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Sam Farmer ON THE NFL

Favre forges a new identity for these Jets

September 14, 2008|Sam Farmer

NEW YORK -- On Brett Favre's first day with the New York Jets, Newsday devoted 17 pages of its newspaper to the quarterback's arrival.

When the pope visited, he got 12 pages.

J-E-T-S! Brett! Brett! Brett!

Reebok has shipped 60,000 Favre Jets jerseys into the marketplace, a record 3,800 of which sold within the first 24 hours. His is by far the No. 1-selling NFL jersey this season. And, as it happens, he's chasing himself. Ranked second in sales is his Green Bay jersey.

J-E-T-S! Brett! Brett! Brett!

According to StubHub, today's showdown between the Jets and New England Patriots at the Meadowlands is the most expensive NFL ticket of the week, with an average price of $237 -- and that's without Tom Brady.

Whereas the website's cheapest Jets ticket is going for $110, fans who want to see the Super Bowl champion New York Giants play at St. Louis could, as of Friday afternoon, buy a ticket for $5.

That's more of a commentary on how bad the Rams are, of course, but it also underscores the remarkable surge of interest in the Jets.

Even a former Giants great can appreciate and feel good about what this means for the Jets, the city's perennial second-fiddle franchise.

"It's good for football, it's good for New York, and it's good for the Jets," said Harry Carson, a Hall of Fame former linebacker for the Giants. "It's been a long time since they've had the spotlight shined on them to this degree."

Or as marketing executive Steve Rosner puts it: "The Jets aren't just on the back page these days, they're on the front page."

Chalk that up solely to Favre, whose decision to sign with the Jets instantly made them one of the most watchable teams in sports, regardless of their 4-12 record last season.

That was evident from Favre's first day of training camp at Hofstra University, where a crowd of 10,000 -- about triple the average -- showed up to catch a glimpse of him.

When he walked onto the field, the speakers blared Bruce Springsteen's "Glory Days," and the fans erupted, giving him a standing ovation.

Favre's second day made news too. After he fumbled a snap, the quarterback adhered to team rules and ran a penalty lap.

Actually, it was more like a home-run trot, allowing fans pressed along the fences to get an up-close look at their hero, who was jogging alongside lumbering center Nick Mangold. Within an hour, one of the spectators had posted the scene on YouTube.

Favre isn't just a 38-year-old quarterback, he's a cultural phenomenon.

"For an old man, he's doing pretty good," former New York mayor Ed Koch said. "Because he's past his prime, he's made old men all over the city feel good. In that way, he's really helped us. There are a lot of old men in this city -- of which I'm one."

Added Koch: "He's probably gotten more invitations for dinner parties than anybody in town."

Clearly, collecting invitations isn't a priority for Favre -- unless it's an invitation to the postseason.

"I'm here for one reason," he said shortly after arriving. "Not to do commercials, Broadway, all those things. I'm here to help the Jets win."

To some degree, the Jets have already won.

By signing Favre, they helped ease the sting of selling expensive personal-seat licenses to fans who never had to buy them before, PSLs that will help fund construction of the $1.6-billion stadium the Jets and Giants will share. To some, the Favre signing was an indication the Jets were willing to spend to compete at the elite level.

Lost in that logic was that the Jets had already handed out $140 million in contracts to newly acquired guard Alan Faneca, center Damien Woody, defensive tackle Kris Jenkins and linebacker Calvin Pace. It seemed no one paid a great deal of attention to that spending spree, not until the Jets brought Favre on board.

The renewed interest was instantly obvious in ticket sales. The day after the late-night trade for Favre, StubHub brokered more than $1 million in Jets ticket sales. Through August, Jets ticket sales have increased more than 100% from last year, the NFL's biggest jump.

Said StubHub spokesman Sean Pate: "The buying dynamics shifted to fifth gear from first gear."

Now, the Jets are hoping to do the same on the field.

Last Sunday, they won in Miami, 20-14. But the Dolphins won only one game last season, and there were signs Favre is working through some rough spots.

More than once, he stepped into the huddle, glanced around at his teammates and -- no doubt cracking a smile -- simply said, "Same play." Against the Dolphins that was enough; he threw two touchdown passes.

Same old freewheeling Favre? Yes.

Same old Jets? Not even close.

--

sam.farmer@latimes.com

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