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The Jet Nuts: A Breed Apart From Other Jets Tailgating Groups

This past Sunday I had the pleasure of watching the Jets face the Eagles at the home of Steve Renner.  Steve is one of the founders of the Jet Nuts tailgating group.  You could always spot them from their bus and Jet Nuts logos.  Now the game may not have been the best, but the afternoon with the Nuts was very enjoyable.  It was easy to see why many enjoyed tailgating with the Jet Nuts for over 20 years.

The core group of the Nuts were there for the game.  Even the eldest, Bill Borm who had been attending games since the then Titans of New York.  The Nuts are a warm, friendly bunch who have been attending games together even before the Jet Nuts name came about.  Always willing to welcome others, they all treated me as if I had been a Jet Nut for years.

The Jets/Cowboys game was the only game they brought their bus to this season.  With a drop off in participation, they were losing money and not covering their costs.  They ended up selling the bus to a Jets fan group in Virgina.  They use the bus for whatever games the Jets go to in Washington, Baltimore, and other surrounding NFL cities the Jets travel to.

They do have a plethora of memorabilia to remind them of their days as Jets Nuts.  From pictures and parking passes to the original Jet Nuts sign they had on their first bus.  Many autographs, stickers, shirts, and other merchandise with the Jet Nuts logo on it remains with them all.  Steve even has his original seat back from Giants Stadium.  How he got them, I can not tell.  They even have a wall size Jets banner from the stadium lot.  That story will be left for the documentary.  Let’s just say Steve’s wife acted fast and got it down before any security noticed.

One of the Jets Nuts did not want to keep his tickets past the first season at the new MetLife Stadium.  He felt zig-zagging up several escalators was a hassle, waiting on long lines at the bathroom, and dealing with obnoxious Jets ticket reps was just the tip of the iceberg for him.  The fact he had his seats since 1972 and “records were lost” making him a ticket holder since 1977 was an insult.

He said Steve had to wait on line for the bathroom for about 45 minutes.  One can miss a lot of the game just waiting on line for the bathroom.  I have heard this from several fans.  There was also a complaint about less port-a-pottys in the non PSL parking section.  It is a hard job to keep distance between a man, his beer, and the bathroom.

This Jet Nut even showed me his season ticket billing statement from 1983.  At that time, p[purchasing preseason tickets were optional.  Also, it was optional to purchase parking.  His total bill came to $208 for two seats.  I can remember in 1985 looking at our season tickets with a price of $25 on each ticket.  It seem professional football has skyrocketed in price and inflation over the years.  Professional football tickets have seen inflation and cost skyrocket over the years.

The elder statesman of the Jet Nuts, Bill Bohm, seems content on watching games at home now. Bill began attending games at the Polo Grounds watching the then Titans of New York to watching the Jets play on TV aboard the Jet Nuts bus last season.  As Bill’s knees got worse, he could not walk into the stadium.  Bill seemed pleased just attending the games with the rest of the crew and remaining on the bus to watch the Jets play.  Someone would always stay behind with Bill as everyone else ventured into the stadium.  Bill never stepped foot into the new MetLife Stadium.

Steve and a handful of the Jet Nuts are happy setting up their small grills and tailgating on a small patch of grass.  Steve now prefers buying better cuts of meat for less than in bulk for about 50.  They still enjoy what they do but with less people around.  Steve and the others had hoped the younger generation would have taken over the bus and the festivities, but that never happened.

Steve was given a trophy by the Jet Nuts for attending his 100th consecutive game.  That is over 12 years of attending games without missing one.  I am sure others may have done this, but I do not think their friends would give them a trophy for that feat.  I do not think any players can say they have ever missed a game.  I know in hockey they give out “iron man” awards for those who have gone long stretches without missing a game.  It goes to show how a concentrated group of Jets fans not only care about each other, but acknowledge accomplishments for being a fan.

The Jet Nuts are that rare breed of Jets fan.  They remind of the Jet Pack who I have written about before.  A bunch of friends who decided to get a bus and create something bigger for other Jets fans.  Not only did they include their friends, but whoever wanted to come over and enjoy the party with them.  For over 20 years many have celebrated with them and wanted to be a part of them.  Unfortunately, some things have to come to an end.  Many Jets fans have realized this over the past few seasons.

