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New Meadowlands Stadium: First Impression

All those empty gray seats are way harder to make out than the red ones at the old stadium!
All those empty gray seats are way harder to make out than the red ones at the old stadium!

I apologize for this going up so late in the week. I originally planned on running it earlier, as a reaction to both Sunday's game and my first trip to the new stadium, but my draft got deleted somehow and now here it is on Thursday. I know most of you are looking forward to Sunday's game against Chicago and doing your best to wipe last Sunday's game against the Titans out of your memory banks, but let's rehash it one more time.

My father recently retired from his job of 33 years, and since I was coming home this past weekend for his retirement party, we decided to try to get tickets from my uncle for Sunday's Giants game. Luckily, my uncle was able to accommodate us, so we made plans to take the much-hyped new train line to the game. I was taking Amtrak from DC to Penn Station, where I'd meet my dad (coming from Long Island) and we'd transfer to the Jersey Transit line. Unfortunately, my Amtrak train was a little late, and when we got to Jersey Transit at 12:11, we were informed that the next train to Giants Stadium wasn't leaving until 1:07, which is obviously a problem for a game with a 1 p.m. kickoff. There were a TON of Giants fans just waiting around the Jersey Transit terminal, just as annoyed as we were that they only run trains once an hour on game days, with no extra runs scheduled.

I spent the train ride giving people updates on the game from my Blackberry, so we knew by the time we got there that the Giants were in a 10-0 hole. In retrospect, maybe it's a good thing we missed the first quarter... Amazingly, we still had to wait in a pretty long security line to get in, and it was during this wait that I noticed one of my favorite features of the new stadium: the giant video screens outside the entrance, where they were showing the TV broadcast of the game. It made the wait in line much more palatable, that at least I was able to watch the game. Additionally, when the game was over they were showing two different 4pm games (or maybe just the RedZone Channel - I didn't stick around too long, but I saw at least two different games up there), which was pretty cool. I'm not a big fan of the look of the stadium (for a billion dollars, they couldn't make it look a little less like an airport hangar?), but it's a football stadium so the exterior aesthetics don't really concern me as much as they would at, say, a new baseball stadium.

Once we got inside, we took the escalators all the way to the upper deck. Because we were in such a hurry to get to our seats, I definitely missed the one huge escalator they used to have at Giants Stadium which took you directly from the ground level to the upper deck. I also didn't have much time to look around and take in the sights. Getting up to our seats was pretty much the same as at the old stadium, though the stairs didn't feel quite as steep (definitely a good thing - everytime I would walk down from the steps at Giants Stadium I felt like I was gonna tumble and wind up splattered on the 40 yard line). The seats themselves are definitely a tighter fit than at Giants Stadium, a curious development considering how much fatter America has gotten since the 70's. It made me understand how they could increase capacity so much while also making you feel closer to the field (which I definitely did).

My other favorite new feature at the stadium are the four giants video screens. No matter where you're sitting, you should have easy visibility of one of the screens. They may not be as impressive as the giant scoreboard in Dallas, but they get the job done, and I think I'd prefer to have easy visibility than have to crane my neck to see an 80-yard long image.

I also have to mention the food: I was initially a little disappointed with the selection, which doesn't come close to rivaling what they offer at Citi Field or Yankee Stadium, but the quality of what I had was very good. I got a (way too expensive) sausage and peppers, which was fantastic. Probably the best sausage and peppers I've had at a stadium, and that's usually my go-to-food. Sure, it wasn't as good as a Shake Shack burger or those $15 steak sandwiches they sell at Yankee Stadium, but it got the job done, and I was pleasantly surprised with that. Definitely an upgrade over the food at Giants Stadium.

As for the game itself, well, the less said the better. I've never seen one team so thoroughly dominate the actual play on the field, only to lose by three touchdowns. I thought the defense did a great job keeping Chris Johnson in check until that garbage time, stat-padding 40+ yard run. The offense looked decent - Ahmad Bradshaw had two killer plays, but other than that he played great. He's as good at making something out of nothing as any Giants running back I can remember, Tiki Barber included. And Mario Manningham deserves to be commended for his performance, which was great even without the 40+ yard reception that was wiped out by Bradshaw's chop block safety. Steve Smith also had a pretty good game, and just has some of the best hands I've ever seen.

All of those positives aside, the Giants performance was atrocious. Special teams were awful across the board, in coverage, returns, field goal kicking, and punting. Tom Quinn should have been unemployed a long time ago, and keeping him around now is almost embarrassing. Aside from that, the penalties and the turnovers made me thing I was watching a Jim Fassel team, not a Tom Coughlin one. Wasn't he brought here specifically to prevent games like that from ever happening again? I love Coughlin, I hope he turns this thing around, and I will always be grateful for the 2007 Super Bowl run, but the Giants on Sunday looked like a team playing for a lame duck coach.

One other thing about the stadium: the slightly different-shaded gray seats don't stick out nearly as much as the old red seats used to, so in blowouts like this it's harder to tell that the stadium's half-empty. I guess that's a good thing... After the game, we went back to my uncle's car to tailgate a little, and by the time my dad and I went to board the train back to NY, the line was gone. The trains ran pretty regularly after the game (every 5-10 minutes), so Jersey Transit slightly made up for the clustermuck that happened on the way in.

All in all, while transportation to the game was a disaster, and the game itself was even worse, I actually enjoyed myself. I didn't get to explore the new stadium as much as I would have liked, but from what I saw, I liked it. I don't think it was worth the extravagant cost, because it's nowhere near as big an upgrade over Giants Stadium as the new baseball stadiums were over their predecessors (nostalgia factors aside), and there are definitely some features that I didn't like (such as the narrower seats), but all in all, it's a good place to watch a football game. At the end of the day, that's really all I ask for. On it's own, I'd give it a solid B, but because of the cost and how much they charged the ticket holders for PSL's and all that, I'm downgrading it to a B-. (For the record, this is only the third pro football stadium I've been to, so I don't have a ton to compare it to. I'd also give the old Giants Stadium a B-, and I'd give Lambeau Field, which I visited just a month ago for the Packers-Colts preseason game, an A+++++. Lambeau was awesome).