Considering that my office has been located next to Peabody’s Grill & Bar in the Shoppes of Amberly plaza in Tampa Palms for about ten years now — and because of the wonderful business relationship the New Tampa Neighborhood News always has had with Peabody’s ownership and management — I’ve seen a LOT of events at my favorite local sports bar.

In fact, I’ve probably seen the dozens of emerald-green-clad New York Jets fans assembled in and outside of The Palms Lounge at Peabody’s more than a dozen times…maybe a couple of dozen. I just somehow never asked or realized they were all part of an actual club or organization until a couple of weeks ago. (I know, I’m obviously not as bright and quick-witted as I think I am.)

I was interested in doing a story about the group in the Neighborhood News even without having that tidbit of information, but, when a local resident (and Peabody’s frequenter at other times, too) named Brian told me about the New York Jets Fan Club of Tampa Bay, I knew I wanted to help promote what former New Tampa resident (he now lives in nearby Land O’Lakes) Steve “Festa” Scott founded way back in 2004, when it met at Lee Roy Selmon’s on Bruce B. Downs Blvd.

Seven years later, the Club has a total of nearly 600 members from all over the world (I have heard emerald-garbed visitors from Denmark and, I think, California introduced the last two times I’ve hung out with the Club) and four sister chapters in Florida. Festa moved the group-game-watching to Peabody’s in 2005 and his crew has gathered in the separate Palms Lounge for every Jets game (except during the club’s annual road trip to watch the Jets visit Miami) the last three+ seasons.

And, with the J-E-T-S getting to the AFC Championship game both seasons, the Club grew to average close to 200 Jets fans (who fit snugly into The Palms at that size crowd) even in the few games before the NFL Playoffs.

As a native New Yawka who was never a NY Jets nor a NY Giants fan (at least not for very long) while growing up in Lawn Guyland (less than a half hour from the old Shea Stadium, where the Jets used to play), hanging out with this huge fan club (one of the largest in the U.S.) of Big Apple transplants feels like “old home week” to me.

In addition to great prizes that are raffled off to benefit the Club and its road trip to Miami, the Club members also get to order off their own Peabody’s menu with great food and drink specials — and keep The Palms as a non-smoking venue while they’re there. But, the biggest benefit may be that these sometime-very-loud fans get to chant “J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets!” as often as they like, without any concerns about…well, retribution.

“I’m glad they stay over there,” said one fan of the now playoff-bound Detroit Lions, who was watching his team at the bar in the side of Peabody’s where the pool tables, dart boards and other games are kept. “It’s good for them and I don’t have to hate the (4-3 at our press time) Jets unless we end up playing them in the Super Bowl.”

The entire Tampa Bay area may always be home to more Tampa Bay Bucs (also now 4-3) fans than those of any other team or teams, but whenever the local NFL team struggles, as it has the last few years (even last year’s 10-6 Bucs squad still didn’t make the playoffs), more and more jerseys of local residents’ home town teams become more and more popular, not only at Peabody’s but area-wide.

And of course, transplanted fans of top teams like the Steelers and Packers and even “national” teams like the Cowboys also have fan clubs in the Tampa Bay area. But, no matter what team you root for (I still root for the Bucs myself), I can’t imagine a better organized, more fun Fan Club to belong to than the New York Jets Fan Club of Tampa Bay.

For more info, call 1-888-NY-JETS-1 or visit Or, stop in at The Palms Lounge at Peabody’s (15333 Amberly Dr.) for the next Jets games on Sun., Nov. 6, 1 p.m. (against the tough Buffalo Bills), and against the New England Patriots on Sun., Nov. 13, 8:20 p.m. You also can call Peabody’s, which is open every day, at 972-1725. — GN

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