The New Jersey Meadowlands has been a staple in New York sports for the past 30 years, and certainly for the entirety of my life. Here are some memories that have stuck with me.
5. Buffalo Sabres vs. New Jersey Devils, Dec. 16, 1995, Brendan Byrne Arena
My first ever hockey game, a defining moment in my young life. At the age of 7, it was determined I was old enough to go with an older cousin. We promptly got lost on the way to the game, but got there in time. It was love at second sight, since it had technically been love at first sight from watching the game on TV. I knew right then and there what I adored so much about the ice game: the speed, the spontaneity, the creativity - it was like watching grown men with muscle mass create art on a sheet of ice. Not that I knew that then, but looking back on it, it still holds an indelible place in my memory.
Yes, we also got lost on the way home.
4. Cincinnati Bengals vs. New York Jets, Jan. 3, 2010, Giants Stadium
The final event at Giants Stadium, and a wild game. A wildcat run by Brad Smith had the Jets off and running early to a lead they would never relinquish in a blowout win. I remember the fans treating it like a night to give the old building something to remember, and the Jets and their fans certainly did. I do have a problem, though, with the cheerleaders coming out to celebrate after the game as if they were equals with the players. You did not contribute to this victory in any way, shape or form. Stop trying to take credit for other people's accomplishments. Regardless, it was a Sunday night, freezing cold, "classic" Meadowlands weather and a wonderful time for those involved.
3. Toronto Maple Leafs vs. New Jersey Devils, May 1, 2000, Continental Airlines Arena
The first time I attended a Stanley Cup Playoff game, and one of only two times I would go to one at the Meadowlands, a total I've already matched in the Prudential Center's existence. I remember my favorite part of this game (besides the Devils crushing then-loathed Toronto, 5-1, en route to a second Stanley Cup Championship) was that I had to be pulled out of a Little League game just to go. The coach decided to let me have my first at bat anyway. I tried to bunt for a base hit and failed, but was applauded for the effort, and we ran off to the Swamp.
2. Houston Texans vs. New York Jets, Nov. 21, 2010, New Meadowlands Stadium
I know it might be unfair to put something so soon in this realm, but holy man, was this a remarkable day. Easily the best finish to any sporting event I've ever seen in person. Half the crowd had left by the time Mark Sanchez connected with Santonio Holmes to cap off a drive that began in Jet territory with less than 50 seconds to spare in the fourth quarter. After the touchdown play, the New Meadowlands Stadium television screens cut to all the fans of little faith out on the plaza celebrating, with those who had held on to see it live looking on at them with pity, disdain and a smile on their faces. How else could they react after seeing all that?
1. New England Patriots vs. New York Giants, Dec. 29, 2007, Giants Stadium
Probably the closest I'll ever get to seeing a Super Bowl, but I hope not. The electricity and anticipation for this game was stunning, despite the fact that the game had, really, been given almost two months of solid hype since it was seen as a possibility that the Pats could go undefeated. They did, and I'm glad I saw history. However, they didn't look unbeatable that night. The Giants hung with them, to the point where they could be a little confident and have a little hope headed to the playoffs after a typical Coughlin-era poor finish to the season. You could see the signs of something brewing right then and there.