NFL Fans United & Documentary Filming Expands

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Yesterday was a day I will not forget.  Yesterday was my first time being on the sidelines for a professional football game.  Now before you ask if the NFL is playing on a Saturday, they weren’t.  It was for the UFL, United Football League.  This is the 2nd year of the league and their nearest team are the Hartford Colonials.  Last year they were the New York Sententials but never had a true home in the NY/NJ area.  Since I have been looking into cost effective football alternatives to the NFL, I thought the Colonials would be a great team to cover and see what their fans thought about the team.  Dr. Bill Chachkes of Football Reporters Online was able to get me a press pass and some time with one of the front office personnel. It may not have been the NFL sidelines, but to me, professional football is professional football.

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My associate Sixto and I left early, I wanted to get there when the parking opened to see how the Colonials fans tailgate.  Took us a little over two hours to get up there but the ride was worth it.  Sixto is a great kid, he is a film student at Montclair State University and is looking to get some good experience behind the camera.  We met Dr. Chachkes and his wife and he handed us our press parking pass and my on field media pass.  Unfortunately, I did not get a press pass for Sixto.  Bill informed us Quiznos was giving away free tickets to the game.  So that is how we got Sixto into the game.  By the time we made it over to Rentschler Field, where the UConn Huskies play football, there was not too much time left for tailgating.

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Sixto and I set out and we covered a lot of ground, not much ground to cover there.  About 5-6 rows of parking on each side as there were not as many fans tailgating like at a New York Jets game.  They had a stage set up for a live band, some inflatable sections where kids jousted and a mechanical bull tossed others around.  Plus some local sponsor booths and some role playing Colonials were there in full uniform.  There was a moment on stage where they had wheelchair boxing, yes, wheelchair boxing.  The boxing is done to help give those less fortunate a boost to their self esteem and make them feel that they can do anything.  It was fun to watch as many fans cheered them on.  After visiting those areas, we moved on to find some tailgaters to talk to.

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We found very few fans willing to talk to us.  Many were enjoying the games for the first time while few have been to previous games.  The ones that did talk to us are fans of NFL teams as well.  We found New York Giants fans, Jets fans, Patriots fans, and a Philadelphia Eagles season ticket holder.  Those we talked to have been to Giants and Jets games, but were never season ticket holders.  They felt it was too far for them to travel to the games on a constant basis.  However, they did become season ticket holders of the Colonials.  Reason being they were a closer franchise, $60 per seat for the whole season which is four games, and the players were from UConn and other local areas.  They also have former NFL players on the team.

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As we walked, there were more families having fun than the usual “beer drinking guy” crowds I find at Jets games.  The UFL’s prices make it easier to bring the family to enjoy a game.  Now the tailgates may not be super huge or have the flare of ones i have been to at NFL games, but it still had that warm friendly atmosphere.  People still offered us food and the occasional adult beverage.  The people may still support heir favorite NFL team, but they will also support the Colonials in the same manner.  This is what the UFL needs, fans willing to not just show support but to bring their friends to experience it for themselves.  It is always fun to see who tailgates.  That is where they true nature of the fan comes out.  No one I have come across has not been hospitable or unruly.

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About 20 minutes before kickoff I signed in and got my press vest.  I was smiling the entire time.  I Was ecstatic.  I was actually one of the media who gets to be on the sidelines to film and report.  Whereas Bruce Speight of the New York Jets said “I was technically not the media”.  I dropped my stuff off in the press room and proceeded to head out onto the field.  Felt strange looking up to the stand from the field, usually the other way around for me.  I got some great shots of the fans from the field as well as both teams.  I even managed to get some great footage of former San Francisco 49ers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Jeff Garcia, who is the QB for the Omaha Nighthawks.  The action on the field was exciting.  Every player played their hearts out and gave the fans what they came to see, true professional football.

I was approached by a Connecticut State Trooper on the field before the 2nd half began, his name was Danny.  He asked me where I was from and who I was shooting for.   I told him where I was from and that I was filming a football documentary where the basis was about the New York Jets and their fans.  He then proceeds to tell me he bleeds green.  He was a New York Jets fan for a long time.  His brother was on the waiting list for season tickets for about 15 years.  Once the Jets went through their season ticket holder base to sell the PSL’s his brother received a call fast for season tickets.  His brothers seats are in the upper bowl just below the catwalk, really high up.

