By Jason Keidel
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For a thousand reasons, I’m happy that I was born and raised exactly when and where I was, when the childhood haze of hero worship met the mythologizing of sports icons.
Nothing italicizes this bliss more than baseball cards. In the late ’70s, when we charged down the block to our local stationary store clutching our allowance money, ready to rip open a pack of cards and jam the chalky gum between your teeth, you knew Mike Schmidt played third base for the Phillies and George Brett did the same for the Royals. Jim Palmer pitched for the Orioles and Ron Guidry was the man just a few minutes north.
And in football, like reciting the cast from your favorite film, you knew the essential members of the Raiders, Cowboys and Dolphins. And you know that my beloved Steel Curtain rose and fell with essentially the same parts for years.
Fast forward a decade and you were comforted by seeing Cal Ripken, Don Mattingly and Kirby Puckett play for the same teams for an eternity. John Elway and Dan Marino were equally monolithic in the NFL.
There’s no doubt that free agency has added to the shell game of sports stars. But even by the new template of Gordon Gekko gone wild for profit, this is egregious. A team’s loyalty to a player is the most ephemeral bond of all, making a Liz Taylor wedding oath sound like an Omerta.
LeBron James, the greatest basketball player of the last 15 years, swapped jerseys in his prime, leaving a legion of heartbroken fans in Cleveland. Even the best football player, Peyton Manning, fled to Denver. Baseball’s best hitter, Albert Pujols, left the sport’s main nerve in St. Louis to play in Los Angeles.
Basically, the Buccaneers drafted Darrelle Revis and the Jets will, well, draft someone who will at least make the roster next year. Not a dime of his deal is guaranteed, which proves that the Jets were so obviously obdurate in their stance that this trade was inevitable.
You can argue that this deal made some business sense, but for today it’s hard to feel anything but cold; frozen in the bowels of NFL business, where contracts may as well be scribbled on Cottonelle, along with their loyalty to you, the fans, who pay the freight.
You don’t pour your soul and savings into the Jets to watch Rex Ryan coach, or to watch Woody Johnson own. For a few fall Sundays you knew that you had at least a slice of greatness on your side, that Revis Island was the loneliest place on the planet for wide receivers.
And now it’s gone, pummeled by the twin wrecking balls of pride and greed. And you’re left with a few, fleeting memories; the same hollow trophy case and a new mandate for the current hierarchy. The Jets better kill it with those two first-round picks. Indeed, John Idzik’s tenure is tied to this draft.
Ryan, despite his platitudes about not really missing Revis, knows he lost the best defender he will ever coach in New York, and that he will probably follow Revis out the door in about nine months.
Without saying it, the Jets said it. They don’t plan to contend for years. And it will take a lot more than Tampa Bay’s first-round pick to fix it.
And now, by the way, you also have a gaping hole at cornerback. They have no one to throw the ball, to catch the ball or to run the ball. And you have no reason to watch them do it.
You will, of course. Sporting loyalties are the most masochistic of all. We can no more change our favorite team than the color of our eyes. It’s what we are, and we are identified by our football teams as much as our last names.
But for the Jets fan, it is a sad irony to love something that treats you so poorly. It’s sad fate to love such a forlorn franchise. Mark Sanchez got a taste of a grumpy fan base on Saturday at Madison Square Garden.
And then you got your taste on Sunday.
And there will be many more Sundays like it as Revis Island drifts away.
How do you feel about this trade? Pleased, devastated, torn? Let us know in the comments section below…