Tuesday, December 6, 2011

When You're A Jet You're A Jet All The Way

The Jets are the only team that was a part of the original AFL/NFL merger that has yet to win a conference championship. Even teams like the Cincinnati Bengals and Buffalo Bills, that have never won a Super Bowl, have at least made it to the promise land. We're the Red Sox of Football, but the Red Sox have finally gotten over the Curse of the Bambino. The New York Jets and their fans are still working on the Curse of Broadway Joe Namath.

It was January 12, 1969 when the Jets won Super Bowl III against the Baltimore Colts in what many people say is one of the greatest upsets in sports history. I wasn't even alive, hell my dad wasn't even producing the hormones necessary to even think about the process necessary to have me.  Still, that game, the prediction from Namath, and how he jogged off the field with one finger held high when it was all in the books, is the greatest Jets memory I never had. It's what drives Jet fans young and old to this day, the chance, albeit the small chance, that the New York Jets would eventually return to glory.

A year later in 1970, the two leagues, AFL and NFL merged into the NFL that we know today. Now the league is two conferences, AFC and NFC, competing for one goal, the Super Bowl. The Jets obviously haven't won a Super Bowl since 1969, they haven't even been to one. Beating the dead horse, they're only orignal team from the merger that hasn't been to a Super Bowl since. Depressing, right?

Why even bother supporting a team that you're nearly positive will disappoint you in the end? The answer is in the question. Nearly positive, not positive. I still have faith that one day the Jets will win it all and literally I will be the happiest person on earth. If I had one wish, would it be for world peace? No. It would be for a Jet Super Bowl. Plus, over the years the Jets have shown signs of life that renew the faith of the Jet faithful. And at the same time it is the romantic notion of the underdog that keeps Jet fans going. After all these years of suffering, will it ever eventually pay off? And if it does, will it be what I imagined? It's like Romeo and Juliet, they finally wind up together and next thing you know they're both dead.

Really, why am I so passionate about this team in green? The memories. Even though they're usually brief and few and far between, it is the memories of great Jet wins that keep me coming back for more. For me, my true die hard Jet fan status started in the 1998-99 season with the legendary Bill Parcels as head coach, father time, Vinny Testeverde at quarterback and Curtis "My Favorite" Martin at running back. The Jets went 12-4 in the regular season and earned their first AFC East Title and first round playoff bye. In the divisional round of the playoffs against the Jacksonville Jaguars I was forever moved. Up until that point, I was used to sitting in my seat at a live Jets game. This time, I stood along with everyone else at Giant Stadium the whole time. The atmosphere, the Jets Chants, everything about that game, made me a true die hard Jet fan. I was 10 years old. The Jets eventually lost in the AFC Championship game to the Denver Broncos after leading by 7 at halftime. The disappointment we've all grown accustomed to.

The next big game in my life was the last game of the 2002-03 regular season against the Green Bay Packers. There was the potential for a three way tie in the AFC East. The Dolphins controlled their own destiny with a 9-6 record going into their final game against the Patriots who were a game behind at 8-7. The Jets were also 8-7 taking on the Packers at Giant Stadium. To win the division, the Jets needed to have the Patriots beat the Dolphins in a 1pm game and the Jets needed to beat the Packers at 4pm. The Dolphins were beating up on the Pats the whole game. Jet fans walked inside Giant Stadium with little hope knowing the Pats were losing with little time left. In the short span of time it took for Jet fans to get inside the stadium, the Patriots were making a comeback. It all came down to an Adam Vinatieri field goal and the Patriots would have pulled off the improbable comeback. Wisely, the folks at Giant Stadium decided to play that kick on the big screen. When Vinatieri nailed that kick and the Pats won, there was no chance the Jets would lose to the Packers. The rest of the Jets game, the whole stadium was on their feet and the Jets dominated. We won the division for the second time in franchise history. The next week we beat the Colts 40-0 in the playoffs but eventually lost to Oakland to end the storied run.

Then it has been the last two seasons that keep me coming back for more Jet football. Two years ago, earning a wild card playoff spot, beating the Bengals on the road and then beating the Chargers the next week. Up until that point, it was happiest day of my life. In the AFC Championship, we lost to the Colts after leading at the half. Eerily similar to the AFC Championship loss to the Broncos in 1999.

The following year, again earning another wild card spot and getting revenge against the Colts in the first round. The following week taking on the hated Patriots at their house for the third time that year. Weeks earlier, the Jets were embarrassed by the Pats in Foxborough

There's plenty of reasons why I've always been a diehard Jet fan and will always be a diehard Jet fan. You can't go through all the things Jet fans go through and not feel this fierce connection to this team. This year has been a struggle, but so have the last two years and they have come with some significant rewards. The only difference this year has been the expectations because we've been so successful the last two years, which brings me to the lessons learned.

1) Don't have expectations.

2) When you're a Jet, you're a Jet all the way.


Four More...

The New York Jets have had a roller coaster season up to this point. It has been a season of ups and downs, of winning streaks and losing streaks. The Jets strung a pair of W's together to start the season and followed that by a three game skid. Then they manage to win three in row to put us in contention with the Patriots for the top of the AFC East. They blow that with a pair of losses and now are riding a 2 game win streak for the third time this season.

Is this the road map for post season football come January? Not for most teams, but the Jets aren't most teams. We're 7-5 heading into a crucial 4 game stretch, but three other AFC teams share the 7-5 record. The kicker is if the season ended today, the Jets would miss out on the playoffs. We don't control our own destiny. Even if we do win out the rest of the season and make it to 11-5, usually a shoe in the playoff, there's still a good chance that we're on the outside looking in.

