In a strange and wonderful turn of events, the folks at Tailgate Fan offered to pay me real American money to visit both a Jets tailgate and a Giants tailgate to report on which “New York” (ahem, New Jersey) team has mastered the art of tailgating. Now, before we begin, there’s some housekeeping we need to attend to:
1. I am a Patriots fan and have every reason to dislike both of these teams. This is worth noting because neither fan base is going to earn any bonus points from me. If anything, they’ll have to try harder.
2. That said, the hosts at both tailgates were great. I have to give a special shout out and thank you to the folks I interviewed, including The Winters Brothers crew (Joe, Sean and Eileen), Tom Madden, Jetman (don’t worry — you’ll see pictures), Carmine and Eddie, Captain Dave, the guys from Wrong Fork Productions (Nick, Brad and Jojo) and the owners of the Giants Fanbulance (Jason, Dan, Brian and Frank). If I missed anyone, know that fans of both teams are amazing hosts.
3. A big “Boo-urns” to the Dunkin’ Donuts in the Secaucus train station. The day of a football game, and one person working? Poor form, gang.
And with that, let’s move on to the competition.
The rules are simple. Nine categories, with either a winner or a tie declared for each category. At the end of the competition, the team with the most points wins. And with that, ladies and gentlemen, I bring you:
THE BATTLE FOR NEW YORK!
No matter how many beers, brats and bad decisions you bring to the table, it’s all a moot point without the people. So who brought more people out to play?
I figured this would be a pretty close category. After all, New York is legendary for having a rabid fan base for all their teams, from the mighty Yankees all the way down to the lowly Mets. So a Jets/Giants comparison of attendance should be close to a draw, right?
Imagine my surprise at the Jets tailgate when I got off the train, walked towards the parking lot and saw this:
To put the scene in perspective, this was at around 10 AM, three hours to kickoff. And this wasn’t some obscure, far away lot — this was literally right next to the stadium. What gives, Jets fans? Where you at?
Meanwhile, take a gander at the Giants parking lot. As you can see, just a few more cars here.
Woof. Rough start, right out of the gate. Sorry, Jets fans, but the Giants take an early lead. Wait, what am I apologizing for? You’re used to opponents taking an early lead.
JETS 0, GIANTS 1
You know what I mean by “characters.” The people that are so unique, passionate, driven and borderline crazy that they themselves are worth 20 fans combined into one. So who had more psychopaths roaming the parking lot?
Here’s what I can tell you: The Jets had a fan named “Jetman” who drives down from New Hampshire for every home game. Here, he shows off his superhero costume and his custom stripper pole, and while I’m not sure what his superpower is, I have to suspect it’s “being hungover on Mondays.”
But he wasn’t alone. Who can forget Joe and Sean Winters? These Long Island-based brothers won the New York regionals in the Bing Tailgater of the Year Contest in 2010 (sadly, Houston went on to win the whole shebang, but not without a tough fight from these guys).
As for the Giants tailgate? They had characters, sure. But I didn’t happen to run into any superheroes or award-winning tailgaters. So the Jets take this one.
JETS 1, GIANTS 1
Oh my, ladies and gentlemen. Let it be said that these two teams came out with their best. As I mentioned, there were more Giants fans than Jets fans, but the Jets fans who came out were intense. So who’s taking home the vehicle category?
The Jets faithful brought out some impressive battle jitneys for the game, perhaps none more notable than the bus driven by the Winters brothers. As you can see from the pictures, these guys know how to put on a tailgate. Their vehicle comes equipped with probably the most comfortable chairs I’ve ever seen in my life, as well as a retractable hood in case of rain. Not to mention a ginormous folding chair.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention Tom Madden. This is Mr. Madden’s first year with Jets season tickets, and his car carrier is certainly one of the most notable vehicles I saw on my visit to the Meadowlands. He describes his vehicle as a “mobile man cave,” and it’s easy to see why — it comes complete with a dart board, a flat screen TV and plenty of places to prepare for the game.
Meanwhile, at the Giants tailgate, I had the pleasure of having a beer with the guys from Wrong Fork Productions. As you can see, they’ve decked out their trailer hitch with some pretty cool graphics, not to mention a satellite dish and a nice little Grateful Dead logo (they play tons of Grateful Dead during their tailgates). I noticed that they had a lot of top-shelf booze at their tailgate, which was in stark contrast to the usual macrobrews and plastic bottle vodka. When I asked Nick and Brad, the owners of Wrong Fork, about their hooch selection, they told me “Son, we didn’t come here to lick stamps.”
And finally, perhaps the most impressive vehicle I saw belonged to the Giants of Tailgating. These fellas decked out an ambulance with Giants imagery; it even says “GIANTS” backwards, just so you’ll know who’s behind you on the highway. They installed a keg inside, complete with a tap handle. And they offer a rotating menu, including weekly food and beer choices. These guys put on a truly impressive tailgate.
JETS 1, GIANTS 2
I’ll start this round with a little story.
While exploring the Jets tailgate, I saw a guy struggling to carry a cooler full of beer and helped him carry it to his tailgate. Once we got there, as a show of thanks, he and his friends gave me a beer. And then a second beer. And then made me shotgun a third beer before I went. All out of gratitude for helping carry a cooler.
After leaving those guys, I wandered (stumbled?) to another parking lot, where I found one of the more impressive bar setups I’ve ever come across in a parking lot. That’s when this conversation happened:
Me: “Hi, I write for a tailgating website.”
Tailgater: “Cool. Wanna drink?”
Me: “Erm, sure. Do you, uh, have any specialty drinks for your tailgate?”
Tailgater: “Yeah. Wanna Jager bomb?”
My Brain: “NOOOOOO!”
And so this fella, who I later found out was named Carmine, filled up an entire shaker full of Jager and Red Bull and just started pouring it all out while I talked to him. Like, literally during the interview, it’d be like, “This is a great setup” (we both shoot). “Yeah, we like to treat our guests right” (we both shoot). “By the way, you gotta come back for the Dolphins game, we’re gonna have a whole pig!” (we both shoot).
By the time it was said and done, Carmine and I had plowed through four or five shots apiece in probably 10 minutes. I don’t know what happened next because my notes just turned into scribbles and “thumbs up” sketches.
In contrast, at the Giants tailgate, I was offered one beer, and purchased two others. Now, I’m not saying I deserve free beer. I’m just saying, it wouldn’t have gone unnoticed, Big Blue.
JETS 2, GIANTS 2
During my visits, I asked everyone I talked to the same basic question: What’s unique about tailgating here? What can I find here that I won’t find in, say, San Diego or Dallas or Chicago?”
Here are the answers I got:
“Definitely the passion.”
“The PASSION. We’ve been out here with one win, we’ve been out here with 14 wins.”
“Win or lose, no matter what the temperature is, we’ll be out here. We’ve got the league’s most passionate fans.”
If you can figure out which fans said what, you’re better at this than I am. But as it stands, we’re going to call this category a TIE.
JETS 3, GIANTS 3
* * *
And we’ve just reached halftime, ladies and gentlemen! The second quarter ends in a tie. So who will take home the trophy? Tune in next week for the exciting conclusion of:
THE BATTLE OF NEW YORK!
Brian Cullen got back from both of these tailgates at around 2 PM, then promptly fell asleep for four hours. He then awoke at 6 PM feeling dehydrated, disoriented and distinctly like Hunter S. Thompson. You can follow him @bucketcullen.