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Huntington family turns Jets game into block party

Excited Jets fans Jesse Farinacci, left, William Haring,

Excited Jets fans Jesse Farinacci, left, William Haring, center, and Tjebbe Ruijgh, watch the Jets beat the Bengals and tailgate in their Huntington driveway. (Jan. 9, 2010) Credit: Charles Eckert

Some fans might have used yesterday's icy weather as an excuse to watch the Jets playoff game indoors, with the thermostat turned way up. Not Theo and Marese Ruijgh.

The Huntington residents threw a tailgate party in their driveway for about 20 neighbors. They set up folding chairs, a grill and a large, flat-screen TV with stage speakers.

And they turned the frozen pond in front of the house into a rink for some pickup hockey.

Sure, Jets fans across Long Island tuned in to to see the Jets best the Cincinnati Bengals 24-14. But few had an experience as authentic as the Ruijghs.

"We started doing this during the playoffs last year," said Theo Ruijgh, 46. "The Jets made it to the playoffs [this year], so I felt obliged to do it."

Guests started to arrive well before 4:30 kickoff. About a dozen hit the pond with their skates.

Most were faithfully wearing Jets sweatshirts and jackets on the ice - except for Owen Kenny, the Giants fan. Kenny, 41, eventually donned some green, but only after skating around in just a Speedo. To much laughter, he grabbed a hockey stick and took a few shots. "Once you get moving, it's all right," he claimed later.

Once the game started, the ice cleared, except for four girls who kept playing. A long kickoff return by the Bengals drew a few derisive "Super Bowl!" chants from the spectators, some of whom huddled around two large lanterns for warmth.

But the chants soon turned genuine, thanks to a long touchdown run and a handful of key defensive plays by the Jets. After Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez threw a touchdown pass in the second quarter, the Ruijghs' 14-year-old son, T.J., and his friends led shouts that could be heard for blocks.

Partyers stayed in good spirits, fueled by beers and Jägermeister-spiked tea, all the way to the Jets' victory.

When Bengals kicker Shayne Graham missed two field goals in the second half, the party erupted. High-fives. Handshakes. Roars. Cheers.

"J-E-T-S," one person called out, and was answered by the entire party, roaring: "JETS! JETS! JETS!"

Soon after the fourth quarter ended, the Ruijghs and their guests left their positions in front of the TV.

"Jets win!" said Tony Farinacci, 50, as he high-fived his son Jesse, 15, both in Jets regalia.

Some started to say their goodbyes.

But at the opposite end of the Ruijgh driveway, Owen Kenny, their Speedo-skating neighbor, wasn't close to done with the festivities.

"All right, everybody," he said, looking around the driveway. "Who's staying for the Islanders game?"

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