The 2009 season culminated with the New York Jets looking for an ideal farewell to their home of the past 25 years. Few places will ever feel like a home away from home, but the familiarity of the old Meadowlands was able to provide just that.
A 37-0 victory over the Bengals was an incredible way for the stadium to officially close its doors . While the play itself may not have been memorable, the atmosphere was. The temperature sat below 20 degrees and the wind enhanced its chilling effect. The crowd was raucous as they hoped to have Jets playoff football for the rest of January.
For my family, season ticket holders since 1996, this was the only stadium we knew. Despite the fact another teams name dawned the stadium sign, and the seats were colored in their red and blue, it was as much a home for the Jets as it was to everyone who walked its halls. As we entered the stadium for the final time, I made sure to savor every aspect of the experience. The circular ramps up to the lower bowl were always jam-packed with fans, no matter what point of the game it was. The concrete would hold the chants from the fans, echoing from pre-game to post. The aroma of knishes would float throughout the concourse, even making its way down to the seats. What Giants Stadium lacked in modern amenities, it made up for it with character and charm. On this particular night, every detail needed to be appreciated fully.
The Jets needed to win their final two games in order to make the postseason. They first needed a win in Indianapolis. The Jets overcame a 15-10 deficit to get the victory and were able to shift their focus to the final week. When it came to the Bengals game, there was little to write home about. Mark Sanchez threw for 63 yards on 8 of 16 passing. The overall passing display was pedestrian from both teams. The game was won on the ground, as Thomas Jones was able to score twice that night. Brad Smith had an especially strong game on the ground as he tallied 92 yards, including a 32-yard touchdown.
Due to similar circumstances as the week prior, Jets took the game with little opposition as Cincinnati sat players in the second half. Following the game the players circled the field shaking hands and signing what they could – I even remember Braylon Edwards flinging his game worn cleats into the stands just out of my reach. The celebration began as everyone said goodbye to their beloved home.
The Jets used the momentum from Sunday Night in their second meeting with the Bengals the following week in the wild card.
A few months later my family and I returned to the Meadowlands for the Jets’ draft party. This would be the first time that we stepped into the New Meadowlands, now known as MetLife. As we approached the entrance, we were given one last glimpse at Giants Stadium. Split in half, approaching its final days, it hid in the shadows of its successor. The stadium was gutted, leaving few remnants of the red plastic seats that once filled the upper level.
Giants Stadium had been the host of so many incredible moments throughout the years, making it just so hard to say goodbye. The Jets were 3-0 in home playoff games in the stadium, including the 41 to 0 rout against the Colts in 2002.
The Meadowlands were also home to Jets moments such as the Monday Night miracle, Pennington’s 4-touchdown game against the Packers to clinch the AFC East. This place was also home to spygate, which just gives fans another reason to hate the Patriots.
Countless moments and memories is what made that stadium a home. MetLife will one day be that, but to this day, it is yet to feel like Giants Stadium.