Florham Park, N.J.– The very idea of home field advantage isn’t anywhere near as meaningful as it used to be. Throughout all professional sports there has been a slow and steady decrease in the effect home field advantage has been having over the past decade or so.
There are many possible arguments to be made; teams and players are just better and more focused so their performance stays more consistent regardless of what stadium they are in. The new state-of-the-art stadiums cater to the less loud and obnoxious fans and don’t create the same intimidating atmosphere for opposing teams as they used to. More fans are choosing to stay at home to watch every game on a big screen television from the comfort of their own couch.
There is a never ending supply of reasons like the ones in the proceeding paragraph as to why home-field advantage seems to have slipped in importance in football, but whatever the reason is the, Jets aren’t having it.
“We’re going into a home game and a lot’s been made of the fact that we’re 5-0 on the road and we’re 2-2 at home. That’s not sitting well with our fans, (and it’s) not sitting well with our team, any of us.” Rex Ryan said at today’s press conference, “We’re going to make this a home-field advantage, that’s what you work for, that’s why you try and get all the wins that you can in the regular-season. You hope to host some playoff games, all that stuff, and I think this is going to be a huge home-field advantage and I’ve said it from day one.”
The Jets are far from the only team to experience a drop-off in home-field advantage, in fact the Giants have struggled in the new stadium as well. To hear Ryan tell it, it seems he places the blame on the newness of the stadium.
“But I’ve kind of figured it out. Last time we played (at home) against Green Bay, I believe it was a one o’clock start.” Ryan joked, “New stadium, all that kind of stuff, the tailgating I understand was exceptional, okay. I want to do this, I’m asking our fans and they always give it to us, so I’m just asking that they we start our tailgating a little earlier and by the time introductions come out, we got a butt in every seat.”
This isn’t the first time Ryan has called on Jets fans to be extra loud and rowdy, he did it before his very first home game as a Jets coach last year against New England and whether it was the crowds influence or not, whatever it was it worked. So Ryan figures why not try it again?
“Because I think it’s going to show the commitment that we have to each other. The team, the fans, all that. That we’re in there for introductions, because quite honestly we haven’t started fast on offense, in particular at home.” Ryan said, “So I’m challenging our offense, I’m challenging our fans, I’m challenging everybody, myself included, to start fast and we do that by getting a little charge going, even at introductions. Let them know we’re there, our team’s gonna let Houston know we’re there and then our fans will also.”
Ryan continued talking about the energy he feels while riding the team bus through the stadium parking lot, looking out at the tailgating fans dressed in a variety of Jets jerseys.
“It’s funny you see all that and it’s like yeah that’s right, here we are. This is our team, this is the Jets coming into our stadium, no way man.” Ryan said with his chest, filled with an ever-growing confidence, “This team’s a good team we’re playing, but man I have a tough time believing that they are going to beat us with our team at our best, our fans at our best… Nah, let’s make sure we give them everything we got. From the fans to the team, our preparation and all that, that’s my responsibility and our team is going to be up to it this week.”
“So that’s my challenge out to our fans. The last time we played Houston, they had a white-out, everyone wearing white. I’m not calling for anything like that, I’m just calling for a loud-out. Let’s be loud and proud and get after these guys.” Ryan said.
“You know, there’s times during the season that the offense has started fast and the defense started slow. Our special teams started out fast and all this kind of stuff, but at home I don’t know” Ryan said of his teams slow starts, “It’s hard to put my finger on, but I think if we can get that buzz going early, our fans give us a boost and I know I’ve mentioned that several times. I remember when we played that game last year against Cincinnati, where we had to win to get in, no team was going to beat us. No team in the league was going to beat us that day and I just felt that because I felt the energy that our players had, but it was driven through the fans.”
There is sure to be plenty of people out there, who will fail to take this in the natural good-natured meaning that Ryan intended. People will say enough of the calling out to fans, it was cute the first and maybe even the second time, but enough just get your team to play better at home. And of course there will be people who think it’s silly because the fans can’t influence how the players play. That doesn’t mean those people will be right. Of course the crowd noise can effect a game, just how much? Probably a lot more than you think.
And even if it’s just some sort of a placebo effect that happens, whatever the case Ryan isn’t too proud to look for some extra motivation and he wants the fans to realize their support is extremely important to the players on the team.
“That’s why I’m challenging the fans because hey, you know what? You guys don’t realize how important it is to the guys and it’s certainly not our fans fault that we’ve started slow, but I just think that we should always start fast at home and we’re going to finish strong at home. Make it miserable (for the other team).” Ryan said.
Ryan accepts the responsibility of getting his players prepared, he acknowledges the players responsibility of executing, but he is counting on the fans to give them that extra edge of intensity to get out to an early lead and keep it.
Which would truly make it a miserable day in New Jersey for the Houston Texans.
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