There are many other tailgating groups still around.  Sal & Carmine still have their usual set up, Dave and the guys in L5, the Flagman Frank Conway over by the Racetrack, the L7 Tailgate which was founded on Twitter, and many others all across the parking landscape.  But the big groups that started at Shea seem to be dwindling.  Even though the Jet Nuts had their first bus 20 years ago does not mean that was when they started as a group.  That was just when the bus attracted enough attention for others to join them for years to come.

We covered other issues this past Sunday.  I do have to save some of it for the documentary, you know.  Not giviving it all away right now.  I was glad To meet Steve, Bill, and the rest of the Jet Nuts back in 2008 and even happier they allowed me to share a game with them at Steve’s house.  Hanging with them did not feel like I was with one of the typical tailgating groups I mentioned before.  With the Jet Nuts, one feels more like family.  That is how they treat each other.  Even though they had their ups and downs dealing the the Jets, PSL’s, and tailgating, the Jet Nuts will always remain Jets fans no matter where they watch a game or or how many of them set a grill up at the stadium.

Jets Tailgating: One Era Ends, Social Media Spawns Another

Sunday the Jets faced the Bills and defeated them with ease.  They also did it with their second and third string players.  Even though they faced the Bills, they showed they wanted to go into the playoffs with a head of steam and prove they can hang with the big boys.  Sometimes when your backs are against the wall and your critics doubt you, you have to prove them wrong.  All Jet faithful hope they can bring that same energy into the playoffs when they face Indianapolis.  They will need it against Manning and the Colts.

Out of the eight home games, the Jets had five games that had rain or other bad weather.  Luckily today, it ended before the game started.  As usual, I got there as early as possible.  They let tailgaters in at 8 AM.  With the fog and rain this morning, there were not too many people on line to get in.  Many arrived about 30 minutes to an hour before kick off.  You can tell who the die hard fans are.  They are the ones who will get there as early as possible and tailgate in any weather.  While trekking across the lots to get to the non PSL parking, one can see where they true fans were.  The Non PSL parking closest to the stadium had a decent amount of vehicles.  It seems the further out from the stadium you go, the more passionate the fans.

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Met up with a crew that saw its tailgating numbers drop form about twenty to six or so.  Two of those are newcomers who they met this season.  They all talked about how many lines they have to stand in.  From the minute they leave their parking are to the minute they have to get to their seats.  They have to cross two elevated bridges and stand in lines to get into them.  Then the lines to get into the stadium.  Lines again to get onto the escalators to get to their upper tier seats.  So no matter where they go in the stadium, they have to wait on lines.  From their parking spot to their seat it takes about thirty minutes.  And this is the non PSL parking section closest to the stadium.

Their belief is the real fans are the ones who will be there no matter what.  Not show up less than an hour to go before kick off, pull into their green parking spot, and walk right into the stadium.  The true fans are out there in any weather and make tailgating a part of the true game day experience.  These are fans who had lower level seats in the old stadium, but because their pockets are not so deep they had no choice but to move to the upper tier of the stadium.  Many share their sentiment, that the true fan was pushed upstairs to make way for the corporate or business ticket holder.

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My associate Sixto and I took the elevated bridges over to see what they were talking about.  I feel bad for those who have to wait on line like cattle moving through there.  I can see why it can take forever.  We walked across the green parking to the yellow side.  There were not too many cars in the green lots, and this was around 10 AM.  By the time we made it to the yellow parking we could see there were more people set up, still overcast and the occasional drops were falling.

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I had a chance to talk with Cesar and Mark from the Jet Pack.  They were established back in 1968 and had dozens upon dozens of people at every tailgate.  This year, it was just them and maybe a few others sporadically.  They have set up in a new location since their old one no longer exists.  Even if they do not have their many friends or fellow Jet Pack members with them, they will still be out there every game.  Their love of their team is what keeps them going.  It does not matter if the others do not have tickets, they will keep going to every home game.  After 40 plus years and countless organizational changes, these guys are the real fans.  They know who the true fans are.

