Sunday, October 25, 2009

J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets

Men who go to strip clubs for lap dances and people who root for the NY Jets have something in common. They are willing to invest their time and money in being teased. If you are in search of a sure thing, the Jets are not the team for you. Their roommates the Giants would perhaps be more to your liking. Jets fans have been the recipient of precisely one guarantee that came to fruition. Joe Namath stated that his team would win Super Bowl III and that’s what they proceeded to do. Subsequently the Jets have been perched on the perimeter of greatness on several occasions. Their fan base has been convinced over and over that the drought was at long last ended. It has been a decades long roller coaster ride. The Jets don’t spend much time near the top of the track, nor do they usually dwell at the bottom for lengthy periods. Instead they perform like the tide, approaching and receding, offering up and taking away, excelling only to screw up opportunities ripe for the taking, teasing us like a seasoned pro who knows her away around a lap well enough to bleed our wallets dry.

Okay, enough metaphor torturing. No doubt you’ve grasped the point. But don’t take my word for it, here are some chronologically ordered examples of post Namath’s #1 finger wag meltdowns by the boys in green. The 1982 Mud Bowl. They’ve made it all the way to the AFC Championship game. Behind the immaculate running of the spectacular Freeman McNeil there is simply no stopping us. Only quicksand could stop our offense, but NFL games are never played on quicksand. Well, the Dolphins manage to come up with the next best thing. Even though descendants of Noah quickly get to work on Ark II as a deluge of rain hits Miami, somehow the Dolphins conveniently neglect to cover the field. With McNeil unable to get his footing in the slop, the Jets must turn to an aerial assault. FIVE Richard Todd interceptions later, no less than THREE of them inexplicably grabbed by LINEBACKER A.J. Duhe who must have given Todd one of his kidneys prior to the game, and the dream is over.

In 1986 a personal foul penalty against Mark “the genius” Gastineau directly results in an overtime loss in the 2nd round of the playoffs to the Cleveland Browns. In 1993 the Jets needed to win just one of their last three games to qualify for the postseason behind the quarterback play of Boomer Esiason. If you’re thinking that they went 0-3 in that span I do believe you’re recognizing a trend here. In 1994 it was once again the Dolphins who did us in as the Jets allowed a 10-point 4th quarter lead to evaporate in a game punctuated by Dan Marino’s infamous “fake spike play”. In 1998 a 10-point halftime lead in the AFC Championship game is not enough for a Bill Parcells coached Jets team to hold against the eventual Super Bowl winning Denver Broncos. Still, getting so close to the Promised Land gives Jets Nation extremely high hopes for the 1999 season. The bubble is burst along with Vinnie Testadverde’s ruptured Achilles tendon in the first half of the first game, effectively ending the season and the Jets chances of becoming the third team to be led into the Super Bowl by Tuna. The 2000 season gave Jets fans the wonderful memory of the Monday Night Miracle game, but that Al Groh coached team which started out an impressive 6 -1 and had their destiny in their hands at 9 – 4 missed the playoffs by going 3–6 over the last 9 games of the season. I’m sure we all remember why Al Groh was coaching the Jets in the first place, how wrong the guy he replaced did us, and how well that guy ended up doing in New England after going Benedict Arnold on us. In 2004 the Jets completely outplayed the Pittsburgh Steelers in the divisional round of the playoffs, but victory was denied them when Doug Brien suddenly forgot that a critical part of his job security was the ability to kick field goals. And of course last season gave us the splendor of Brett Favre, a real live legend recruited on a short term basis to provide the arm strength lacked by Chad Pennington. Things looked pretty good after starting 8 – 3. Then comes yet another epic collapse and not only do the Jets fail to make the postseason, but the AFC East is won by none other than the Pennington led Miami Dolphins. Sounds like a joke, right? Nope, just another season for the “Same Old” New York Jets.

Other teams have eras of consistent greatness and periods of being steadily awful. Top franchises have many more good seasons than bad while inept ones have far more that are cringe inducing than are marked by superior quality. Game in and game out, season in and season out, even decade in and decade out, fans of those franchises know what to basically expect. If you’re a Steelers fan for example, you probably won’t spend a substantial portion of your life cycle in between championships. Same thing for Giants fans. On the other end of the spectrum, fans of teams such as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers probably did not secure extra mortgages on their homes to purchase tickets for the Super Bowl this year because they expected their team to be playing in it. The Bucs have been every bit as bad as advertised. There is a certain comfort in predictability. But the New York Jets rarely provide their fans with such comfort. When you expect them to be terrible, they often turn out to be pretty good, and just when you get used to it and perhaps even dare to gloat about their promising prospects, the clock strikes midnight and they are once again transformed into the Keystone Cops.

2009 is playing out true to form, a microcosm of the team’s history. After three games, all wins, Rex Ryan was declared savior and Mark Sanchez the Messiah. After the next three games, all losses, and visions of the days of Rich Kotite dance demonically in our heads. It is now perfectly clear that the rest of this season will turn out either really really bad, or really really good, or else… Nah, the only thing certain is that nothing is apparent, there is no crystal ball for Jets fans. Expectations serve as devices of torture for us. “Same Old Jets” is the most ironic expression in all of sports because nothing remains the same for them except for the fact that they keep changing from season to season, game to game, quarter to quarter, possession to possession. The fan base is perpetually on the edge of their seats, at the ready to either cheer in triumph or curse in disgust. Only another clichéd sports expression keeps us from the abyss of insanity at the end of yet another promising but ultimately heartbreaking season. Just wait till next year.

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