What is it with the multitude of American football spectators who attend NFL games, but have long since departed the stadium when the players shake hands at the end of the contest?
I ask only because of proceedings at the MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey on Sunday when the New York Giants, who are admittedly experiencing a miserable campaign, suffered a 24-7 defeat by the Seattle Seahawks.
The Giants, who’ve now lost six of seven games this season, certainly didn’t play well, with quarter-back Eli Manning struggling to orchestrate his offence. But there were already discernible gaps in the stands when, with almost 10 minutes left on the clock, the Seahawks scored a second touchdown to help extend their slender 10-7 advantage to a more comfortable 17-7.
Almost 10 minutes left? That’s an eternity in American football terms – and especially so in the fourth quarter, with potentially three time-outs per team supplementing the two-minute warning. Even allowing for the Giants’ hitherto disappointing performance, it was still manifestly possible to overturn a 10-point deficit in the time that remained.
Yet that second Seahawks touchdown was the catalyst for many of those spectators still present to start a stampede towards the exit doors (I almost referred to them as “supporters”, but I’m not sure that would be strictly accurate, given their conspicuous lack of support in times of need). So much so, indeed, that the stadium was probably more than half-empty when the Seahawks confirmed victory with a third touchdown just before the two-minute warning.
Each to his own, of course. “You pays your money and you takes your choice”. And the early exodus from the MetLife Stadium is by no means unique to the Giants, because it occurs regularly at a number of other NFL stadiums, too. Given there are only eight regular-season home games per season, however, you’d imagine these “fans” would want to make the most of seeing their team in action.
But it doesn’t always appear that way. Instead, they’d rather get the hell out of there with a decent chunk of the game remaining to “beat the traffic” – or whatever their reason/excuse may be. Time to get home because it’s late? It was still only about 7pm, for heaven’s sake, as people hurried away from the Giants match. Meeting people for drinks or dinner in close-by Manhattan? Bloody well meet them some other time.
Can these spectators be dismissed as fly-by-nights who thump their chests when their team is winning and slink into the shadows when times are lean? Or are they indicative of a wider malaise?
A ticket for a game at venues such as Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers, is still highly valued currency, but a number of NFL stadiums fail to sell out. And even when they do, they’re often half-empty well before the conclusion of the game. Television viewing figures are on the wane, too.
Is the United States falling out of love with its national game?