J-E-T-S fever evident at Ultimate Tailgate event

October 21, 2015

Photo By: Joe Hammond / The Daily Sports Herald

New York -- After a dismal 4-12 season last year, the Jets 4-1 start this season has New York talking. If the excitement isn’t palpable on the streets of New York, it was at least palatable this weekend at the Jets + Chefs Ultimate Tailgate Event, part of the 2015 New York Food and Wine Festival.

This gourmet tailgate party is now in its third year and is held under official patronage from the New York Jets. The hundreds of fans who attended got to party with such Jets alumni as Laveranues Coles, Eric Coleman, Bruce Harper, Marty Lyons, Tony Richardson, and Wesley Walker. The event was co-hosted by Joe Namath, aka “Broadway Joe,” and celebrity chef Mario Batali. Batali is a big Jets fan.

Success attracts more than just die-hard fans, and this celebration also brought bandwagon fans and die-hard foodies to the roof of Manhattan’s Pier 92. The large crowd at the sold-out event reflected growing optimism in the Jets. A tide of optimism that only increased a day later when the Jets walloped the Redskins 34-20.

The roster included roughly 40 participating restaurants and vendors from New York, and some as far away as Los Angeles' La Brea Bakery. There were some disappointments of course. The Mexican restaurant Horchata De Nueva York did not actually serve horchata at their stall. For Jets fans, this was far from the disappointment they felt at the team’s 17-24 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in Week Three of the season, a game they had multiple chances to win.

A few stalls away, Burke & Wills was handing out kangaroo meat pies to curious fans. “We don’t really have a tailgating culture in Australia, but if we did, we’d serve meat pies,” said Matilda Boland, one of the restaurant’s operators explained.

In Week 4, the Jets had an international treat of their own when they defeated the Miami Dolphins 27-14 at London’s Wembley Stadium.  Major League Baseball held an opening series in Australia last year. Who knows, it might not be long before the NFL brings American football, and perhaps tail-gaiting, to Sydney or Melbourne for an exhibition.

The beauty of tailgating is that one does not necessarily need to be a sports expert to enjoy it.  One woman, upon seeing Laveranues Coles, asked “Can I take a picture with you?”  After her friend snapped a photo, she sheepishly asked another fan, “Who is that exactly?”

A bit later, someone high-fived Coles and exclaimed, “We’re going to win the Super Bowl!”  Coles politely smiled and nodded as the man clearly had too much of the free wine and drinks.

There were other reminders of former Jets wide receivers at the event. One fan proudly wore an old Keyshawn Johnson jersey as he munched down on a Korean Chili Hot dog (with kimchi relish) from the Spice Market.

One could make the case that the Jets offense this year looks a lot like the Keyshawn Johnson-Jets of the late 1990's, as Erick Decker and Brandon Marshall form a wide receiver corps that recalls the tandem of Keyshawn Johnson and Wayne Chrebet.

Many fans at the event wore replica jerseys as they munched on Artichoke Basille's pizza, salmon dishes, and even jalapeno fritters with aged gouda. Most fans had jerseys with the names of quarterbacks or wide receivers on them, but this year it is the Jets defense, the second best in the NFL, which has invigorated the team. A win this weekend would put them tied atop the AFC East. Then again, a win this weekend would have to come against the mighty New England Patriots.

When Joe Namath took the stage at the back of the venue, he was quickly surrounded by a crowd so thick that even running back Chris Ivory might have struggled to get through. Actually probably not, as Ivory leads the NFL in rushing yards per game and would have likely found a way.

Namath, much like the Jets offense this season, started slowly, but just before the question and answer session, Broadway Joe declared,  “This is the best put-together Jets team in years!”

Namath’s declaration brought cheers from the crowd. Since Jets fans and Mets fans go hand in hand, Namath also took some time to note the amazing run that MLB’s Mets are having in the playoffs this year. After his remarks and the taking of a group selfie, Broadway Joe disappeared into a crowd of people waiting and hoping for an autograph, handshake, or knowing smile.

Not everyone at the event was sold on the Jets this season. Eddie Jackson, a former NFL player and star of Food Network “BBQ Blitz,” offered his thoughts on the current NFL season.

Jackson served fans in attendance a well grilled chipotle shrimp with avocado sauce on a fried plantain. His open and inviting stall was set up just a few feet from where Namath spoke. The flavors were perfectly balanced, a lot like the type of football played by the New England Patriots.

Jackson spent time with four different NFL organizations, and when asked, didn’t hesitate on who he thought would win the 2016 Super Bowl.

“I’m picking the Patriots,” he said with a warm smile.

By Joe Hammond
Contributing Writer for TheDailySportsHerald.com

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