I finalized my ticket for the big game around 10:30 on Saturday morning. I think for the rest of the day, I had two thoughts prevailing in my head. "I can't believe I'm going to the AFC Championship game" and "I can't freakin' believe my team is playing in it!"
So on Sunday, I woke up at 5:20 am. I made two large sub sandwiches: salami, capicola, provolone, roasted peppers, and marinated mushrooms on french bread because you can't get semolina in Chicago). Threw plenty of Cherry Coke and Budweiser into the cooler too.
Left the house at 6 am sharp. For three hours, I played WFAN and ESPN radio clips. All in all, the drive took about 3:45. I crossed into the Eastern time zone at Franklin, IN and got into downtown Indianapolis around 10:45 local time. I tried to find the South St tailgate, which was supposed to be next to Lucas Oil Stadium, but every road around the stadium seemed to be moving in one direction. And I had never been to this town before. So I just drove four blocks north to the Marriott hotel and parked underground.
I wolfed down one of the sandwiches and two Buds and walked towards the stadium. I was amazed that I saw so much green as I strolled down Capitol St. For every two Colt jerseys, I saw one Jets jersey. I realized quickly that this was ho-hum for Indy and meant everything for the Jets fans.
On the east side of the stadium, I head loud music. In a small parking lot, I saw a Jets flag flying high on a camopy and about 20-30 people dressed in green. Excited to hang with some Jets fans, which never happens in Chicago, I ran across the street. One of the two girls immediately offered me a beer. I introduced myself to a bunch of people, though we had to shout over the loud music. Everyone seemed impressed I was from Chicago. Almost everyone I met came from the Tri-State area. About half drove in and half flew in. Within two hours of me arriving, the crowd grew to 800-900 people. There were a few Colt cars around us, but they knew to keep their distance.
We played the CBS NFL theme, a ton of fight songs, and I screamed "Empire State of Mind." Well, the chorus anyway. I still haven’t quite got Jay-Z’s lines down yet. And at least 12 J-E-T-S chants! It was great to scream J-E-T-S with other people. I’m used to yelling it alone in rookie's or Real Time and sounding like an idiot. My voice was shot and the game was still two hours off!
Around 12:45 PM, across the street from our tailgate, we saw three buses pull up surrounded by police cars. Everyone around me screamed and then began a mad sprint straight towards the buses. I soon realized it was the Jets players. We stormed them, screaming at the top of our lungs. We kept cheering as the buses drove down the ramp underneath LOS. This was a chance to go to the Super Bowl!
Local news crew from New York interviewed a few of us which was pretty neat. I kept asking people around me “Is this real? Are we really one game away from going to the Super Bowl?” So many smiles and cheers. It was pure energy, jubilation, excitement, and anticipation.
But I have to throw one complaint in. The jackoffs in the Indy police department are obviously not used to fans who actually show passion, energy, and are willing to speak their minds. One guy got thrown against a cop car and was tasered. There was no property damage, there were no fights, or anything like that. And if that's not bad enough, the guy got tasered right in front of his own father. When one other Jets fan said the cops did not have to do that, he got yelled at and was threatened with arrest. Really classy people. I doubt those pusses tasered one Colts fan.
Let's see what else. I met linebacker David Harris’ family. About seven or eight of them. I’m guessing it was his sister who had this hair combo of fuscia, Jet green, and black. Remarkable.
About 1:50, I got ready to go inside. I found myself talking to a few people all wearing #36 jerseys. The mom and daughter asked me if I knew who wore #36. And I was so out of it and my voice was so drained from all the yelling, I said "David Barrett?", who wore that number in the early 2000's. So I blew it with Jim Leonhard’s gorgeous sister.
So I went inside, and found my seat in the 5th of 21 rows in upper deck on the 20 yard line. The stadium was quite beautiful, with the great views, spacious concourses, and intimate feel. Most of the Jets fans were right at the top of the stadium. So I was surrounded by Colts fans. I have to say the people were decent. But I made sure to high-five every Jets fan who walked up the stairs past my seat. I would think of the 65,000 fans, 10,000 or 12,000 had to be Jets fans.