Danny then says he remembers seeing some footage on the internet about some guy who was being followed by a cameraman looking for blue collar fans to talk to about the PSL situation.  I informed him that was me.  What are the odds I go to a Hartford Colonials game and talk to a State Trooper who has seen footage I have put out on the internet about my documentary?  It made me feel proud to know I have had others take not of what I am doing and behind my work.  Of everything that could have happened that was something I will always remember.  It let me know what I was doing was the right thing, that I was being heard even if no one was letting me know it.

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The entire time I was on the field the fans were into the game.  Fans did the wave and kept it going all around the stadium.  One far even dressed as a Colonial from the 1770′s.  They had a great fan base that showed they were excited to see the Colonials play their brand of professional football, even if they did lose by a small margin.  I walked around the entire field and got shots from every angle.  I loved ever minute being there and excited about any future opportunity it may bring.  Even though I write for internet websites and do independent filming, I felt like I was treated like any other member of the traditional media.

After the game I had the camera set up in the post game conference area.  A section where the press hears from the coaches and players about the game then proceeds to ask them questions about the game.  There may not have been many members of the press in there but it was a thrilling experience to be the only one there with a video camera to get footage.  After that I interviewed David Turner, the Colonials Personnel Director who had previously worked for Al Davis and the Oakland Raiders.  He was able to give me some insight into the differences between the NFL and the UFL.  His interview adds a perspective into NFL alternatives that is detrimental to the documentary.  A viewpoint not many can provide.

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Saturday’s experience was one I want to build on.  I have to see what else I can do to tell the stories not many tell.  To give a fan perspective the traditional reporters do not tell.  Majority of the time it is game statistics, plays, and what happens on the field.  Many seem to forget the fans perspective and what brings them out.  The UFL understands this and seems they know what it means to build that bond between the team and their fans.  They bring together fans of many NFL teams that would normally be at each other throats.  Instead, they all cheer for their local team, united under one flag that flies up in Hartford.

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Interview With New York Giants WR Steve Smith

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Last night I had the pleasure of interviewing New York Giants Wide Receiver Steve Smith.  I know i am a Jets fan but I am not going to pass up the opportunity to interview any professional football player.  He was making an appearance at Macy’s at the Garden State Plaza in Paramus, NJ for Perry Ellis.  After selecting which Perry Ellis button down shirt he was going to wear he headed out to the floor to sign autographs for the awaiting fans.  Young and mature fans alike all stepped up and had pictures, hats, balls, jerseys, and more signed by the Pro Bowl & Super Bowl winning Wide Receiver.

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Are There Pro Football Alternatives To The NFL?

As a New York Jets fan I really do not follow any pother football team.  They have been my life since I was a kid.  I root for the Giants when the Jets have not made the playoffs and the University of Michigan Wolverines a few years before Tyrone Wheatley was a running back there.  I wanted to go to Michigan but that was a path not taken.  I have been trying to figure out what other football alternatives there are out there for those in the New York area.  I know there is college football.  Many seem to like that, especially if you are an alumni of a certain college or university.  But I am talking about football at the professional or semi pro level.

When I was at the Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, they had a whole room dedicated to those leagues that popped up to compete against the NFL.  A whole room of failed football organizations and the teams that payed in them.  I am sure Vince McMahon of the WWE does not want to be associated with the failed XFL, or mentioned in the same sentence.  The was the AFL, USFL, XFL, World League, NFL Eirpoe, AAFL, and countless others.  That is only counting outdoor leagues, not indoor football.  We had the AFL, AF2, IFL, AIFA, CIFL, AIFL, IFA, and many regional indoor leagues.  Some teams switch leagues to get better exposure.  Who can keep track of them all.

In the New York Metropolitan area there aren’t many other teams outside the New York Jets or Giants.  There were the New York/New Jersey Hitmen, New Jersey Generals, New York Dragons, New York/New Jersey Knights, New York Stallions, New York Stars, and others that have folded over time.  Besides the Jets and Giants, there are a few that are out there now & recently folded that many may not know about.  They cover both indoor and outdoor football.

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The New Jersey Revolution were members of the American Indoor Football Association and ceased operations after completing their first season in the AIFA. They existed from 2005-2010.  The team was based in Morristown, New Jersey, played their home games at the George Mennen arena and was sponsored by the U.S. Army. The Revs ticket price was $10 a game.  In 2006 they played for the Great Lakes Indoor Football League.  2007-2009 they played in the Continental Indoor Football League.

