Feb 22, 2010, 10:46 AM EDT
No matter where you were for the Eagles’ historic comeback to beat the Giants at the New Meadowlands this past Sunday, you’ll probably never forget that game. I was in the stadium that day, and as great as it was to witness the win in person, it doesn’t seem like any of you were lacking in enjoyment or appreciation of what took place in North Jersey. So I’m not offering my account as some sort of end-all be-all of Eagles fan experiences; we were all a part of that celebration, as well as the three-plus quarters of searing pain that preceded it.
But I figure some of you might want to hear what it was like to see the game from inside the stadium—from walking in amidst the surly tension of a fanbase that knows first place is on the line and a great team has come up the turnpike, to getting yelled at with nothing legitimate to say in response for three and a half quarters, and finally, joyously, doing an E-A-G-L-E-S chant from the section above the Eagles tunnel while our guys went nuts on the field and Giants fans walked out with their eyes fixed on the steps.
If you’ve been reading The700Level for the past few years, you may recall that some of the guys in my family do an annual Eagles road trip, and I’ve posted on each of them here. They were at it a few years before I got on board, but since then, we’ve seen the Green Bay punt returner debacle, the surprising loudness of Seattle despite a godawful Seahawks team, and the perfect weather for an Eagles fan takeover in San Diego. Separate from this particular annual trip, I also went to Foxboro to see the Patriots-Eagles game when the Birds were something like 24-point underdogs in late November, and A.J. Feeley led them to just three points shy of a great upset. Friggin Asante…
The away game candidates this year didn’t boast a clearcut winner or an ideal warm weather city, so for a while, the plan was Tennessee. Thank the road trip gods we steered clear of that one, and Chicago was also high on the list. As the planning got underway though, with my uncle and cousin recently opening their fourth restaurant in Denver, they decided to take a year off from the trip. My other cousin, a current DC native, and I wanted to keep the consecutive season thing going, so we picked something relatively easy and stayed in the mid-Atlantic.
We knew the stakes were going to be rough, the trash talk as unbearable as the weather if the Eagles were to go up there and get spanked. But with the new stadium and the potential for a huge game to decide first place in the division, we overpaid big time for a pair of tickets in the second row of the 300 level.
Commenter and New Year’s Day contributor thekrisheim gave me a good tip on how to avoid the parking hell that comes with the Meadowlands experience, and I’ll share that here for anyone who heads up there next season, plus another idea for an easy commute that I can’t believe I didn’t think of before the game. Parking is insanely expensive up there, and you’re paying for a distinct inability to get the hell out of the complex for at least an hour after the game. So krish told me about a restaurant called Redd’s that is very close by, offers $25 parking that comes with a shuttle (read: yellow bus) ride to and from the game. On a day like this past Sunday, the added benefit of sitting in a restaurant/bar instead of tailgating with only two people was also appealing.
So we did that, and we were among just a few Eagles fans on the ground floor. A group of Birds pilgrims were upstairs, but it was a private party. At this point, I’ll begin working in some of the reactions to our being there, because I’m guessing you want to know more about that than the grilled ham and cheese (which was awesome with a Jack Daniels before the game). A note on our attire to set the scene. I wore a DeSean Jackson jersey, my cousin a Jeremy Maclin, and he topped it off with his Eagles Santa hat, which we were told by a few family members might be what would get us pushed off the upper balcony.
Oddly enough, it was like we were invisible to the Giants fans in this place. Only Eagles fans reacted to us with more than a general look over, and there wasn’t much green in Redd’s. At a little after noon, we put on a few more layers and climbed aboard a bus. At that point, the invisibility ended. We were the only Birds fans on the old school bus, and we started to hear it. All in good fun though, pretty much exactly what anyone reading this site would expect. No one was an ass, and real vitriol or threatening comments were spewed in our direction. Just barbs and “GTFO our bus!” etc. We had to laugh though, when right after we got on, and the bus started to pull away with a few empty spots, a few Eagles fans came running from Redd’s and the driver stopped for a second, then drove off. He then picked up a few random Giants fans who were walking along the road to the game. Fair enough, bus driver.