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After Cesar, I met back with with David Fier.  I first interviewed David two years ago.  David tailgates in Lot L with Guyton, the Godfather of Lot L and the other tailgaters they bring.  Guyton is one of those long time fans that tells stories like you were listening to your own grandfather, or father depending on your age.  His story about meeting Joe Namath after being in the military is a great story.  David takes his own money and feeds everyone at his tailgate.  He spends around $1,000 per game on food, drinks, and much more to give his friends a good time not just before the game, but during as well.

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David is one of a rare type of Jets fan.  David used to have season tickets in the lower tier of the old stadium, not too far from the 50 yard line.  But once the PSLs came about, he decided not to spend his money.  The PSL’s for that area would have been $25000 per seat and he had four seats.  Add the $700 per ticket per game to those seats and you have a $128K price tag.  He did not want to move upstairs as he looks at that as a step backwards.  Why after so many years of making his way down to the lower section would he want to go back up again?  He would rather spend around $1000 per game tailgating and stay in the parking lot.  This is a generous person.  He feeds his friends and weary tailgaters for free and watches the game from an HDTV in the back of his truck.

Not too far from there was the L7 Tailgate crew who was started on Twitter. Yes, Twitter.  They set up under the L7 sign in, obviously, Lot L7.  It was an interesting tailgate.  If you mentioned your name, you got a look.  If you mentioned your Twitter handle, people knew who you were instantly.  The main guys behind this tailgate were @L7Tailgate and @Fear_The_Panda.  They met in college and seeing as they were both Jets fans, decided to get season tickets together.  When they decided to tailgate, they put it out across Twitter to anyone who wanted to join them.  Then the Twitter handle #L7Tailgate was created to make it more official.  From their start they have had as little as 10 people to as many as 50.

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The more they Tweeted about the tailgate, the more word got around.  Many Twitter users followed @L7Tailgate and everyone else helped to spread the word.  Tweeters like @laportal @greenlanternjet of CBSNewYork.com, @Fear_The_Panda, @e_man of JetsTwit, @LaurNYJ, @MikeCatNYJ, @Double_O_Six, @MissJtotheK, and many others.  This is the first time I have heard Twitter or social media be used to fuel a tailgate party.  I know there are a few blogs that talk tailgating, but those tailgates did not get started from social media or the internet.

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The L7 Tailgate is free as well.  They prepare food for everyone.  Plus, you can bring what you want and add to the festivities.  They have developed their own tailgate food, called the “Rex Ryan”.  I finally had a chance to sample this caloric overload.  It is a hot dog, wrapped in cheese, wrapped in a hamburger, wrapped in bacon.  Yes, it is just as tasty as it sound.  It is named the Rex Ryan because it is big, obnoxious, and they love it anyway.  It was a really fun and welcoming tailgate to be a part of.

From there we ventured over to the Jet Nuts.  These guys can be spotted by their bus, their third one for the past 21 years.  These guys may have to call it quits.  They are about $2500 in the hole as they charge at their tailgate.  They have seen numbers diminish this year due to, what else, the PSLs.  So they are not seeing the return on their investment like in previous years.  If they can make that money back before ticket money is due by raffles or auctioning off memorabilia, then the Jet Nuts will be back next season. The Jet Nuts mainly get their contingent from word of mouth.  They rely on others to spread the word to get people to come to their tailgate.

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My main reason seeing the Jet Nuts was to talk with William Born.  He is the main Jet Nut.  The patriarch if you will.  Bill has been going to games since the first days at Shea.  He reminds me of that father or grandfather who can captivate your attention with his recollection of previous seasons.  A very humble, likable guy.  A quiet type whose conversation speaks louder than his voice.  Bill watches the game from the bus.  He can not walk to the stadium.  The bus parking is too fair from the stadium.  He has never stepped foot in the new stadium.  A man of his years and mileage with the team can not even go inside to watch the team he loves.

