If you ever need to gauge the dedication of some Long Island football fans, wake up early on a Sunday and head to Mulcahy's Pub and Concert Hall in Wantagh, where dozens of people are readying to go tailgate en masse at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. They're boarding a coach bus that will ferry them to the stadium's parking lot for a pre-kickoff party laden with food and drinks.
“Aside from work, I never get up for things this early. Never,” says Chris Husmann, 25, a volleyball coach from Massapequa, on a recent Sunday morning. “I’m definitely feeling a little sleepy, but I’m excited.”
Husmann has never done a group tailgate before and his tired-looking eyes validate his opinion. “I actually won tickets to the game, so I figured I’d give this a try…at least this way I can relax on the way there.”
Seeing a crowd wearing sports jerseys at Mulcahy’s—a pub that has long been a stronghold for watching games, is hardly unusual—but 8 a.m. on a Sunday morning is not exactly the time and day when most people are excited about football.
“It’s not easy, no way,” says 29-year-old Matt Gassert from Bellmore, who works for the Town of Hempstead, “but I’m feeling good, looking forward to getting to the game.”
Husmann and Gassert are only two of the dozens of people waiting to board one of five buses, where on this day a swarm of Jets fans creates a band of green along the Mulcahy’s sidewalk.
“I’ve been doing this for a while now, at least once a year for the past five-six years,” says Gassert, “and it’s totally worth it. The train to get to the Jets can be a nightmare, and it’s better than the price you pay for driving yourself.”
And that price includes not only gas and tolls, but the stress of sitting in traffic. “It’s not so bad on the way there, but on the way home, it can be like three hours…and if things don’t go well [a loss by the team] it’s even worse,” Gassert says.
Enter Island Tailgate, the company that organizes this all-ages journey on luxury buses for fans who already have tickets to the game at MetLife Stadium. These tailgate trips for Jets and Giants games invite participants to bring coolers and chairs for a mass pre-game tailgate party.
Upon arrival at the stadium, members of the Mulcahy’s team taking part in the trip sets up a grill and starts cooking up things like ribs, burgers, chili, hot dogs, sandwiches and sausage-and-peppers, which is all included in the ticket price. Fans can chow down until game time—and then get driven home—and a trip home from East Rutherford to Wantagh on a Sunday can be brutal, but not for these bused-in-and-out pigskin fanatics as “once the game is over,” notes Gassert, “ you can just nod off.”
DEPARTS FROM Mulcahy's Pub and Concert Hall: 3232 Railroad Ave., Wantagh
COST $79.95 ($49.95 tailgate food and drinks only) (Contact Island Tailgate through islandtailgate.com with any related questions; Mulcahy’s does not organize or handle ticketing.) PRICE: $79.95 (includes full transportation between Mulcahy’s and MetLife Stadium, as well as the food plus beer, water and soda); $49.95 (no bus transport; meet at MetLife to enjoy the food/drink part of the package). PS: Island Tailgate permits participants to bring their own drink and food.
OTHER TAILGATE TRIPS:
WHAT IT COSTS $75 cash only
Buses leave three hours before game time. Beverages will be served on the bus, then food including burgers, wings, hot dogs and such is served upon arrival at the stadium. Reserve at least a week in advance.
DEPARTS FROM Long Island Expressway Park-and Ride at Exit 49
WHAT IT COSTS From $80 for kid-friendly bus ride and tailgating party.
The two-hour tailgating party includes unlimited barbecue food and hero sandwiches with a choise of bottled water, soft drinks or draft beer. Other packages can include game tickets.
Long Island Tailgate
DEPARTS FROM Long Island Expressway Park-and Ride at Exits 32, 49 and 63
COST $75 ($40 tailgate party food and drink only)
Trips include bus transportation to and from sports/concert venues as well as a pre-game tailgate party with barbecue fare, salads and sides.