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Jets, Giants both want stadium’s first game

Had the New York Jets made Sunday’s Super Bowl and won, one uncomfortable decision would have been settled for the NFL: whether it’s the Jets or Giants who open the teams’ new shared stadium in September.

The Super Bowl winner, under league policy, opens at home the following season, so a Jets Super Bowl win would have made the league’s decision automatic. As it is, New York’s two teams will spend the coming months waiting, watching and perhaps posturing, all underscoring the growing rivalry between the establishment, long-on-top Giants and the suddenly appealing Jets.

The league typically releases its schedule in April. New York’s teams are not slated to play each other during the 2010 season under the NFL’s system of annually rotating opponents by division.

“Clubs may make requests,” an NFL spokesman said. “We do not discuss those requests.”

The Jets have been quietly lobbying the league for months, sources said, to host the first game in the new $1.6 billion Meadowlands Stadium. Long second fiddle in the New York market — and even in their own home, playing at Giants Stadium since 1984 — the Jets are driving to be kings of New York. Getting the publicity, and bragging rights, that would come with the first game at the new venue would further that effort.

The teams meet annually in the
preseason, but each wants the
home season opener.

“We are the biggest show in town and that’s what it’s going to be,” boisterous Jets coach Rex Ryan told reporters last week. The team declined to comment on whether it had asked the league to be first up in the new stadium.

As for the Giants, co-owner John Mara said, “It’s a league decision. I don’t want to get into that.”

The Giants long have been more popular in the region, with one source close to the team saying their game telecasts routinely draw 100,000 more viewers locally than Jets broadcasts. This past season, according to Nielsen Co. figures, the Giants’ regular-season games averaged a 12.5 rating in the New York market compared with an 11.5 average for Jets games. The Giants also boast three Super Bowl wins, including most recently in the 2007 season, and four appearances in the title game.

“Although bragging rights for New York’s most popular football team is not nearly as obvious as the Yankees being the king of baseball or the Knicks consistently outshining the Nets, I’d have to say the Giants have the edge,” said Ken Podziba, who recently left his post as New York City sports commissioner to run Bike New York. “Their much-longer history, greater on-field success and even the fact that the stadium for so many years was their home are all factors that contributed to the Giants’ popularity.”

The Jets have just one Super Bowl win and appearance, in 1969. But with big spending from owner Woody Johnson, a matinee idol at quarterback in Mark Sanchez and a berth in this season’s AFC Championship Game, optimism is high.

“I see the gap continuing to close,” Podziba said, “with a larger group of young fans being attracted to the Jets … and the Jets’ thrilling comeback this season.”

The Giants, at the Jets’ request, sources said, did not take executive offices in the new stadium, but rather at their nearby practice facility, further underscoring the new stadium being neutral ground for the two sides. The Jets are headquartered in Florham, N.J.

Both teams are selling PSLs for the new stadium. The Giants are thought to be close to selling out while the Jets still have seats to fill.

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