Preseason football games can’t really be considered games since no one cares who wins or loses. The starters participate for a limited number of series and, even with the restricted play, run the risk of season-ending injury. I avoid watching them and never attend. Why should I start the negative thinking in July when it’s still possible to remain optimistic that maybe, just maybe, this is our year to be Super Bowl Champions? A girl’s got a right to dream.
But I was jonesing for some football, just a sniff of pigskin before September. So I decided to take a drive up to the SUNY Cortland campus and visit Jets training camp. Many NFL teams choose to conduct at least some of their preseason training at locations away from their home stadiums. It’s a great opportunity to put on your colors and show your support before you’re shivering under your stadium blanket.
Cortland is in the final year of a 3-year contract to host the Jets’ summer practices. And, for the economically depressed town, the team and their fans provide a very welcome cash infusion. Tony Caruso, proprietor of the local gastropub Hairy Tony’s, hopes for an extension of the contract. “It’s turned us into a 12-month business,” said Caruso, who hails from Manhattan’s Inwood section but never left Cortland after graduation. The University benefited from over $225,000 in improvements to its facilities, courtesy of the Jets, and approximately 40,000 visitors pumped over $5 million into the local economy in 2010, according to the Cortland Standard. Local businesses roll out the green carpet to welcome the team and its fans, decorating the streets and posting signs of support.
Information about the camp’s hours are posted on the team website and on Twitter and Facebook. During my visit the public practice ran from 10:15 a.m. until 1:15 p.m.. There is limited bleacher seating, but the best views are on the sidelines. The offensive and defensive squads rotate around the field at regular intervals so everyone gets a chance to marvel at the size of the players. Wear a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen; the only shade’s in the tent that houses the team store.
Like “Twilight” fans, Jets’ supporters are currently split into Team Sanchez and Team Tebow. Based on my observations, the cheers were divided about 70-30, favoring the ex-Florida Gators’ QB. The group I was standing with wasn’t able to get the player’s attention to secure autographs; however, the first 50 children who entered camp that morning were given the VIP treatment and joined the players on the field at the conclusion of practice. The camp is very kid friendly and features Jets Fest, a large area with oversized inflatable play spaces. Admission to the training camp is free but the University charges a $5 parking fee and runs complimentary golf cart shuttles from the lot to the field.
Are you ready for some football? I am now.
The NY Jets training camp is located on the SUNY campus, 1 Folmer Dr., Cortland, NY 13045. Some NFL franchises host their training camps at their stadiums. Other popular teams that use off-site locations include:
Dallas Cowboys: River Ridge Playing Fields, Oxnard, CA
NY Giants: SUNY Albany, Albany, NY
Pittsburgh Steelers: St. Vincent College, Latrobe, PA
Baltimore Ravens: McDaniel College, Westminster, MD