Friday, November 2, 2012
Steelers-Giants: What it's like in New Jersey
By Dan Graziano
There's been a lot of talk going on the past couple of days about the post-Hurricane Sandy situation here in New Jersey and the issues surrounding sporting events scheduled for this weekend, including the New York City Marathon and Sunday's game between the New York Giants and the Pittsburgh Steelers at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. The Steelers can't find a hotel with power at which to stay Saturday night, for instance, so they're planning to fly in (and out) Sunday.
Anyway, I live in Bergen County, about 18 miles from MetLife Stadium, and I've seen a lot of talk and heard from a number of people about the conditions here and the relative wisdom of playing the game in New Jersey so soon after such a brutal storm. Some have cited the decision, after Hurricane Katrina, to relocate the New Orleans Saints' first home game to the old Giants Stadium in New Jersey, and wondered why the NFL has decided not to move the game to Pittsburgh while this area continues to recover and clean up.
Perhaps Eli Manning will provide Giants fans who had to deal with Hurricane Sandy a reason to cheer on Sunday.
So I thought I'd offer some insight from someone who lives here (as I know many of you do but many more do not) about the conditions. I understand the concerns, and had several of them myself earlier in the week. But I believe keeping the game where and when it is makes sense.
First of all, the post-Katrina Saints game was moved because the Superdome was damaged. The Saints didn't play any games there in 2005 because they could not. MetLife Stadium has apparently not been damaged, and after that was determined, the NFL decided to keep the game as scheduled. I was in East Rutherford on Thursday, at the Giants' practice facility across the parking lot from the stadium, to pick up a parking pass for Sunday's game (which I am covering for ESPN.com), and the parking lots there are not flooded. The facility appears usable.
Getting to the stadium was not difficult. There was some traffic on Route 17 due to long lines at the few gas stations that have gas and power, but that traffic was easily avoided by staying in left lanes. The New Jersey Turnpike is also open, and as anyone who's been to games at MetLife or the old Giants Stadium knows, it's right off a Turnpike exit. Access to the site of Sunday's game won't be any more difficult than it would be for any other Sunday.
That's not to say there won't be transportation issues. Some people are still having trouble getting out of neighborhoods where trees and power lines are down and flooding remains an issue. There will be no New Jersey Transit rail service to the game, as there normally is. They are apparently adding more bus service from the Port Authority in Manhattan, but there's no word yet on whether they'll add buses from the Secaucus rail station where many people park and catch the train to the stadium on game day. A lot of buses are being used as part of the recovery effort, so there's no guarantee that they can just add more. But remember, the Port Authority has enough buses to get a lot more people in and out of Manhattan on a normal weekday than go to a Giants game on Sunday. It's entirely possible they can spare enough to cover those who would normally take the train.
The gas situation is the most alarming one. There are people who literally have no gas in their cars, and many who do are trying to conserve it until such time as they can be certain they can buy more. But everything we're being told is that this situation is not a long-term problem and that access to gas will be normal again early next week, once all of the stations have power. More gas is on the way, and it seems possible that this part of the problem will have eased out considerably by Sunday.
I think this is different from the Marathon, which feels as though it should have been postponed. The Giants game will not require the same diversion of resources as the Marathon will, nor will it take place in storm-ravaged areas such as Staten Island, which is where the Marathon's starting line is. The Giants game is in a dry place that has electricity. People who are still waiting for their power to come back on in their homes are looking for places to go and things to do anyway. We are past the point at which it's dangerous to be out on the roads.
The pictures you're seeing on TV make things look very bad in New Jersey, and there are places -- mainly at the shore -- where things are incomprehensibly, heartbreakingly bad. If you think the game should be postponed out of respect for those who are still dealing with loss, I can understand that point of view. But the Giants plan to honor first responders and emergency workers at the game, and no one here is ignoring what's going on down the shore or on Staten Island. There's no logistical reason to postpone or relocate the game, and based on what I see when I move around here the past couple of days, I think it's fine that it go on as scheduled.