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He lets his kids, grandkids, and other relatives go inside for him.  There is a family member or two that will stay with him as they watch the game in the comfort of their bus.  As I sat there talking with him, I felt like I wanted to carry him to the stadium.  I did what I could to keep the conversation going, it was just a great moment.  Bill even knows that the ones who are in the stadium now are not the real fans, but corporate ones.  People who have money to spend and not true Jets fans.  NO matter the age, there is a like minded pattern here amongst the true Jets fans.

It seems the veteran tailgate groups rely on word of mouth, friends bringing friends and family to help populate their tailgates.  The new younger fans know how to use social media to their advantage.  Plus, the Jets players interact with the fans via Twitter, Facebook, and other social media outlets.  It helps create a more fan friendly environment between fans and players.  Plus, tailgate groups have websites and Twitter handles now.  The Jet Nuts have a website too.  So one can just send out a Tweet and let others pass it along to get people to come on by.  Word of mouth is still good, as many have relied on that for years.

But the torch has been passed to a new, younger, technically inclined fan.  When you see Jets players thanking Tweeters on the jumbotron during the games, you know there is a change in the air.  The younger fans still are not willing to part with money too fast.  Some from the L7 Tailgate will not buy tickets next year.  College comes first and money needs to go to that before any season tickets.  The newer fan is anxious to get their seats and see the games while the more veteran season ticket holders care more about being treated fairly by the organization.

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This season was very different from previous years.  Not just because of the new stadium, PSL’s, and rejuvenated team.  But for the first time, there was finally unity amongst many of the fans.  Jets fans held their head higher, than in previous years.  They see a difference in the team and it showed in the way they celebrated before every home game.  I see more fans wearing their green and white away from the game more than ever.  Then once tailgating, there is more pride.  I am sure in future seasons, that pride will be there.  Unless fans once again say, “Same old Jets”. Let us hope they do not return.  The fans will always let them know.  Especially in the parking lot.

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Bing National Tailgating Competition Fires Up Jet Fans

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Not only did the New York Jets pull out a win in the final seconds of the game, but there was another winner at the New Meadoalwands Stadium.  A winner in Bing’s National Tailgate Competition.  This morning at 10:30 was the national competition being held in seven locations across the country sponsored by Bing.  Today’s stop in New Jersey was the third stop on the circuit.  It will end on Thursday February 3rd in Dallas during Super Bowl week.  All the winners will go head to head to see who is the best tailgater in the country.

Sixto, Anthony Quintano, and myself got there early enough to stop by the L7 Tailgate who got together via Twitter.  They had about 40 or so Tweeters there and I missed out on the Rex Ryan for another week.  DAMN!  By the time we got to the Bing.com set up we were presented with free scarves and wool hats bearing the Bing.com logo.  There were four groups vying for best tailgater.  You had Franks Lot 11 Flagmen, Lenny’s Lot K Tailgaters, Gang Green Grillers, and the Winters Brothers.  Each group had not just their own set up, but they had to stand out from everyone else.  The Winters Brothers had their Jets bus behind them.  Frank Conway had 28 flags flying on 14 poles.  The Grillers had a tiki bar, Revis Island, and ice sculptures.  Lenny’s had a kosher grill and his famed Lenny’s burgers.

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There were also social media photo booths with wall mounted touch screens provided by SMART that allowed guests to immediately Tweet, Facebook or email photos right from the event.  Or just play the bean bag toss or football throw on your own/  Even a couple of stations where you could try out Bing if you were unfamiliar with the website search engine.  DJ’s not just from Bing were playing music, but from every tailgate.  You could not walk anywhere without being blasted by some kind of music.

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Before the event started, we were introduced to the judges.  First up as “Crazy Legs” Conti.  The green bean eating champion and a regular on the competitive eating circuit.  You can see him in his dreadlocks every year on the Natahan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest.  Next up was SNL Alum, comedian, actor,  and fitness magnate Joe Piscopo.  Even though he is a Giants fan, he had a blast being amongst the Jet faithful.  The third judge is no stranger to Jets fans.  Two time Pro Bowl player, inducted in the Football Hall of Fame, and Wide Receiver for the Jets from 1977-1989 was none other than Wesley Walker.  The final judge is the Commissioner of Tailgating and head of the Tailgating Institute of America, Joe Cahn.  Four men brought together for their love of food and football.