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In their first (and only) AIFA season, the NJ Revolution were an absolute disaster going 0-14 on the season. They lost 6 home games at the George Mennen Arena, all 7 road games and one neutral site game played June 12, 2010 at the Sun National Bank Arena in Trenton, NJ where for some reason they were considered the road team losing to the Harrisburg Stampede 96-44. Harrisburg was stopped on the goal line looking to break the 100 point mark as time mercifully expired. This neutral site game was announced originally as an exhibition contest but for unexplained reasons is listed in the final overall AIFA league stats on the AIFA official website.

The purpose of this game was to announce that in 2011 the Trenton Steel would be joining the AIFA. It was announced that the Trenton Steel ownership group which includes Rich Lisk, former General Manager of the Philadelphia Soul of the Arena Football League had purchased the AIFA rights for the entire State of New Jersey. Revolution Owner and General Manager Rob Testor vehemently denied at this June 12, 2010 neutral site game that the Revolution would be forced to move out of New Jersey or cease operations.

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The New Jersey Revolution issued this press release on September 8, 2010:

The NJ Revolution was founded in October of 2005. A franchise that has lasted through all the harsh economic times has decided to change its focus and direction. After enjoying 5 years as a professional arena/indoor football team from 2006 until 2010 and playing in numerous top level venues on the east coast and mid west, the franchise and parent company have decided to take the next few years to concentrate on building a national sports venture with a much broader scope and outreach. It’s time for the company to build on a bigger and brighter future. The Revs, as the fans have named them, brought affordable family fun to the community while interacting with many local and state wide charities and youth groups. The company often donated game tickets, their time and also made numerous monetary donations to charitable organizations. In the coming years, we hope to extend our sphere of positive influence to a greater area and audience. In the meanwhile, the company wishes to thank all those who supported them and were a part of the Revolution family.

The Hartford Colonials are a professional team based in Hartford, Connecticut that plays in the United Football League. The Colonials play their home games in Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Connecticut. The team began as the New York Sentinels for the 2009 season, playing home games in three different New York-area stadiums, including Rentschler Field. Chris Palmer is the current head coach and general manager, after the Sentinels fired head coach Ted Cottrell following an 0–6 season in 2009.
The team began play as the New York Sentinels in October 2009, with home games split between Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, James M. Shuart Stadium in Hempstead, New York, and Rentschler Field (one home game in each venue). The league had planned to play at least one game in New York City proper (at Citi Field), but this never materialized, and the proposed game was moved to Shuart Stadium.

In February 2010, the team moved to Hartford, Connecticut for the 2010 season, a move initially opposed by team owner Bill Mayer. Through an online vote, fans were asked to select one of four names (Hartford Knights, Hartford Guardians, Hartford Travelers or Connecticut Yankees) to become the new team name, or to suggest a name not listed. The new name was announced as being the Hartford Colonials on March 14, 2010. “Colonials” was not one of the four names voters could choose from, but was said to become an “overwhelming favorite” among the fan suggested names.

Northland AEG, L.L.C., the operators of Rentschler Field, purchased a stake in the franchise upon the team’s arrival in Hartford, though exactly what size share the company owns is unknown.

I have already been to the New Jersey Revolution games and they were fun.  Lot of stories there for another time.  But with indoor football there is no tailgating, one thing I missed.  I may have to write an article about my experience with them alone.  Not to mention some of the stories I heard from the players.  I will be attending my first UFL game this Saturday as the Hartford Colonials take on the Omaha Nighthawks.  I can not wait to see how the fans tailgate and what they think of the UFL.  It will add an interesting perspective to the documentary and how football fans look for other ways to find that football alternative.

NY Jets Need To Show More Fan Appreciation

I hate the time in between home games.  I think some season it is too long.  The first week of the season was great, two homes games within a week.  The Jets have their home games spread out too far this season.  There are a lot of fans who feel the same way.  Others just go to those away games and tailgate there if they can drive to them.  The ones one has to fly to are not as easy to tailgate at.  Makes it hard to check your grill and cooler in at the terminal.  But some fans are so die hard they will follow their team anywhere.

