The first Sunday of the NFL regular season is one of the best days of the year. We have to suffer through seven months without our beloved sport, and that first Sunday is like your birthday.
The coverage and analysis of the NFL draft (complete with a billion mock drafts) is a tasty hors d'oeuvre, but it doesn’t completely satiate us. Free agency is always fun, but it only adds to the hunger once we need to figure out how the personnel changes actually look on the field.
Training camp and preseason give us a glimpse at the product on the field, but it’s like the free bread that they give you at restaurants—it’s easy to fill up on all the news and rumors, but it’s just not the real deal.
NFL fans finally got their entrée on Sunday, when 26 teams (minus those in the Thursday and Monday night games, of course) started their 2013 seasons. There’s nothing quite like the flurry of 1 p.m. games and the subsequent obsessive monitoring of your fantasy team(s).
The start of the season also marks the start of Pepsi’s "Are You Fan Enough?" campaign, and I was invited to New York as a representative for Bleacher Report to experience the kickoff of the promotion.
Building off the success of their fan-generated montage to introduce Beyoncé at the halftime show for Super Bowl XLVII (which garnered over 120,000 photo submissions), the #FanEnough campaign asks whether you are fan enough to represent your team all the way to Super Bowl XLVIII. You may have already seen the promotional spots starring Victor Cruz and Andy Dalton.
Part of the campaign is #FanEnough tailgate events at nine games throughout the year (including this one), which feature live parking-lot production units for fans to record their celebrations with a chance to get on the Jumbotron and television broadcasts.
Following the tailgate, I enjoyed the game from an amazing and luxurious vantage point.
The game itself was exciting, with the outcome going back and forth in the final minutes. Geno Smith made his NFL debut a successful one, completing 63 percent of his passes for 256 yards while rushing for 47 more to lead the Jets.
A 37-yard field goal by Rian Lindell put the Buccaneers up by two points with 34 seconds left in the game, and it seemed like déjà vu for Jets fans. Smith then drove 50 yards, including drawing a critical personal foul on Bucs linebacker Lavonte David to set up the game-winning field goal by Nick Folk with two seconds left.
Even then, you could sense a restrained sense of exuberance from the hometown fans. The Jets couldn’t possibly lose with a two-point lead and two seconds left in the ball game, right?
The excitement wasn’t quite over yet, as a squib kick to Vincent Jackson was then lateraled twice and Doug Martin found room to run before being taken down at the Jets’ 32-yard line.
Game over. The Jets are 1-0. If Geno Smith keeps getting wins, every Jets supporter will be #FanEnough.
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