales are higher."

Nationally, the Giants might be a bit more popular.

During the period between April 1st and July 15th of this year, Giants quarterback Eli Manning's jersey was ranked 22nd in sales.

He was the only player on either team to crack the top 25.

But what about locally?

I guess you could say that merchandise sales in the tri-state area can draw a parallel to a political election.

Certain areas are going to favor a particular candidate.

For example, at the Modell's Sporting Goods location at Roosevelt Field Mall on Long Island, Gang Green is usually the projected winner no matter how many precincts are reporting.

"Historically, every year the Jets have outsold the Giants because the practice field is less than five miles away from here," General Manager Greg Kellerman said.

But outside of Long Island, it's very different.

The Giants clearly have more constituents in Gotham.

"It's known that the Giants are bigger as far as sales in the city stores," Kellerman added.

And it's always been a given that the Giants also rule New Jersey and Connecticut.

A reason for the Giants' mass appeal might be that they have had some bigger personalities during the last few years like Jeremy Shockey, Tiki Barber, and Michael Strahan.

According to Warren Heller, a memorabilia dealer and owner of Living Legends, a sports memorabilia store in Bellmore, Long Island, a team's popularity really depends on where you are in the tri-state area.

"On more occasions than not, the Giants will outsell the Jets," Heller said. "In this store, I sell more Jets memorabilia because I'm located less than 10 minutes from Hofstra."

But if you travel west, the pendulum swings back to Big Blue.

"In New Jersey, its going to be more Giants than Jets and in Manhattan, its probably going to also be more Giants than Jets," Heller stated.

The Giants seem to be ahead on the judges' scorecards.

In a poll conducted last year by Harris Interactive, the Pittsburgh Steelers were ranked as the most popular team in the NFL with 16 percent of the vote -- edging out the Dallas Cowboys, who garnered 15 percent.

The Giants were tied for seventh place with 8 percent while the Jets were tied for 21st with 4 percent.

But in 2005, both the Jets and Giants were even with 6 percent each.

Media market

A team's popularity generally dictates how much media coverage they will get.

Those who have covered the Jets over the years will tell you that the Giants have dominated the sports pages.

"All of us on the beat always believed that more space was given to the Giants," recalled Gerald Eskenazi who was the Jets' beat writer for the New York Times from 1975 to 1990 and from 1994 to 1999.

"I think that has almost always been the case except for a few years around the Super Bowl," Eskenazi said. "Perhaps also a couple of parts of a couple of seasons when the Jets really were hot."

But apparently in the late 1960s, Giants owner Wellington Mara thought that the Jets were stealing some of the space so he sent a letter to New York Times sports editor James Roach.

"The Giants wound up with more," Eskenazi said.

That was then. But what about right now? Apparently, not much has changed.

"I think certain papers favor the Giants," said Rich Cimini, who has covered the Jets for the Daily News since 1996. "I think the (New York) Times does and obviously the (Newark) Star-Ledger is a Giants paper. They'll always play up a Giants story over a Jets story, unless there's major news on the Jets."

However, there are exceptions. Before his current stint with the Daily News, Cimini covered the Jets' beat for Long Island-based Newsday. Since there are a great number of Jets fans in Nassau and Suffolk, it's not a surprise to see how they service their readers as opposed to Cimini's current employers.

"Newsday favors the Jets more because they're on Long Island," Cimini said. "I think in the Daily News, it's kind of 50-50 but it depends on what's hot."

During the summer, the Giants seemed to get more of the space because of the Michael Strahan holdout.

But Cimini found himself in the spotlight early in the regular season.

"When the (Chad) Pennington injury and Spy-gate was going on, I think I was overshadowing the Giants' coverage," Cimini stated. "It's cyclical."

While the Giants have been around longer and clearly have a larger fan base, the Jets seem to get their fair share when the time is right.

The Jets have certainly been media darlings on some occasions. They captured the imagination of the area when they won Super Bowl III. Their run to the AFC Championship game in 1982 also took some attention away from the Giants.

And then came the Tuna.

Bill Parcells' arrival in 1997 and the Jets' subsequent march to the AFC Championship Game the following season made the Jets a factor once again.

But can the Jets ever totally rule the metropolitan area?

Based on the numbers, it's not likely, but Gang Green is making progress.

But it's very clear that there are enough fans to go around for both teams.

And there's nothing saying that you can't have some good-natured fun with the rivalry.

Remember that television commercial a few years back when Curtis Martin and a couple of Jets fans sneaked into Giants Stadium and flipped a switch that changed that big blue sign to ‘Jets Stadium?'

Or how about the spot that is currently running where two workers at the Empire State Building, one a Jets fan and one a Giants fan, take turns switching the colors at the top from green to blue?

There's one thing that you can take to the bank about the two fan bases.

Giants fans are very matter of fact. They follow their team and generally don't pay much attention to the Jets.

If the Jets are doing well and the Giants are not, you can be sure that the Gang Green faithful will let everyone know about it.

In more ways than one, they are outnumbered.

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