Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Opening Day

Roy Marder was a bear of a man who lived down the street from TigerBlog when TB was a kid. Most kids grow up with a family nearby like the Marders, a family whose own children were grown and who were welcoming to all the kids on the block.

Roy Marder had Giants' season tickets, which made him a unique figure in TB's childhood world, and he offered to take some of the kids to a game at Giants Stadium one week. As TigerBlog remembers it, the Giants were playing the Cardinals.

TB will never forget entering the stadium, which might have been a year or two old at the time. The long escalators went to the three different levels, in our case the lower tier, where Mr. Marder's tickets were. Actually, they were in the second row off the field, in the end zone to the right.

It's one of those memories that has never faded for TB, beginning with the roast beef sub with oil and vinegar that he got on route 9 and continuing with the trip to the stadium and ultimately the game. TB thought the stadium was the coolest place he'd ever been, especially from the second row.

Anytime TB went back to Giants Stadium through the years - to see the Giants, the Cosmos, college football, Springsteen, the first Big City Classic - he always remembered back to that first trip to the place and the awe it inspired.

As TigerBlog stood Saturday in the press box of what for now is being called New Meadowlands Stadium, he looked out the windows in the back to Giants Stadium, which has been abandoned and is readying for the same fate that befell Texas Stadium over the weekend. There the old stadium loomed, overshadowed by the new kid in the neighborhood.

Giants Stadium was a simple place, with circular concourses on its three levels. From the lower tier you could come off the escalator and see the entire stadium in front of you. There were frills, especially in later years when the press box was moved up to somewhere near the approach to Newark Airport and luxury boxes popped up all over the mezzanine level.

But for the most part, it was built to maximize the number of good seats for football.

The new stadium? It was built to maximize revenues, like all new stadiums.

The first event for the new stadium was the Konica Minolta Face-Off Classic Saturday, which began with two high school games and continued with three college games. The last was Syracuse's dominant 13-4 win over Princeton, which came after No. 1 Virginia defeated No. 2 North Carolina 7-5. The first of the college games was Hofstra's 12-11 win over Delaware.

The stadium itself had that new car smell, as it were. It also is a way more complex place than the old one, with concourses that are not continuous and areas that go from public to private and back.

TB entered the stadium from what was the media parking lot, which will probably change after the old stadium goes. For Saturday though, that meant a long walk most of the way around the stadium to find the press box elevator. Speaking of the press box, nobody working the stadium knew where it was, not in a "I'm not going to help you way" but rather in a "I've never been here before either" way.

As an aside, TB is fairly certain that media people aren't going to like the setup of having to take the elevator down to the concourse and then taking the long walk to the locker rooms. Just a hunch.

Oh, and the press box is located six floors up on level "SLC," which the woman elevator attendant said stood for "Service Level C," because "calling it '6' would have been too easy."

All of the stadium seats are shades of gray, which seems to be because nobody could agree on the blue of the Giants or the green of the Jets. The sight lines appear to be good, but getting from the concourse to the seating areas often requires going up the entry way for a section and then down into the section itself.

For those who've been to Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, you're probably going to like that stadium better. And, if you're like TB, you're wondering why this new stadium was necessary in the first place, but that's another story.

As for the Princeton-Syracuse game, yes, Princeton got thumped. Syracuse is probably TB's second favorite team, largely because they are so much fun to watch play, especially when they get on a roll like they did on Saturday.

Simply put, the Orange were completely on top of their game Saturday, and Princeton was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sometimes you have games like that, and you simply shake hands and move on from there.

Luckily for the Tigers, they get a chance tonight to play again instead of having to wait a whole week as Rutgers comes to town for the 89th meeting between the schools. After that, Princeton finishes the regular season with three Ivy League games (Dartmouth this Saturday, at Harvard and then Cornell at home) and the first Ivy League lacrosse tournament (TB isn't sure if Princeton has already clinched a spot, because he doesn't know how to figure that out).

The ultimate goal for men's lacrosse is to make it back to an NFL stadium, in this case M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, for the NCAA Final Four. Princeton has already played in three NFL venues this year, including Saturday in East Rutherford.

TB will never forget his first trip to Giants Stadium. Even though it came more than 30 years later, his first trip to the new one won't leave as lasting a memory.

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