It was a muggy afternoon, but the humidity and the threat of the impending weekend hurricane didn't stop a mass of New York football fans from descending upon Bryant Park in Manhattan today. The Jets, Giants and MetLife hosted an event to celebrate the naming of MetLife Stadium, the home of the two franchises.
"Now with MetLife as our sponsor, a New York company for over 140 years, we couldn't be happier," said head coach Rex Ryan. "I know both teams are excited to have our stadium affiliated with them."
The emcee of the event was Mike Golic, former NFL defensive lineman and current co-host of the Mike and Mike in the Morning show on ESPN Radio. After introducing members of both teams, Golic turned the microphone over to Beth Hirschhorn, MetLife's chief marketing officer, who had news of a new incentive for the winner of the preseason game.
"It's a preseason game, but we'd like to add a little more to it," said Hirschhorn. "So we're going to bring it up a notch or two and put a little more than pride on the line. The game will have a name: the MetLife Bowl."
To the victor go the spoils, as the winner will be given a bronze trophy with the image of MetLife's mascot, Snoopy. The trophy will be put on the line each summer when the teams renew their preseason rivalry.
"The fact that we're playing for a trophy now – trust me, these guys would play for a T-shirt, there's no question," Ryan told the crowd. "But the fact that we've got this trophy, it looks like we'll be playing our starters for four quarters."
Both teams were well represented at the event as players, coaches, staff and alumni all joined together for the festivities in midtown Manhattan. Jets-Giants has always garnered a little bit more attention and effort from the players, as one alum noted.
"When it came to the Jets-Giants game, we kicked it up a notch," said former Jets QB Vinny Testaverde. "It's preseason, and you try to reach certain goals, but by the end of the day you want to win. Giants fans and Jets fans here in the city want to walk with their chin up."
As several current Jets and Giants roamed the perimeter, signing autographs and interacting with fans, the teams' starting quarterbacks, Mark Sanchez and Eli Manning, addressed the subject of the newly christened MetLife Stadium and the rivalry that comes with it.
"We don't need much to play for," said Sanchez. "It's already for bragging rights and pride in New York for these two great franchises. It just adds a little bit to it. And the best part about it is the charity side."
MetLife will donate $40,000 in the winning squad's name and $10,000 in the losing team's name to charities of their choice. If the Jets prove victorious, the money will be donated to the Trust for Public Land, the nation's leader in creating city parks and donating money for local conservation projects.
With a trophy and a $50,000 in donations to play for, Ryan believes the game has added meaning for his players and staff.
"It will be a great competition," said the Jets coach. "I think late in the fourth quarter it's going to come down to everybody saying, 'Hey, you know what? Let's get this MetLife Bowl trophy.' I think it will dawn on both teams and they'll be fighting to the end for that thing."
If today's event is any indication, fans will be just as hungry for their team to come out on top and at least temporarily stake their claim as New York's team.
"Whenever you have an event like this, to see all of our fans' support reminds us of the fan base we have," said Sanchez. "Being in New York, we have some of the best fans around. They're in the best stadium possible, and it's got a great name and a great partner in MetLife now. It's been a great day so far, and we're just excited about this game."
After the pomp and circumstance of the afternoon event, players began filing back onto their buses, looking to rest up before hitting the gridiron for the kickoff to the MetLife Bowl (now rescheduled due to the hurricane to Monday at 7 p.m.).
"It's always a great competition because of the bragging rights," said Ryan. "This year maybe a little less than normal because of the regular-season game on the 24th of December. Both teams have a good deal of respect for each other, but again, you want to be the big boys. I want to be holding that trophy at the end of the game."