Mardi Gras at the Meadowlands

While most Jets fans may spend the weekend burping up their Thanksgiving dinners over the Green and White's national TV humiliation at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys, I'm focusing on a more important issue in what has become a lost season no longer worthy of detailed game-by-game analysis.

The issue is the climate the Jets and New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority have enabled and the team's fans have created at Meadowlands home games. It's disgusting. The latest evidence is the Gate D "Mardi Gras."

Before examining the Gate D embarrassment further, you should know I made my decision last season to never attend another Jets home game. A friend had an extra ticket and brought me to see the Jets play the Lions Oct. 22. The Jets won but I didn't enjoy myself. Afterward I vowed, "That's it. I'm done."

After sitting in the upper deck where my friend's father, a corporate lawyer, had held two season tickets for many, many seasons, it became clear Jets games now attract many who believe football games aren't for watching football. Instead they're an excuse for getting drunk and acting like a bore. It's anti-social conduct people should be ashamed to display in public.

I could not understand why so few people (mostly men age 18-55) in the upper deck were paying attention to the field. Many had shredded their programs and were zinging paper airplanes down at the fans in front of them. A young, drunk guy in front of me was throwing up his alcohol in his lap as he sat next to a father with two young kids. Any conversation I attempted to make about what was happening on the field was drowned out by the P.A system's incessant blaring. On the way out of the stadium I told my friend the atmosphere was intolerable. A fellow wearing a Jets jersey overheard me and nearly threatened to beat me up.

Now to Gate D. The New York Times reported Nov. 20 Jets fans were participating in a halftime tradition on a spiraling pedestrian ramp inside Giants Stadium. According to the Times report, several hundred men whistled, jumped up and down, and began chanting obscenities, "demanding women in the gathering expose their breasts." When one woman declined the opportunity to disgrace herself in order to entertain these idiots, "plastic beer bottles and spit went flying." She was booed.

It's unclear how long this ‘Mardi Gras' garbage has been going on, but an 18-year-old told the Times it's been "years."

So there you have it. Some Jets fans cheer when their own players get injured on the field (see: Pennington, Week 1) and boo and spit at women who refuse to expose themselves.

How, you might ask, has this been allowed to continue, as the teenager told the Times, for years? How could it even happen once for as long as it did? The boorish behavior carried on for twenty minutes! The Times reported about 10 security guards stood nearby. One guard said they were not permitted to do anything about the chants "because of free speech laws."

Jets fans are far from the only ones who behave badly at their teams' home games. Several NFL teams have established holding cells and small courts inside their stadiums to deal with violent, unruly drunks. But that neither makes Jets fans' behavior acceptable nor entices me to go. And I'm not alone. I have several friends, all life-long Jets fans in their 30s, who also refuse to expose themselves and their children to the Meadowlands scene. Could the Jets and NJSEA really want classy, well-mannered fans to stay away?

These Gate D dopes were merely doing what they've been allowed to get away with. If the NJSEA and the Jets had wished for a different climate at homes games they would have taken the right steps when such behavior was becoming prevalent years ago. Now, after the Times story, influential people are voicing outrage.

"It's obviously very embarrassing for the Sports Authority, the residents of the State and the Jets organization" said Dick Codey, the President of the New Jersey State Senate. "We've sent a letter to Col. Fuentes of the State Police and the new CEO over at the Sports Authority to immediately remedy this situation."

Codey, the former acting governor, added, "Who would want to go to a game and expose your wife and kids to that kind of atmosphere? If they want to behave this way, fine, let them go down to Mardi Gras in New Orleans. This isn't the French Quarter, this is the NFL in New Jersey."

The NJSEA president, George Zoffinger, has promised to increase the 370-member stadium security force for all remaining home games. Let's hope the change is permanent. An NFL spokesman said the fans' conduct was "unacceptable" and the league was confident the authority will take appropriate measures.

While Gate D "Mardi Gras" has been embarrassing to the state of New Jersey, the NFL and NJSEA, and to Jets fans (at least those who feel shame), it has been most humiliating to the New York Jets franchise. The Jets may not be responsible for enforcing the rules of conduct at Giants Stadium, but the franchise's image has been sullied.

"We believe the conduct is outrageous and unacceptable. We want the NJSEA to enforce all stadium rules, and they have assured us they will do so. We are meeting with them next week to a put a plan in place. A small group of people will not be allowed to ruin the game experience for the vast majority of fans who simply want to enjoy the game," said Jets Vice President Matt Higgins.

Do you think if the Times hadn't run the story you'd hear any of this? Of course not. Gate D "Mardi Gras" would have been allowed to continue.

The crackdown on bad behavior should not stop at Gate D. The Jets must demand and the NJSEA must enforce a more civil, less drunk atmosphere at Jets home games. What they're offering now is hardly enticing.

Surely, though, some people will be disappointed their Gate D "fun" will end and they'll have to watch the game for entertainment.

As 20-year-old Patrick Scofield from Poughkeepsie told the Times about chanting vulgarities at women, "This is the game."

Not anymore. If you want to shout at naked women, go to a strip club on Sundays. Let my friends and I enjoy the Jets.

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