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Best: Jets will have last laugh, or last something, at Giants Stadium

The Jets are the final hope for the

The Jets are the final hope for the doomed Giants Stadium. (December 27, 2009) Credit: Joe Rogate

Neither the Yankees nor Mets could do it. The Giants blew their chance last weekend. Even the Red Bulls went flat.

So it has come to this: The Jets are the last team left with a chance to close a doomed New York-area stadium by securing a playoff berth in its final season there.

That should make for a charged atmosphere at Giants Stadium - sorry, make that "the Meadowlands'' - where a victory Sunday night would be both an improbable end to this regular season and to the team's mostly mediocre history in the building.

Marty Lyons, who has been associated with the Jets for most of their 26 seasons in the Jersey swamps as a player and broadcaster, put the bittersweet era this way:

"If you win, it is your stadium, and unfortunately we didn't win as much as we would've liked.

"We played well at times, but I don't think we accomplished the ultimate goal, to maybe have an AFC Championship Game in the stadium or win a Super Bowl and celebrate it with the fans.''

The Jets are 102-104-1 in regular-season home games at the Meadowlands and 3-1 in the playoffs, so they are exactly .500 going into the finale. (They are 1-3 in Giants home games there.)

The highlight of the playoff victories was the 41-0 rout of the Colts after the 2002 season, but none was for a league or conference title. (The Jets' only home championship game was the '68 AFL finale at Shea Stadium.)

It was telling that Lyons said his favorite Meadowlands memory is the victory over the Giants in 1988, a game recalled not for what it meant to the Jets but for the fact that it cost the Giants a playoff berth.

So it has gone for Gang Green, forever compared to the team whose name is emblazoned on the side of the building.

In fairness, though, the Jets have played only eight fewer years than the Giants in the Meadowlands, and a lot has happened there, good and bad.

Lowlights include the fire in the stands on a Monday night in 1988, Dennis Byrd breaking his neck in '92, Dan Marino's fake spike play in '94 and Vinny Testaverde's Achilles tendon injury in '99.

The positives include those three playoff wins, the shootout between Ken O'Brien and Marino in '86, an epic Monday night comeback in '00 and even this season's home-opening upset of the Patriots.

The place never quite felt as much like home as Shea Stadium, and the team's traditional Long Island fan base never got used to the Sunday schleps across two rivers.

But the sightlines were better than in Queens and the restroom facilities worked most of the time, as former owner Leon Hess had hoped when he made the move.

Later this year it will be time to move across the street to a new stadium with even better amenities - ones that will come with a cost in the form of higher ticket prices and personal seat licenses.

For the players, what happens on the field always mattered most. Lyons said he never thought of it as "Giants'' Stadium. "Once you get inside,'' he said, "the mind-set was, 'We can make this our home. We just have to win.' ''

Many fans, though, are looking forward to an equal partnership with their old rivals in blue after an era in limbo that lasted an entire generation.

After that game in '88 against the Giants, Lyons walked off the field holding his 6-year-old son, Rocky. This year, Rocky graduated from medical school.

"It's amazing how life changes and the game of football goes on,'' Lyons said, "but there are more good memories than bad.''

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