All this time between games is hard when one loves to tailgate.  Yeah one can have friends over the house to watch a game on TV and barbecue but it is not the same.  It is never the same experience when you are not at the game.  I know many fans are experiencing it for the first time this season, not being a season ticket holder.  All because of not wanting to purchase a PSL.  Many of those fans had their seats for several years.  I am not talking about the ones who were only at Giants Stadium.  I am talking about the ones who came over from Shea Stadium and the Polo Grounds.  The ones who were there for the team and gave their hard earned money to support them when no one else would.

I am a big fan of Pink Floyd.  Great music, great stage shows, and their lyrics tell a story not too many know about.  Pink Floyd were formed in 1965, and originally consisted of Roger Waters, Nick Mason, Richard Wright, and Syd Barrett.  In 1968, David Gilmour joined the line-up. Barrett was soon removed, due to his increasingly erratic behavior due to his continued abuse of psychedelic drugs.  Once Barrett left the band, the other continued on to great worldwide success.  But it was Barrett’s songwriting ability and use of sound composition with Nick Mason that helped to develop what Pink Floyd would be without Barrett.  Once David Gilmour rook over for Syd Barrett, Roger Waters became the main songwriter.  The sound developed and all of the songs were dedicated to Syd Barrett.

Syd Barrett helped define who Pink Floyd would be.  If it is was not for his influence, there would be no albums like Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here among others.  They went on to dedicate every album, performance, and song lyrics to him.  They always wanted Syd to be there and be a part of the band.  But Syd sank deeper into his own self and psyche.  Pink Floyd never lost track of who helped to get them started and noticed for their music.  They always loved their friend and never lost sight of who they wanted to thank for their music.  Every concert began with them saying :”For Syd”.  Every album, every song has hidden meaning in wishing Syd was with them.

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The New York Jets and other professional teams should learn something from them.  Thanking those who have been with you since the very beginning.  Helping you get to the point where you are at now.  If it was not for the fans buying those season tickets for the Titans of New York games in the AFL, there would be no New York Jets today.  Those fans stuck with their team no matter what and were there for them and continued to buy those season tickets.  You will never see a fan be inducted into the Jets “Ring of Honor” and Fireman Ed does not count.  I am talking about the fans like Tommy Wilson, The Jet Pack and countless others who have been with the team for over 45 years.  The ones who have been fans longer than anyone has worked for the team.  Even longer than Woody Johnson being the owner.

The thank you does not need to come in a commemorative ticket holder to showcase your season ticket for being the first to have a PSL in the new stadium.  That goes out to everyone.  EVen stockholders get dividends if a company makes a profit.  Being a PSL holder in a way makes one a stockholder.  You paid your money to hold a seat and pay for the new stadium.  Ever PSL holder has stock in the new stadium.  Every PSL holder deserves a vote and a piece no matter how much they paid for one.  Instead, the team thanks the ones who pay more than those who just paid.  The Jets need to realize a thank you needs to be done on a more personal level.  I am sure Woody Johnson does not know or did not thank the dedicated fans who kept their seats since the 1960′s, since their “records only go back to 1977″.

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Myself With Woody Johnson

Mark Cuban as an owner even sits court-side by the fans and not up in his box.  When was the last time a Jets owner sat down with the fans?  I am not talking about Woody walking through the parking lot during tailgating because it is a nice PR moment and “shows” he cares.  I am talking about Woody Johnson sitting in the seats along the 50 yard line or in the end zone to see who the true fans are.  When was the last time he had a 40 plus year season ticket holder in his box as a thank you for all the years of dedicated to the team?  I am sure never.  That is something you will never see.  A team owner bringing regular fans into his owner’s box as a good gesture of thank you.  Only the ones who are high profile client’s, high profile friends (Michael Douglas), or anyone else that looks good on camera.  If he has brought up sick kids or ones associated with a charity then that is a good sign.

I guess what I am trying to say through all this and the Pink Floyd reference is that I do not forget those who helped to being the New York Jets to where they are today.  This documentary is about them and their dedication.  I am not giving them just one day or thanks but a film dedicated to them, and my father.  Thanking them for their years of service to a team who has not won a Super Bowl in over 40 years.  The Jets have the longest drought of winning a championship than any other New York area professional team.  The Nets won the ABA championship in the 1970′s and I am counting that.  A highlight reel with their moments, something no professional team has ever done for fans.

