On Sunday, a fraternity of Florida Jets fans will get the motor running and head out on the highway. Not so much in search of adventure, just with hopes of seeing their team "Squish the Fish."
At least 30 members of the New York Jets Fan Club of Tampa Bay, a group comprising mostly transplanted New Yorkers, will be making the more-than-200-mile trip from Tampa to Miami to watch the Jets take on the Dolphins in the season opener.
"We had wanted to make the trip last season, but it didn't work out," said club founder Steve Scott, 42. "When we found out Miami was opening day, we were like, 'Let's go for it!' We're hoping to make this an annual thing."
Immediately, thirty of the group's 140 members were definitely down for the inaugural trip, Scott said, and following the Brett Favre trade, some 20 more (including some who were previously on the fence) have asked if they can ride with the crew.
It won't be the same as the 8 a.m. tailgate parties in the Meadowlands parking lot that many of them had grown accustomed to up north, Scott said, but the "Squish the Fish" road trip isn't a bad substitute.
"We're going to cruise out there on the same day, in the early morning," said Scott, who moved from Paramus, N.J., to Tampa in 2004. "We won't be able to barbecue on the bus, but we'll have all kinds of tailgate-type food and beer. We'll do our best to simulate it."
The club was founded in November 2004 when Scott met Jonathan Oglio and Irv Cruz, two Jets fans who, like him, had recently moved to the peninsula. The three had been spending their Sunday afternoons at Lee Roy Selmon's, a Tampa sports bar owned by the Buccaneers Hall of Famer.
"It was great hanging with them and the Jets were making a run for the playoffs that year," said Scott, who had been a Jets season ticket holder since 1997, "but we were watching it on a TV with no sound. Of course, the Bucs games would be on the main TV."
Scott one day took notice of the number of people wearing Jets T-shirts and jerseys. He counted 17, and so was birthed the idea for a fan club.
"A lot of folks down here are transplants," he said. "A lot of them have left their friends at home and they're looking to meet people. I just started grabbing everyone's name and email address."
Through word of mouth and card-passing — "If I saw someone in a Jets shirt in a park while I was driving," he said, "I'd pull over and hand them a card" — the band broadened.
Scott, a Web designer, then started the site www.jets-fan.com and the club made Peabody's its new meeting place and quasi-headquarters in 2005. The billiards spot had recently added a back room (furnished with a big-screen television) and the group managed to cut a deal with management to allow them use of it.
Now, with home field locked up, they're hitting the road.
Bus ride and tickets: about $125 per head. Spending a day with friends and fellow fans invading a rival's stadium with green gear and "J-E-T-S" chants: priceless.