It was utter euphoria for New York Jets fans after Mark Sanchez drove the team downfield with less than a minute remaining and pulled out a miraculous victory over the Houston Texans at the new Meadowlands Stadium on Sunday.
But when cameras showed the cheering crowd, it seemed that most of the fans had already given up on the team. After all, the Jets had blown a big lead in the fourth quarter before snatching back victory with seconds remaining.
“We had this feeling that, if we stayed till the end of the game, we’ll only have our hearts broken, not to mention that it’ll take us forever to get out of the stadium,” recounted one fan who left early, Richard Giraud, 49, of Hazlet, N.J. “We said, ‘Yeah, it’s not worth it,’ and we decided to leave.”
Mr. Giraud and his friend, who had seats that cost $120 each, did not get out unscathed. One fan used obscenities in essentially calling them “fair-weather fans,” he said.
The whole issue of fans leaving early struck a nerve among Jets fans after the game, and was a hot topic on fan sites such as Jetsinsider.com and Jetsnation.com.
On Jetsinsider.com, threads appeared devoted to the topic, such as the one named, “I have never – nor will I ever – leave a Jet game early.”
One commenter composed the following stanzas:
“Why have you spent thousands – tens of thousands on seats?
To beat the traffic home?
Another commenter wrote: “Those fans that left, SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED BACK IN. In fact, they should be ESCORTED OUT by Security. … ”
One commenter on The Fifth Down. a New York Times blog, reacted to such criticism by writing that, “to accuse me of not being a true Jets fan because I left early is disgusting.”
“I left that game because I could not bear the misery of those final two minutes,” the commenter wrote. “Yes they won, yes it was amazing, but 99 times out of 100, that doesn’t happen especially to the same old jets.”
Same Old Jets: This is an expression among Jets fans that refers to the team’s propensity to fold. It is often simply referred to as S.O.J., a shorthand for that deep-seated feeling of doom in many Jets fans that somehow, the team in green will find a way to blow the game and the season.
The phrase keeps cropping up, even though the Jets are 8-2 this season and have had a string of thrilling, last-minute victories. It surfaced on Sunday after Sanchez threw a late interception and the team trailed by four points with little time left. Many of the 78,843 ticket holders left at this point and never saw Sanchez hit Santonio Holmes to put the Jets ahead for a final 30-27 score over the Texans.
Even fans watching on television turned away. Joe Ford, viewing the game at Charlie Meaney’s pub in Valley Stream, N.Y., grew frustrated at the Jets and walked out of the bar after Houston scored to make it 27-23, because he was “certain that there was no chance of a comeback,” he wrote in an e-mail message on Monday.
Another fan, Christian Budiarjo, 27, an electrical engineer from Patchogue, N.Y. had come to the game with his father, Luhur, who has a habit of turning away from Jets games because he cannot bear to watch.
During the legendary “Monday Night Miracle” game in which the Jets staged an incredible comeback to beat the Miami Dolphins on Oct. 23, 2000, the father turned off the game and went to sleep. And on Sunday, Luhur Budiarjo insisted upon leaving in the final minutes, his son said.
“He didn’t want to see the Texans celebrate on the field,” said Christian Budiarjo.
As they stood to leave, a group of Texans fans mocked them, the son recounted.
“I convinced him to stay, and he wound up thanking me all the way home,” Christian Budiarjo recalled.
Many fans on message boards blamed the new stadium for the decision to leave early, which they said clogs easily with large crowds trying to exit.
Sean Deegan, the founder of Jetsinsider.com, said that leaving a couple of minutes before the game ends can save a 45-minute bottleneck walking out of the stadium and trying to drive out of the parking lot.
Mr. Giraud said the walk out of the stadium was slow, but it allowed them to watch the final play live on a monitor while descending to the exit.
“We still wound up watching it with a bunch of Jets fans, jumping up and down,” he said. “We still felt that sense of camaraderie.”
“And I was home by 5:10,” he added.