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I do not think any team, including the Jets have a fan relations coordinator.  Someone who is the link between the fans and the team.  This is something that is needed.  These teams need to keep in mind if there were no fans, they would have no one to play in front of.  No sponsors, no endorsements, just a bunch of guys playing ball.  The fans are the ones who make professional sports a success.  They are the ones who should be thanked in more ways than one.  Not thanked because of how big their wallet is.  I guess it is up to me to thank the Jets fans for their years of dedication.  Their years of coming to cold weather games sitting outside when the team was 4-12.  It takes a fan to thank the fans.

The Fix Is In, So I Thought

Ever since I started my website I have done nothing but talk about the New York Jets and my documentary.  I have thrown few bits and pieces in about other topics.  I never intended this website to be entirely about the New York Jets.  Once I am done filming my documentary I will not be filming in the parking lot of the stadium.  I am going to need more to report on and write.  I did want to share one small story.  One that goes back to 1988.  I was in eighth grade at Central Middle School in Parsippany, NJ.  A story I do not think I have told anyone really.  Maybe a few people know, but I forget exactly who knows.  A story about how I tried to rig my last cross country meet before moving on to high school.

Central Middle School, formerly Central Jr. High, was for 6-8th grades.  But I was the last 6th grade class to “graduate” from elementary school before they added 6th grade to Central.  So I went to Central as a 7th grader.  I ran cross country to get my stamina up and get into shape for my real passion in school, wrestling.  I had wrestled since the 4th grade.  Since I was not allowed to play football due to my vision & was not a soccer player, I decided to run cross country.  I ran cross country in 7th and 8th grade.  My best finish was 5th, obviously I was not that good.  But hey, I did it anyway.  I did not want to go into wrestling season with no conditioning under my belt.

In my last race my eighth grade year I decided to do something to make it a little more exciting.  You see, th race course went through a local cemetery.  That’s right, a cemetery.  There is a gravel road that circles the middle of the cemetery.  I thought it would be funny to have a couple of kids hiding in the nearby woods and make ghost noises.  As runners would be jogging though the cemetery who would think to hear those noises.  Especially not the opposing school.  Even my own teammates did not know what was going to happen.  I told no one.  I only told the kids that helped me pull off the prank.  I can not even remember their names.

The day before the race I approached three kids and they were into it.  We all thought it would be funny.  It was my last race so I did not give it much thought.  As I am writing this I have the A-Team on TV.  Funny, the actor who played the caddy DeNunzo in Caddyshack is playing a caddy on the A-Team.  Talk about typecast.  Anyway, back to the story.  All I wanted them to do was to make ghost noises, that was it.  They decided to take things a step further.  If I had known what they had in mind, I would have called the whole thing off.

Now the girls ran first.  I was stretching before by meet and paid no attention to much else.  When it came time to run our race, I did not notice the opposing teams girls talking to their coach.  Apparently, our teams girls had finished in some pretty good places.  Who would thick twice about something like that.  By the time my race has started the only thing I cared about was finishing.  I was not the best long distance runner.  As I got to the cemetary I was waiting for what I had planned.  As I got about two theirds around I hd heard the howls and boos coming from the woods.  But there was something else I had noticed too.  Rocks coming from the woods being thrown at the opposing teams runners.

When I saw that done I knew things were going a little too far.  But by then it was too late.  I never wanted anyone to get hurt or hit by anything.  Just a couple of laughs.  By the time the race was over nothing had happened.  We all went home and thought nothing about what happened.  I was just laughing a lot from what I had done.  Thinking how funny it was to place people in the woods to make ghost noises as runners ran through a cemetery.  It was not until the next day did I find out more about what the kids I had placed had done.

It turns out, the kids I had talked to about going into the woods were seen coming out.  They were named by some others and one of the teams coaches by description.  One of the kids had named me as the ringleader, but I was.  The principal had me in his office along with one of the other kids.  He brought up that some of the girls on the opposing team had tripped over some kind of rope.  As it turned out, the kids had covered a rope up under the rocks on the course.  When the opposing teams girls ran over it, they pulled it up and tripped them.  They ended up scratching and scraping their knees.  This was something I told the principal I told them not to do.  Only to make ghost noises.

So what started as a harmless prank turned into something out of my control.  I got several days of detention for it.  Luckily, I was not suspended or anything major.  That was the first and only time I decided to rig or get involved with any fixing.  I still laugh about it today.  I am not sure if anyone else has tried to do what I did.  I have a couple of other stories I may decide to write about.  Definately a lot I have told few people, especially anyone in my own family. You can not write some of the stuff, you just do it.