Touch Down in NYC: Five-Borough Football

Jonathan Zeller

From the fervor surrounding the Jets' and Giants' early-season efforts, it's clear New York City is a football town. But some criticize the pigskin merits of the five boroughs proper. These naysayers point out that NYC's NFL teams actually play across the Hudson River in East Rutherford, NJ. Factually, this is irrefutable—though we proudly claim those New York teams as part of our sports landscape. And savvy fans know there's a world of football-watching options within the City limits.

Making the Grade
NYC is home to three Division I college football teams, all of whom play in the Football Championship Subdivision (which uses a tournament instead of bowl games to determine its champion). Wagner College, Columbia University and Fordham University each boast their own draws, not the least of which are eminently affordable ticket prices.

The Columbia Lions play in a venue that was once named by Sports Illustrated as one of the most beautiful places in America to watch a football game. Lawrence A. Wien Stadium earned the honor thanks to sweeping views of Spuyten Duyvil, which helped make Lions games a treat even when the team was terrible (the stadium opened in 1984 during what would become a 44-game winless streak). Today's squad is different—with the help of Football Championship Subdivision preseason second-team All-American wide receiver Austin Knowlin, they defeated Fordham for the Liberty Cup and look primed to challenge top Ivy League opponents.

The Fordham Rams also figure to draw fans and media attention (The New York Times, New York Post and Daily News have already dropped by) thanks to senior quarterback John Skelton, who has generated buzz as a potential NFL draft pick. The Rams play their home games at Jack Coffey Field in the Bronx.

Raising the Bar(s)
Despite the five boroughs' college teams, some still assert that NYC is no Austin, TX; South Bend, IN; or Columbus, OH. True enough—but in some ways, the City is Austin, South Bend and Columbus. Fans of every major college football team crowd NYC bars on game days, creating rowdy atmospheres. Much as a 7-train trip through Queens can make you feel as if you've traveled the globe, a Saturday-afternoon bar crawl can create the sense that you've been in dozens of college towns.

For example, the Flatiron District's Hill Country gets so overrun with Texas Longhorns fans that it resembles Darrell K. Royal–Texas Memorial Stadium (but with delicious brisket); Brother Jimmy's BBQ attracts Atlantic Coast Conference fans; Tonic Bar & Restaurant makes every Ohio State game a raucous event; Public House New York hosts Notre Dame loyalists; and Village Pourhouse is home base for Virginia Tech and Kansas. And if you just want a place that's guaranteed to show your match of choice, Ship of Fools boasts 42 TVs and a willingness to accommodate fans of all stripes.

NYC's thriving college football bar scene has been documented in The New York Times, and some websites have tried to compile comprehensive lists of where NYC-area alumni gather on game days.