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If Jets make title game, stadium gets a reprieve

Giants Stadium on Saturday, January 20, 2001 at

Giants Stadium on Saturday, January 20, 2001 at East Rutherford. . Credit: Joe Rogate

Mark Lamping was in a future parking lot disguised as an existing football stadium Thursday, talking about the "very aggressive schedule'' for tearing down the building he was standing in.

Yet at the same time, the CEO of New Meadowlands Stadium said he hopes the process of flattening Giants Stadium will be delayed one more week - never mind the waiting wrecking ball.

"Normally, you want to save as much time as you can,'' Lamping said. "This is one of those situations where we hope we don't save the time . . . It's a great trade-off.''

Such is the limbo in which the home of the Jets finds itself. It might never host another event. Or it might host one of the biggest events in its 34-year history, and energize the team and its fans en route to their shiny, wildly expensive new home.

After victories last weekend by the Ravens and Jets, all that stands between the Meadowlands and its first (and last) AFC Championship Game are a pair of upset victories by the same two teams.

What would have been laughable Dec. 20 - after the Jets lost to the Falcons and their coach declared the season over - suddenly is plausible.

"It would be something orchestrated by the Lord,'' said former Jet Mark Gastineau, still limping after injuring a knee doing his sack dance Jan. 3 during ceremonies for the presumed finale. "When something like that happens, you know there is somebody else in control.''

Gastineau was at the stadium for a cause that added to the strangeness: He was among six former Jets and Giants promoting the sale of memorabilia by Steiner Sports, such as pairs of seats for $499.99.

Yup, the estate sale has begun, even though the resident hasn't necessarily moved out yet.

The Jets who were at the news conference hope the seats will stay bolted in place through Jan. 24.

"If it works out, this place will be crazy,'' Wayne Chrebet said. "I'll be there. Are you kidding me? I'll be the one waving my towel on the sideline to get the fans going.''

Demolition is scheduled to begin 30 days after the final event, in hopes of having the area cleared and paved for the first NFL regular-season game in the new stadium.

If the Jets had lost any of the past three games or if the Ravens had lost to the Patriots on Sunday, workers already would be clearing out the place.

Instead, Dennis Robinson, CEO of the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority, said the full-time stadium staff of about 25 is on duty and ready to leap into game mode Monday if necessary.

Sports Authority workers gathered on the field after the Jan. 3 game and signed a "memory wall'' near the employee entrance. Turns out there could be one more memory left to share.

"There are people who have given their entire lives to this place,'' Robinson said. "To have one last event like the AFC Championship Game would be icing on the cake.''

The No. 5 seed never has hosted a title game before, so the Jets' first home championship game since 1968 (at Shea Stadium) most likely is an intriguing dream.

But as Chrebet, Gastineau, Bruce Harper, Joe Morris, Ottis Anderson and Stephen Baker walked the field in the quiet of a weekday afternoon, it was easy to imagine the stands filled one last time.

It would be a remarkable story, one that even got the former Giants into the spirit. "I'll be rooting for the Jets,'' Morris said, "although that's hard for me to do.''

Said Anderson: "Go Green!''

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