We hopped off the bus and immediately started to hear it a little more. Again though, nothing more than ordinary, loud trashtalking, and at least we started to see more Eagles fans.
Another tip for the Meadowlands experience: If you’re trying to get a bottle into this place, they have one hell of a pat-down on the way in, so don’t stash anything you don’t mind losing. I watched as can after can was taken out of the line in front of me, knowing full well I had a small bottle of Jack deep within my layers. It didn’t make it in. The guy was cool about it, just said, “Sorry but, now I really have to pat you down to find the rest of it.”
As soon as we got inside, the trash talk was replaced by loud, New York/North Jersey-accented complaining. Giants fans seem to HATE the New Meadowlands. Our seats were in the 300 level, the upper bowl of three main seating sections. To get up there, we had to take a series of escalators not unlike those you’d find in a mall. Only they were for thousands of people at a time.
Huge logjam at the start of every set of escalators, and several of them weren’t working. “$1.5 billion for this?!” and “Do you have this in Philly? Broken escalators that can’t fit 50 people at a time anyway?” We were glad that many of the Gi’nts fans were distracted by the stadium’s shortcomings, but there were plenty more making comments at the two guys wearing DJacc and Maclin jerseys.
One guy who was stuck alongside us in the cattle pass was saying he’d been to Philly a few times, and the same rules apply up there. It’s unlikely anyone will give you a hard time if all you do is cheer for your team. Anything more than that though, and definitely anything resembling taunting the people around you, and well, “Are you familiar with Thermopylae? It’s a lot like that. You’re outnumbered and you’re gonna die whether you put up a fight or not.” Yep, a Giants fan threw in a Thermopylae reference.
But he really was right about one thing. It’s a lot like a game the Linc in terms of the fans you encounter. They’re a lot more like us than we’re probably ready to admit. After being in four other stadiums, no other fans were more like what you’d find in Philly than these ones. It makes total sense given the geography, but ya know… who wants to admit that.
It did give me a much greater appreciation for our building though. I’ve always liked the Linc, but I like it twice as much after seeing this alternative, which to its credit is built to hold 80k plus. There was no personality in the Meadowlands’ architecture, just a big bowl like the concrete monstrosities of the 70s, only with a much more modern feel.
The four digital screens taking up each corner were excellent, and we really had no complaints in our initial seats. The concourses were very narrow though, and the bathrooms were comparatively tiny. It wasn’t easy to find a decent beer, but we did locate a stand with some Brooklyn Lager.
Our section was fairly tame. We had an Eagles fan with his Giants wife next to us, and pretty much everyone else were Giants fans. Some more vocal than others, in our direction, but really none of the heckling was particularly noteworthy. We were just the guys to target when there was either a disputed call or, more often, a total collapse on third down by the Birds D. Part of the reason we really didn’t catch any static was that the Eagles were getting the shit kicked out of them for most of the time we were in the building.
There’s nothing quite like being in the building, and we’ll always have that memory, but you miss a lot too. We thought DJacc fumbled that ball without being touched, and we had no idea there was even a question as to whether Andy Reid should challenge it. It was said in a few places that they didn’t show the replay in the building. They did. It just wasn’t an angle that showed that he was touched. It also looked, to us, like Mario Manningham was already out of bounds when he fumbled. There’s just a lot you miss when you’re there in person, but so much that you get in terms of the whole experience.
Full Disclosure: After Kevin Boss scored his touchdown in the fourth quarter, immediately on the heels of the quote-unquote Jackson fumble, we thought about leaving. The building was emptying out like it was on fire, and there wasn’t exactly a sobriety contest among the people who were staying. The warm car beckoned. The looming traffic nightmare taunted us. We said, let’s at least get down that first set of escalators and see what’s going on in the lower sections.