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The teams were judged on their tailgating game skills first.  A bean bag toss and football throw was up first that was not easy for all those who competed.  I can not post all the pictures here so check out the slide show at the bottom of the page or on my Flickr page.  Next the judges went around and had to taste all the food.  What would a tailgating competition be without eating?  Lenny had his special Lenny Burgers with the cheese inside.  Wesley Walker could not put his down.  The Winters Brothers had a menu all prepared with Jets players names accompanying the dishes.  The Flagman Frank had some nice steaks prepared that tasted great.  The Gang Green Grillers had, well, about everything as their special!  Was hard to keep track of all the food.  Some had great shrimp, turkey legs, fillet mignon, and anything else that would make the Homer Simpson in us drool.

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We wanted to eat more than we did.  Which was not enough.  We had to do a lot of interviews and film the event so there was not enough time to eat.  I will say the coffee flavored Patron is very good though.  Beers to the left of me.  Beers to the right of me.  Would have been nice to have had one but we had to stay focused.  By this time I was able to talk with Wesley Walker.  Wesley loved being amongst the Jets fans who had not only watched him when he played, but even the younger fans who were introduced to his greatness.  He did say he was such a great receiver that he would be able to escape Revis Island every time jokingly.  Wesley does enjoy watching today’s players as he sees an intensity now that was still around when he played.

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There was one aspect of Wesley Walkers career I had to find out about in depth.  Wesley is legally blind in one eye.  He was able to make it past the physical back then as there was no vision test.  He knew what he needed t do to compensate for that vision loss.  It made him step up his game and be that much of a better player.  It was after a while that the team had found out about his vision.  Wesley says it was because of that they started doing the combines, to make sure players were 100% in all areas on the field so they would not play with any limitations.  I myself have a loss of central vision in both my eyes that forced me out of wrestling in high school.  So it was a unique experience to be able to find out from an NFL Hall of Famer what he did to make sure his “handicap” did not stop him from what he loved to do.

As the competitors were trying to grease the palms of the judges with their burgers, chicken, and ribs, I managed to get some words with Bing.com representative Kari Dilloo.  Kari talked about Bing’s abilities to search anything football like Bing’s Sports Compare & Bing Instant Answers.  Bing is doing what they can do make their search engine so football user friendly that you can find anything on football.

Multiple stations set up throughout the event to allow guests to try their new software.   “Bing Sports Compare” which creates a direct side by side visual comparison of NFL players and “Bing Instant Answers” which provides instant and accurate information at your fingertips – both perfect for brushing up on football stats prior to tailgate and game time. Also on display was “Bing Travel” which is perfect for the next time you are looking to follow your favorite team to an away game as Bing not only allows you to see hotel and flight price comparisons but also lets you know when would be the best time to book your trip.

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The final contest of the day was the trivia contest.  Each team sent their best man to the stage to answer questions on everything Jets.  From questions ranging from where was Super Bowl III played to where did Nick Mangold go to college.  Every team had their strengths and weaknesses.  But only one team could walk away the best Tailgater in NJ and move on to Dallas.  Joe Piscopo said he has never really tailgated before and wished he could send them all.  He enjoyed his time there even though he looked like a fish out of water.  He provided the comedy element for the day.  Joe said he would rather be escorted into the stadium via a side door than go in through the fans in the parking lot.

But in the end just like in the Highlander, there can be only one.  Everyone did what they could to come out on top.  As the judges tallied their votes they all settled on one winner.  The Winters Brothers took the trophy and title of Best Tailgater in NY.  They will head to Dallas during Super Bowl week to compete for best tailgater in the country.   All in all it was a success and everyone that participated enjoyed themselves, especially the Winters Brothers.  I will have more details up soon along with videos of the event and interviews with the judges.  Next year will bring about more competitors and Jets fans.  No one left unsatisfied, or with an empty stomach.

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