When the 6-6 Jets face the 1-11 Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, they might have a home-away-from-home-field advantage because they've certainly got a following in Central Florida.
The New York Jets Fan Club of Tampa — which grew from 17 original members to 360 current members in five years — has been preparing for the Jets' arrival since it was announced back in April that they would battle the Bucs in Tampa.
Steve "Festa" Scott, the fan club's founder and president, is originally from Paramus, N.J., a short drive from the Meadowlands. He relocated to Tampa in 2004 and found that the hardest thing to do was to give up his Jets season tickets.
On the flip side, Bucs fans' numbers may be reduced because of their team's record this season.
"I think the stadium is going to be pretty green," said Scott. "Everybody is really pumped up."
According to Scott, who takes fan-club-related calls every day, fans from all over the East Coast and members of five fan clubs from D.C. to Miami will be joining Scott's club for the weekend's revelry.
"If you're a Jets fan, you're family" is the fan clubs motto. The "family" includes Earl Christy, No. 45, cornerback on the Jets' Super Bowl III team, who joins the club weekly to watch the current Green & White squad.
"Earl is one of the guys now," Scott said. "Except not every guy has a Super Bowl championship ring on their finger."
The festivities leading to the game include a "Jets Weekend Happy Hour" on Saturday at Peabody's Billiards and Games with a special appearance by Christy. Then on Sunday prior to the game the fan club will be tailgating across from Raymond James Stadium and they hope Jets owner Woody Johnson will stop by for a quick hello.
When the game begins, Scott hopes many Jets fans will fill up the stadium awaiting the first score. Once points are put on the board by the Green & White, or whenever the club wants to get a good roar out of the crowd, Scott and Justin, his 7-year-old son who's been doing the J-E-T-S chant since the age of 2, will do their best Fireman Ed impression.
Though going to the game on Sunday at the Meadowlands will never be replaced by watching the game in his new home, Scott thinks he has found an apt substitute with the New York Jets Fan Club of Tampa. Along with his full-time job, he does his best to make sure the Jets are well-represented in the Florida melting pot.
"We've been waiting for the Jets," he said.
And the Jets will be excited for this game too. With a win they would be above .500 for the first time since Week 5 and would continue their December push for a playoff spot.
To learn more about the New York Jets Fan Club of Tampa visit www.jets-fan.com or call 1-888-NY-JETS-1.
To connect with fellow Jets fans around the nation and even internationally, check out our New York Jets Fan Club Page.