We hit the bathrooms first, and, down 31-10, it was a little ugly. One guy in particular needed his Eagles hate to be heard, and we were among his targets. “Thanks for the fumble MACLIN. Way to cough it up JACKSON.” And other words of brilliance. We didn’t take the bait (even as a notorious smart ass, I didn’t know exactly what to say in response to that, and we were keenly aware that our backs were to this guy, who wasn’t in a urinal line. He was just yelling. He moved on to a guy in Dawkins jersey, again offering nothing particularly funny or even insulting. Dawk had a few friends with him though, all of which were Giants fans. One was kinda tall, wearing an Eli jersey, and he immediately got in the guy’s face. Security ends up coming in (two guards), and the calmer, more assured Manning guy was telling the other Giants fan he’d meet him outside the bathroom. So of course we waited outside to see this loudmouth get the shit kicked out of him. After a few minutes though, he still never emerged.
We walked down a ramp to avoid the escalator scene, and at a concourse, my cousin saw that the Eagles had scored (the Celek TD). He deserves a job on the Giants’ coach staff for what he said next. “Let’s hurry back in to see if they go for an onside kick.” We barely saw that happen, not getting to our new seats before the Birds offense was back on the field. But immediately it seemed like a new game had started.
We were down in the 200 level now, and no one was saying anything to us. For the first time in the game, the momentum had completely shifted, and thousands of people had already left. Two Eagles fans were going completely ape and welcomed a few more friendlies to the section. We grabbed two new seats, mine being right next to the tallest man I have ever seen in person. Great, an actual giant. He was pretty cool though. Everyone was standing, and he kinda crouched because he was worried about blocking the view of every row behind him.
You know what happened on the field. Vick led the Eagles to an amazing comeback, and with every rush, the crowd got a little quieter. Actually that’s not true. They got a lot quieter. After Vick ran for a huge gain on that long 3rd down play, we didn’t hear much. They were genuinely terrified at what they now realized was possible. All that was great about the day for them was now unraveling, and there are few things more deflating than hours of swagger being dashed in a handful of minutes.
With the game tied, and the punt team coming on, I won’t lie and say I thought DeSean was going to return the punt for a TD. They’d obviously kick it out of bounds, and we’d see some OT. But there was almost no chance the Eagles were going to lose at this point. The momentum had swung so far in the Eagles’ favor, it just didn’t seem possible they wouldn’t be the first to score. Then Matt Dodge drilled one right at Jackson, who dropped it, then ran through a huge hole we could see very well from our new seats in the end zone behind DJacc.
Pandemonium. We were going absolutely nuts, screaming and jumping on the seats, and no one said a word.
They filed out quickly and quietly, so devastated and seemingly baffled by what had happened in 7:30 of game time. We sang the fight song. Twice. We watched as the Eagles came off the field into the tunnel just below us, even happier than we were.
The worst we heard was some girl cursing us out (another Birds fan was shouting “I LOVE THIS PLACE.” but with a blank stare and not any particularly direct hostility. On the way out, we heard next to nothing. Four touchdowns in 7:28 sucked the life out of everyone wearing blue, from the field to the upper decks.
On the way out, it was back to complaints about the stadium and its poor flow of foot traffic, and even some compliments to the Birds. “I’d trade you that idiot Coughlin and our first round pick for Andy Reid.” See? They could be our cousins. Most of them barely looked at us though. The sun was setting on an absolute nightmare of a day for Giants fans, and they had no fighting interest in them. At least not the ones we met.
We waited for two busloads Redd’s customers to clear out of the huge line before we got were able to get on, and then we sat in the traffic to get out of the complex for longer than the walk would have taken.
We had another drink and our complimentary app after the game while we waited for traffic to die down, and no one gave us a hard time. We figured if it were coming, it might be on our walk out. Right as I got to the door, wearing my #10 jersey, a huge guy stepped in front of me and yelled, “WHY ARE YOU BREAKING MY HEART?”
We drove home, a long, straight ride that seemed far longer than the way up. One final tip if you’re headed up there next year: Take New Jersey Transit from 30th Street…
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