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Just Off-Camera

"They respect you if you write. The dumber the world gets, the more the words matter." -Dan Jenkins

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Another Reason To Hate New Jersey

...So after the Phillies lost their home opener in their brand new ballpark in a steady rain, my brother and I jumped in his ride and headed up the Jersey Turnpike for the nightcap of the Philly Sports Doubleheader - game 3 of the Flyers-Devils conference quarterfinal.

It went about as well as the Phillies game, except it was indoors so we didn't get rained on.

The loss isn't the important thing here, or at least it's not what I'm going to dwell on. The Flyers are still up in the series, 2-1, and I don't want to think too much about giving up three unanswered goals. So this will be about the experience of attending a game as a fan of the Flyers in Continental Airlines Arena.

The first problem here hits you before you even get into the arena. When you get to the Meadowlands, you have to park outside Giants Stadium and walk across a bridge over a highway to get to the arena. This bridge is a recipe for disaster.

For starters, it's over a quarter-mile long, and it's completely enclosed, which means that at any given moment there are thousands of fans in the tube. It's worse after the game. If you're claustrophobic, forget it, you'll be bugging out in no time once inside. This tube is also a recipe for a riot. Imagine a fight breaking out between fans of rival teams inside the tube and people starting to run, either toward or away from the fight. Even worse, it's an easy target for some kind of terrorist action. It's an enclosed bridge with thousands of people inside walking over a highway. That's bad news.

So moving on past that nugget of bad planning, we went into the arena, where four Devils fans, not realizing that their team was down 2-0 and seeded lower than mine, promptly reminded me that the Flyers suck. I wonder if they came up with that one on their own, because I've never heard that one before.

It turns out that those four fans made up about half of the Devils fan base. They're the defending Stanley Cup champs, and they can't even sell out their own building in the playoffs against one of their biggest rivals. Unfortunately, the management decided to make up for the lack of fans by handing out ThunderStix to make the crowd louder.

ThunderStix are the spawn of Satan. I wanted to run around the arena with a pin and pop every last one of them. Even worse, Devils fans have no rhythm at all. And if you're under 10 years old, ThunderStix turn into instruments with which to smack your parent who was nice enough to bring you to a playoff hockey game.

I don't know if it was because of the ThunderStix, but the Devils fans seemed to want to work them into every cheer. For example, during a penalty kill, the crowd started chanting, "De-FENSE! (thump, thump) De-FENSE! (thump, thump)." I understand the idea of the penalty kill is to stop the other team from scoring, but that chant doesn't belong in hockey, where there is no defensive unit. It's a football cheer. At least nobody made signs with a "D" and a fence.

Even worse, when there was a call that went against the Devils, the crowd responded with the same chant, instead substituting the words, "Bull-S---! (thump, thump)." As everyone outside of Jersey knows, that chant is supposed to go, "BUUULLLL-s---! BUUULLL-s---!" There are no claps involved, and the "bull" is drawn out. But of course the fans wanted to pound their Stix.

I will give the Devils fans some credit - they actually had a couple of relatively organized cheers, which isn't seen often in pro sports. Maybe it's because it's easier to organize so few fans. They did the standard "Gimme a D!" cheer, as well as a cheer where one fan whistled a tune, and hundreds responded with, "Flyers suck!"

I suppose they have to do that, because the presentation of the game sucks. There is no between-period entertainment - no mites on ice, no crowd shots, contests, nothing. I'm not talking about stuff that distracts from the game, but at least show replays or something during stoppages in play. The same rotating New Jersey Devils graphic gets old really quickly.

And the selection at the concession stand sucked, too.

Maybe if the Flyers had won, I would be more forgiving toward the Meadowlands' multiple flaws. But it's not likely. I thought the place was a dump when the Flyers were up 2-1 in the second period.


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