First, the excuse was baseball fever. But now many of the city’s well-heeled football fans – the ones who occupy the plush sky boxes and prime field-level seats at the Meadowlands – are finally admitting the real reason they haven’t been showing up for many games lately: They simply don’t like watching their favorite teams fumble. “I love to watch football,” says Alan “Ace” Greenberg, chairman of Bear Stearns, before adding significantly, “but everyone loves a winner.”
For Jets fans, this season has been particularly disappointing. “Going to a Jets game now is like entering the witness-protection program; you don’t want anyone to see you,” confides Jerry Della Femina, a longtime Jets season-ticket holder. Donald Trump hasn’t been going to many games lately, either; he calls the Jets “too much to bear,” though he insists he’s still bullish on the Giants.
Giants co-owner Robert Tisch denies a drop-off in attendance, though he admits that one of the two television sets in his own sky box was tuned to the baseball playoffs during the Giants-Cowboys game in October. “All our boxes are sold out, and to first-class people,” Tisch says. But Ira Resnick, chairman of the Film Society of Lincoln Center, says, “I’d rather stay home and watch the Knicks on TV. I’ve been giving away my tickets.”
A music-industry higher-up who insists on anonymity explains that “the desire to be seen at the game is just not as attractive to top executives.” But with luxury boxes at the Meadowlands going for $160,000 a season and up, corporate owners have made too much of an investment to let them go empty, so tickets are being parceled out to mid-level executives – or anyone in the office who will take them.
Some pigskin partisans find the absence of the fair-weather fans refreshing. “The schmoozing is really annoying,” says Valerie Peltier, director of development and acquisitions at Tishman Speyer and daughter of the builder Jerry Speyer. “People make fun of celebrities like Spike Lee and Woody Allen with their floor seats for the Knicks, but at least they watch the game.”
Despite the diminished see-and-be-seen cachet, some notable New Yorkers still say they would be happy to spend a Sunday afternoon in New Jersey. “No one’s given me any of their unwanted tickets,” says George Plimpton, who’s still a Detroit Lions fan decades after his stunt stint with the team. “I’d be happy to go to a Giants or Jets game – if the Lions had an off week.”