East Rutherford, N.j.
The NFL game between the Super Bowl champion New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday will be played despite transportation and power issues and growing concerns for weary and heartbroken residents displaced and devastated by Superstorm Sandy.
Commissioner Roger Goodell spoke with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie spoke on Friday and Christie assured him that game would not divert any major resources from relief efforts.
Speaking at news conference in Brick at the opening of a FEMA office, Christie said only a few state troopers are assigned to the game and it was really a decision for the NFL to make.
“If they are ready, absent any change in circumstances, that we should go ahead with the game on Sunday,” Christie said, adding that during a tour of storm damage in nearby Moonachie, no one asked him to postpone the game and a couple of Giants fans urged him not to do that.
There have been 53 deaths associated with the storm in New York and New Jersey and more than 2 million people were still without power on Friday. There have been long lines to purchase gas throughout New Jersey and New York and power is still being restored. There will be no rail service to MetLife Stadium, the Giants said.
Giants coach Tom Coughlin always felt the game would take place, and believes his team will be ready to lift the spirits of the people of New Jersey and New York.
“I think the mission will be quite clear,” Coughlin said. “Trying to provide a few hours of enjoyment for so many that have been devastated. I think they’ll do a good job of that.”
The Steelers changed travel plans because the hotel they booked in New Jersey did not have power. The team will fly in Sunday morning and leave after the game.
Coughlin said the Steelers’ decision not to stay in a hotel overnight was “noble” because it will give space to those who lost their dwellings.
“When you look at it, it’s a minor inconvenience considering what those people in New York and New Jersey went through,” Steelers offensive tackle Max Starks said Friday. “You have seven million people without electricity, and a football game pales in comparison to that. You just hope you can do your best to take their minds off such a travesty for a couple of hours by playing some football.”
Pittsburgh defensive end Brett Keisel said the one-day trip is nothing compared to what those hit by the storm are handling.
“Not having power to go to and from work, they’re really fighting through it, so this is minor compared to what they’re going through,” Keisel said.
The Giants (6-2) are placing a high priority on this game, and it goes beyond football.
The team was given its marching orders Friday by Gen Ray Odierno, the Army chief of staff.
A long-time Giants fans and New Jersey resident, Odierno toured areas in both states hit by the storm, visited with some of the 10,000 servicemen in the area, then watched practiced. He relayed his experience to the players, with Coughlin noting the general was impressed by the resoluteness of the people.
“I think they will take forward the toughness, the resiliency of the people in this greater New York-New Jersey-Connecticut, the entire Eastern Seaboard, that’s been affected in such a way by this huge storm; I think that the message is the toughness here, the resiliency,” Coughlin said. “We will not be stopped by the storm. We will come back. We will fight our way through this. We will get things right again. Just the pride that has been demonstrated to the general this morning, I think he verbalized very well for us out here. “