Fans will be sorely missed for this key Giants-Eagles clash

There haven’t been a lot of chances to miss the crowds — to really, really miss the crowds — since the crowds vanished from our sporting events eight months and one day ago. Yes, it might’ve been nice to get a full house at Yankee Stadium — but as it happened, there were no playoff games in The Bronx, and September was a stress-free baseball zone.

The Mets and Jets, they both missed having angry fans in the stands about as much as you miss a rotting tooth once it’s been pulled.

This week, though …

For one thing, there is the eerie site of Augusta National in full fall foliage instead of the blossoming of spring, absent galleries and the kind of unique participatory thunder only the Masters can conjure. Golf as a rule isn’t a terrible TV watch without the masses, but this event cries out for them.

And then there is this Sunday.

Look, on the surface there’s little that’s separates the Giants from the misery that muddled the Mets and the joyless jumble of the Jets. In normal times they would’ve been booed out of MetLife Stadium after that horrible no-show against the 49ers in Week 3. The Monday-night collapse against Tampa, that would’ve been audibly ugly. Even the one home game they’ve won, against Washington, would’ve been littered with muttering at the exits.

They are 2-7, after all.

But, as we know, they have also been blessed with membership in the NFC East. Now, we don’t often refer to the “win column” in sports — it’s always the “all-important loss column” (AILC for short) that gets the most attention, after all — but if you just take into account the win column this is what the NFC East standings look like at the moment:

Philadelphia: 3
New York: 2
Washington: 2
Dallas: 2

Now, yes: that is misleading. The Eagles have played one fewer game than the Giants (and the WFT, for that matter). They have a tie to their credit. They are not the kind of first-place team around which books are written and parades planned at 3-4-1. But first place is first place. And three wins is good enough for first.

Which means the Giants can tie them in the not-quite-as-important win column with a win Sunday, at home, at MetLife. And sure: we can make fun of that all we want. We can mock the NFC East as the NFC Least, and Giants fans can steal a page from the Jets-fan world and offer up screeds that if things are ever going to get better then Dave Gettleman will have to be replaced, and the more games they win the safer Gettleman likely is.

But the fact is: big-game Sunday is still a big deal in New York.

And Sunday, despite all the lousy football that’s littered the division this year, qualifies as a big game. And so, in normal times, that would mean that all 82,500 seats would be occupied Sunday afternoon. It means that most of those folks, more than two-thirds at least, would report for parking-lot duty early, fire up grills, toss beers into oversized coolers, set up cornhole games, sling footballs, and just verbally crush any brave soul who shows up in a Wentz jersey.

(If the fuzzy, fading memory of tailgating just made you pause and shed a tear … well, you are not alone.)

Also, it’s the Eagles. And you might have heard: Giants fans loathe them. Detest them. They hate the Cowboys and the WFT pretty strongly, too, but the Eagles are Philly, they are Bednarik bludgeoning Gifford, they are DeSean Jackson taking it to the house at the gun … and they are 12 wins in their last 13 games against the Giants, including that dastardly 22-21 gut-shot Oct. 22.

And since we brought it up?

Think about what it would be like Sunday not only with well-lubricated fans filling the joint, but if the Giants had held on to the 11-point fourth-quarter lead they had that night (or, sure, if Evan Engram’s fingertips had merely held onto the game-clinching pass that slithered through them).

Yeah. That would be something.

And yet: this is something. This is still a meaningful game in a season that, by rights, should be bereft of anything meaningful. Also: at some point, the Giants are going to beat the Eagles again. If that’s this week? The Giants would still be in second place. But they’d be even in the win column. They’d head into their bye with their season not only intact, but bearing hope and trending north.

It may not sound the way it ought to sound. But it’ll look fine, just fine, especially if 4 o’clock comes with a gaggle of gleeful Giants pouring off the field, their shouts audible to each empty seat in the upper deck. That would sure be something.

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