I'm not going to hate on New Jersey in this piece. Really, I'm not. Jersey has some things going for it, as does any state. I'm not from there, and I wouldn't choose to live there, but many New Yorkers and others have made that choice. I appreciate Springsteen, Bon Jovi, and the Sopranos, and believe me, I don't want to offend any NYCFC fans who live in the Garden State. After all, folks in New Jersey have been fans of New York's teams, restaurants, musicals, dance clubs, and much more for a very, very long time.
But I will say this: New Jersey is not New York. It just isn't. So, to call the Red Bulls a New York team when that team has only ever played one home game on our side of the Hudson (in the 1997 U.S. Open Cup) is simply inaccurate. The Red Bulls started life as the MetroStars, and the team has played just about all of its home games in either East Rutherford, or, for the past five years, Harrison.
Speaking of Harrison, I've noticed that Red Bull Arena isn't exactly in the middle of a residential neighborhood. And that's one of the things that makes New York, New York -- it's a city, with neighborhoods, not the suburbs. People walk places and take the subway. They live near other fans, and near their teams. Just ask the Bronx residents who go to games at Yankee Stadium, our friends in Queens who call the Mets their neighbors, the Rangers and Knicks fans in midtown Manhattan, or the Brooklynites who can walk to the Barclays Center, home of the Nets. I'm especially reminded how important this is when I walk past the former site of Ebbets Field, where the Dodgers used to play, and think about where that team is now, surrounded not by a vibrant New York neighborhood, but instead by a huge parking lot in LA.
Why can't the Red Bulls just call themselves the New Jersey Red Bulls? The NHL's Devils do that, and the NBA's Nets formerly did, prior to their move to Brooklyn. It's true that the Devils and Nets changed their names when they moved to Jersey from elsewhere, and the NFL's Giants and Jets didn't, but the Giants and Jets were just keeping their original names, while the Red Bulls, unlike the Giants and Jets, were never from New York to begin with.
Basic geography aside, I have to wonder why certain things are true if the Red Bulls really are New York's team. For example, if the Red Bulls really do represent New York, why would the Yankees and City Football Group, two very successful businesses, pony up a nine-figure fee to start NYCFC, a team that actually plays in New York City and New York state? Why were a bunch of NYCFC players at Gracie Mansion this week, hanging out with the wife and son of New York's Mayor, while the former Mayor of Newark, now a U.S. Senator from New Jersey, has promoted attending Red Bulls games?
Even more significantly, if the Red Bulls represent New York, the country's most populous city and metropolitan area, why is the average attendance for the Red Bulls 17,511 per home game this year, about 10,000 people less per game than NYCFC? Over the years, the average annual attendance for the Red Bulls has ranged from 23,898 per home game (in 1996, the team's first year) to 12,229 per home game (in 2009), way less than the nearly 28,000 NYCFC is averaging per home game so far. If the Red Bulls are New York's team, why did NYCFC set the all-time MLS merchandise sales record at its home opener? Why are there more than 16,000 NYCFC season ticket holders (third in the league) and less than 10,000 Red Bulls season ticket holders?
So, thanks to geography, and its level of support, NYCFC clearly is New York's team, and WE own this city. And isn't it kind of sad for you, Red Bulls, that that's the case, despite the fact that you've been around for nearly two decades, and we're brand new -- and despite the fact that you have more than twice as many points as we do so far this season?
The five boroughs have united around one team -- NYCFC -- and we're only going to get stronger.