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Upstate Burb Rolls Out Red Carpet for Jets

News article from New York Post ( on August 08, 2009 by Mark Cannizzaro

CORTLAND -- This small town, bordered by cow fields and rolling hills, is aglow with Jets pride.

When you drive the streets of Cortland, which is nestled anonymously halfway between Syracuse and Ithaca, you see signs everywhere welcoming the Jets for their 22-day training camp stay.

Bars and restaurants, banks and gas stations, houses of worship and even the local ice cream joint, Footie's Freez, are adorned with signs and marquees with messages welcoming the Jets.

The Jets' presence has, indeed, injected some fiscal energy and life into what is otherwise a region hit particularly hard by the poor economy.

Among the many businesses here that are grateful for having the Jets, who were off yesterday, there's one epicenter where a veritable shrine to the team in green exists.

Doug's Fish Fry sits alongside the southeast side of Route 281, within a long Mark Sanchez pass from the SUNY-Cortland campus, where the Jets are training.

The owner, Mark Braun, is a Jets season-ticket holder (section 137, row 3, seats 7 and 8), driving four hours to and from Giants Stadium for every home game.

You can only imagine Braun's delight when word broke that his beloved Jets were coming to Cortland. He was like a kid learning Christmas would last for a month.

"It was just awesome," Braun said. "About eight years ago, the Giants had talked about coming here [before they opted for Albany] and I was just happy to have an NFL team here. But this . . ."

Braun finds himself in an odd position considering this region is Buffalo Bills country for AFC followers and Giants country for NFC fans. And he has his fresh fish driven in from Boston five days a week.

"Sometimes we take a lot of badgering," he said. "But even the mayor here, who's a Giants fan, said after this camp he's becoming a Jets fan."

Braun's restaurant has been drawing scores of Jets fans visiting the area as well as a lot of Jets personnel, media and even some players.

After Thursday night's scrimmage, Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum and his predecessor, Terry Bradway, were in for dinner with a number of other Jets personnel, including former Jet and current radio man Marty Lyons.

Braun, such a hard-core fan, actually changed out of his Mark Gastineau jersey and into his Kellen Clemens jersey "out of respect" for Lyons.

Braun hired a plane to fly over the practice field to advertise his restaurant, and on Sunday night linebackers Marques Murrell, Bandon Renkart and Jamaal Westerman came in.

"I asked them where they heard about us," Braun said. "And Murrell said, 'I saw the plane.' "

Inside Braun's restaurant there are pictures of Jets players (current and former), owner Woody Johnson, Tannenbaum and other Jets memorabilia everywhere.

He has the Wayne Chrebet jersey he wears to every game hanging from a ceiling rafter and a large Jets helmet painted on the wall with autographs from Jets players and personnel as well as some of the writers who cover the team.

On the electronic ticker in the cash register is a message that reads, "I'm a Jets fan."

The food, all fresh and homemade (we recommend the scallops, fresh-battered onion rings and lobster bisque), is really the star of the show at this place, a rare restaurant that doesn't cut corners to save time and money. The only thing frozen in this place is the ice and ice cream.

Braun, who spent 12 years on the waiting list for season tickets and is now a club season owner for the new stadium, said his Sunday morning game-day routine is leaving Cortland no later than 6:30 a.m. That gets him to the stadium by 10 or 10:30.

He said he brings his son to the game and sometimes will bring guests.

"Never," he said, "a fan of the opposing team, though."

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