By Jason Keidel
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Any real, rabid sports nut pledges his undying love to just one team. It’s our implicit bond, silent handshake and sporting ritual that makes it blasphemous to hedge your bets with a B Team.
But we can have accidental soft spots for other teams. So it is with the Jets. For whatever reason, all my friends are Jets fans. At least the ones who didn’t have the sense to join me on the Black & Gold bandwagon back in the 1970s.
I feel like I’ve grown up with the Jets. Just young enough to miss Joe Namath but old enough to remember everything else. Every wretched flag, fumble and turnover. A montage of morbid events normally reserved for Stephen King or John Carpenter.
The Jets remind you of everything that went wrong with your childhood. All the failures. The embarrassment. The awkwardness. The acne. The girl who says no and swears not to tell anyone, yet the entire school somehow knows the next morning. The guy a grade ahead who messed with you and you’ve been waiting 20 years to see him again. But now that you’re buff and tough and ready, he’s not around. And no one cares.
Just like the Jets have been waiting to sniff the Super Bowl since 1969 but their current coach talked like he designed the trophy. Like most blowhards, he lost his mojo — like so many pounds — once his deeds didn’t match his declarations.
The Mud Bowl. The Gastineau Game. Marino’s fake spike. The near miss in Mile High. And those are the high-end failures. Not to speak of butt-fumbles and defensive backs carrying arsenals that would make Tony Montana blush and Blair Thomas and Vernon Gholston and this new guy who got popped on the road snoozing in his own vomit.
Just look at this freak show the Jets call a football team. They have no one to throw, catch or run the ball. Their quarterback, who once looked so young and gifted and promising, now runs into his guard’s gluteus and walks around with a thong wrapped around his head, doing a “Jump Around” video with two vapid twigs.
While all teams’ hopes are commensurate to their ability to stuff a stud under center, the Jets are ensconced in a QB shell game, with every option worse than the next, much of it spawned by the coach’s appalling apathy over his offense.
The ring leader, Tyrannosaurus Rex, prepares for seasons by galloping with horned beasts up some alley in Pamplona, and then getting whacked while watching his son not play for Clemson this weekend. His eccentricities were far more palatable when the Jets were not a joke. Now that they are, he seems to be literally melting, along with the memories of such a fertile start.
Tangentially, I can sit back and snicker, from my elitist Pittsburgh perch, where I’ve had three coaches since the year I was born (1969). A Bradshaw Baby, weaned on Mean Joe Greene, I’ve had the fine luck of having a father born in western Pennsylvania, wrought with steel mills and coal mines and gold mines of football talent.
The ’80s were rough, but then we got back on track. Just a few years of mediocrity are a strain on the soul. How do Jets fans bear this foul football smell for four decades?
Notice the teams that do the best make the least noise? The Giants, Patriots, 49ers, Packers and my beloved Black & Gold are allergic to Page Six. Gossip and bravado singe their blue-collar sensibilities.
With the NFL’s legislated parody, the fortunes of a hard-luck team can accidentally spin on the limbs of one great player. So even in the midst of this rancid, gridiron ghetto, the Jets have hope. Next to all the fluff and fireworks in Times Square announcing our local Super Bowl, the Jets can erect a clock ticking down to Jadeveon Clowney.
Luckily, football itself is so damn good and addictive that even a bad hit off the pigskin pipe still gets you a buzz. Even a buzzkill like the Jets.
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