By Mary Paoletti
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- What home-opener loss?
In the parking lot of New Meadowlands Stadium, last week's 10-9 bomb dropped by the Ravens was dead and buried for the tailgating Jets fans. Either their memories are short or were thankfully blurred by gallons of beer on Sunday.
The lots were littered with canopies, tents and even a tiki hut covering some jersey-clad fans from the sun. Those in the heat were cornholing shirtless. One guy, leaned back against an open trunk said, "Hey, you guys taking notes? Take this note, tell them to shut off that stupid siren.''
But who's going to tell an 11-year old to throttle back on game day?
Bobby, a kid whose youth was magnified by the Sanchez jersey he proudly wore, was the source of the siren. He was in charge of the family tailgating van this Sunday. While the adults congregated around the back doors, Bobby remained inside and manned the CB radio mic with pride, announcing, "It's Go Time!" to everyone in earshot. Which gave him at least a couple miles of audience.
And some of them were Patriots fans.
Mark Charniga of Lancaster, PA, is one of them.
"Came 34 hours. My buddy here is a Jets fans. I haven't missed a Boston . . . listen to me, Boston Patriots . . . '' he laughed. "I haven't missed a Patriots game here in 20 years, thanks to him.'' "He's a nice guy like that,'' Charniga added.
Clearly, it's the magnitude of the match up and the friendship that made the trip worthwhile.
"It's a rivalry game,'' he said. "It's like the Giants playing the Cowboys, the Oakland Raiders playing the Kansas City Chiefs. All divisional games are big. I think he's a jerk.'' Mark's buddy, Don Somerville, didn't seem like much of a jerk. Just a Jets fan ready for game day.
"No, we don't argue. It's a big game for both teams. You talk the talk, you gotta walk the walk,'' he said. "But what I think is interesting is Danny Woodhead going to New England, I guess its payback for last year when the Jets took Kevin O'Connell.''
The hostility was feigned at best between these two. In fact, most of the tailgating crowd seemed happy enough to revel in the brand new stadium and a brand new season. The scene was a departure from the bitterness of 2000, when fans hung Belichick in effigy and Bledsoe was mocked in mannequined-drag.
Are these really happier, more mellow Jets fans? Unfazed by a Week 1 loss and not hostile toward the visiting Patriots? I'd put my money on the beer.