By Peter Schwartz
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Sometimes it’s good to get away.
There’s nothing like a nice weekend on the road to recharge your batteries. What’s even better is a solid week on vacation to enjoy some fun and relaxation.
But when it comes to New York Jets training camp in Cortland, the novelty has expired. It’s time to come back to reality, and the reality is that Gang Green needs to hold camp at their practice facility or at another venue in the Tri-State area.
Don’t get me wrong. This is not meant to be negative toward Cortland. I really enjoyed the two training camps that I covered up there. It’s a great city with nice people, and the campus is wonderful. There’s even a whole bunch of great restaurants, including Doug’s Fish Fry.
But being away is no longer in the best interests of the franchise or its fans.
Some may say it’s important to get away so that the team can build chemistry, but there’s no evidence that proves it. It’s true that in 2009 and 2010, Rex Ryan’s first two years as head coach, the Jets started their seasons in Cortland and made it to consecutive AFC Championship games. But where was the chemistry the last two years, both of which ended without a trip to the playoffs?
The Giants certainly didn’t need to get away to Albany in 2011 after the lockout, as they held camp in New Jersey and won the Super Bowl. (The lockout also forced the Jets to skip Cortland that year.) Big Blue has now relocated their training camp to their practice facility.
That was a smart move, and the Jets should do the same next year.
It would be good for the team and good for the fans — and it would be great for business. I haven’t been up to Cortland during camp this year, but I’m told by some people up there that, other than the first couple of days, the crowds have been very small.
That should tell the Jets something. Fans are not interested in spending hours in a car to go see them practice — and I would think that the team should take note of the crowds, or lack thereof. Fewer people in attendance means less in merchandise sales. A huge part of training camp is that big Jets Shop tent, and they would sell more stuff if the camp was back home.
Take a look at the NFL training camp highlights around the league on television. See all the big crowds watching teams in other cities? Don’t you think the Jets players would like to see fans in the stands instead of empty bleachers?
These days, with money tight in many families, who has the cash to schlep up to Cortland to watch practice? When you figure in gas, tolls, lodging and food, you’re better off using that money to go to a regular-season game.
Of course, that might require finding a good deal on the secondary market, but that’s a story for another day.
I know the Jets are going to have a couple of training camp sessions at their Florham Park practice facility at the end of camp along, and one at their old stomping grounds at Hofstra University (if that one doesn’t get canceled again). But the whole camp should be closer to their fans. When they do return to Hempstead on August 21 — again, keep your fingers crossed — the Jets can expect to see a huge crowd, probably in the five-figure range. The Jets drew 10,000 fans for their last Hofstra practice, which was back in 2010.
Another positive factor in having camp in the area would be the possibility of a combined practice with the Giants. The two teams don’t always see eye-to-eye, but it would make for quite an event, much like it did up in Albany back in 2004 and 2005.
Now, where should the Jets hold training camp?
Selfishly, I’d like to see them go back to Hofstra, but that’s probably not realistic. If they decide to go back to their Long Island roots, they should seriously consider Stony Brook. They have a fabulous football stadium as well as surrounding fields and other necessary facilities. Stony Brook made a run at the Jets in 2009 before the team settled on Cortland.
Maybe next year, Stony Brook should pick up the phone and try again.
Another option is following what the Giants are doing at their practice facility. The Jets would have to bring in some more bleachers to handle the bigger crowds, but this would be far better than being hours away in Central New York.
Will the Jets re-up with Cortland? It’s possible. But in my opinion, it’s not working up there.
It’s time for the Jets to stay home — or at least be a little closer to it.
Who says you can’t go home again?
Don’t forget to follow Pete on Twitter at @pschwartzcbsfan.
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