Giants-Steelers provides brief diversion

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Walter Sorrenti, a retired fireman living in Staten Island, described it as a “war zone” in his borough. Families and homes were devastated by the hurricane, leaving an entire community to recover in the aftermath of the vicious hurricane that hit the East coast last week.

Standing in the MetLife Stadium parking lot Sunday afternoon, the 66-year-old, who was without power until Sunday morning, needed to get away.

“I’m tired of seeing tragedy and I need a break,” Sorrenti said. “It’s a way to relax and unwind.”

Sorrenti and other Giants and Steelers fans affected by Hurricane Sandy flocked to East Rutherford on Sunday to watch two of the most storied franchises in the NFL play in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Giants fans seemed to have no problem that the game was being played, and like Sorrenti, saw the afternoon as a way to escape the harshness and bond with others.

“I believe people need to continue to have an outlet,” said Harold Knutsen, a 57-year-old from Ramses, N.J. who lost power for a few days. “I think the NFL provides that, whether it’s on TV or even in person.”

Fans in the parking lot, which looked to be as robust and packed as usual, seemed excited to be at the game. Some talked of their love for the Giants and having the tickets, and others wanted the diversion for the day. A couple of fans said they never would miss a game no matter the circumstances.

One overwhelming opinion among the fans was that this game should be played because MetLife Stadium being used did not take away from the rescue and recovery efforts elsewhere in the region. The fans did not believe that any of the utilities used for the game could be used elsewhere.

“It should take people’s minds off what’s going on. There’s no reason this game shouldn’t be played,” said Pat Tondi, a 51-year-old broker from Merrick who is without power. “If you are going to compare this game to the marathon, the marathon should not be run because you have all the resources being diverted there when people have no power or houses. I think it should be played 100 percent.”

While most fans were fine with the game, some questioned if this was the right decision. Peter DePascale, a 61-year-old from Nutley, N.J., started thinking about whether the right call was made as he navigated into the stadium with ease. Some fans were on the fence about the issue.

“I think there are more important things,” DePascale said. “I’m not sure if we should be here.”

One factor that affected some fans’ decisions about coming to the game was having the means to do so. Several commented on the gas issues facing the area, and noted how they carpooled and that factored into what they decided to do. Casey Madigan, a 29-year-old from Manhattan, said “Thank God” it was a late start because he had to take a bus instead of the usual transit lines, and the bus lines were packed.

Jerry Schmidt, a 46-year-old from Seaford, N.Y., waited six-and-a-half hours for gas Wednesday night in Wantagh, N.Y. He carpooled with a friend and their children.

“That was a decision we made today,” Schmidt said. “Is this something we want to use gas for?”

Some Giants fans commented on a lack of hostility and a sense of togetherness between Giants and Steelers fans in the parking lots. While sometimes there can be some clashes between two teams fan bases prior to a game, there was a sense of understanding between the fans that the football game.

“I think there’s a very good atmosphere, a very giving atmosphere today,” said Richard Mugler, a 41-year-old from Putnam Valley. “Traditionally when you see in fans jerseys there’s a lot of ribbing but there isn’t much of that today. There’s a lot of camaraderie and I think it’s very good.”

Seeing that togetherness among the fans made some compare the atmosphere to the way the country came together following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11.

“It’s kind of reminiscent a little bit after 9-11 where people were so understanding and friendly for several months afterward,” Knutsen said. “It’s refreshing to see all the people pull together.”

While going to the game Sunday might distract fans for a few hours, they all recognize that when they return home, it will be back to the problems facing the area. There are tough times still ahead, but Giants fans are confident they’ll bounce back.

“We’re resilient, we're tough” said Tim Gibbard, a 54-year-old from Emerson, N.J who was one of a countless amount of fans without power. “We’ll get through it.”