The good news is that of the four remaining games on the Jets' schedule, each of them are very winnable. This Sunday, we take on the struggling Kansas City Chiefs at MetLife Stadium and then hit the road to take on the even more embarrassing Philadelphia Eagles. All of the sudden it is Christmas Eve and the Jets welcome our inter-stadium rivals, the New York Giants. Tough to say the Jets will have home field advantage even though it is a Jets home game. I expect a lot of blue shirts in the stands of JetLife stadium that night before Christmas. We finish the season at Miami with a Dolphin team that has managed to put up some good fights in their disappointing season. And considering they haven't been in playoff contention since Chad Pennington, they are used to playing the spoiler.

All in all, I'm confident an 11-5 record will get the Jets into their third straight post season. I even see the possibility of a 10-6 record doing the job maybe. However, that's leaving a lot to chance. There's too much chance involved even if we finish 11-5. But this is what Jet fans live for. We live for the drama, the suspense, and the stress. It is a long history of suffering, with brief moments of success, like heroin, that keep us coming back for more. I've said it a million times, if you're going to be a Jet fan, you have to be a glutton for punishment.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Playoff Hopes... Still Alive

It was September in November in downtown, East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Jets found themselves down by 3 to the Buffalo Bills with under six minutes remaining. It had been a sloppy day for the Jets who maintained a steady lead throughout the majority of the game.

They had lost the lead late in the fourth quarter thanks to Antonio Cromartie. The baby daddy to a baker's dozen was given the call by Special Teams Coach Mike Westhoff to field a Buffalo punt after an excellent defensive stop from the Jets. Up until that point it was Jim Leonard retuning punts because the Jets, specifically Cromartie have had trouble muffing punts and kickoffs. So Westhoff took a chance on Cromartie who does have better speed than Leonard and lo and behold, Cromartie fumbles and gives the Bills the ball with great field position and a chance to take the lead.

On the first play of the Bills drive, Ryan Fitzpatrick notices ex-Jet Brad Smith lined up one on one against.... Antonio Cromartie. The ball was snapped and before you knew it, Brad Smith had caught a 36 yard touchdown pass against his former teammate.

The Jets fielded the ensuing kickoff and returned it to their own 18 yard line. Now it was up to Mark Sanchez, who has pulled off a number of fourth quarter comebacks in his short career. He had thrown three touchdown passes in the game already, but still managed to look like a rookie like he's done often this season. The Jets had plenty of time, a couple timeouts, but there was no doubt they needed this drive. If they don't score they give the ball back to the Bills who in all likelihood would be able to run out the clock for the win.

With 82 yards of field in front of him, Mark Sanchez was under center to start another potential game winning drive. The Jets were able to string together a first down while eating up a good portion of the clock on a couple running plays. Then with a fresh set of downs, Shonn Greene gets stuffed for a two yard gain. Now a crucial 2nd and 8 play with 3:40 on the clock, Sanchez notices the Bills free safety move to the line of scrimmage which leaves Plaxico Burress in one on one coverage wide left. Sanchez fired a pass 12 yards down the field to the sideline where Burress made an excellent catch and got both feet in bounds for a first down.

Things quickly got interesting in the next set of downs. Jets have the ball now 3rd and 8 from the Bills' 47 yard line. Sanchez decided to go to Patrick Turner, the practice squad player of the game. Turner runs a 12 yard out route and with his big 6'5" frame hauls down a poorly thrown Sanchez pass for another Jet First down.

Next set of downs, Jets find themselves in another 3rd down situation from the Bills 36, this time with 11 yards to go after a Jet penalty. The had successfully run the clock down to the two minute warning when Sanchez took the 3rd down snap. The Bills brought a corner back blitz which left Plaxico Burress lined up against a safety. But with the corner blitz Sanchez had practically no time to throw. Fortunately when you have Plaxico Burress lined up against a safety, you simply just throw the ball in the air and odd are, he'll come down with it. That's exactly what happened. Sanchez threw up a prayer and it took an amazing one handed catch along the sideline 17yard down the field from Plaxico. This not only saved the game but may have saved the season for gang green.

"The Catch"

Two plays later Sanchez found Santonio Holmes for an 16 yard touchdown pass to give the Jets the lead at 28-24 with 1:02 left in the game. This drive of the week, nay, drive of the season went for 12 plays, 82 yards and took 4:43 off the clock.

The Bills drove down the field with the little time they had and three timeouts. They made it into field goal range but down by four they needed a touchdown and only a touchdown and that touchdown they did not get. The Jets now improve their record to 6-5 thanks to Plaxico Burress and Mark Sanchez.

I'm sorry Mark for saying you suck... just please don't suck against Washington this week. And Plax... thanks for shooting yourself in the leg. You'd probably still be a Giant if you did.

From JetLife Stadium...

There's no better time to talk to some real die hard Jet fans when the season is right on the brink if collapse. That's what I got the chance to do Sunday in the parking lot of MetLife Stadium. These were some real fans who give a true fan's perspective.

"If they sh*t the bed this year I'll be more disappointed than I've ever been as a Jet's fan," said Ken O'Boyle Sr, father of yours truly and 20 year season ticket holder. "If your gonna talk the talk, you gotta walk the walk."

My Dad loves using stupid cliches, but he's right. We've been promised two going on three super bowls already. We've come too close twice and failed at the doorstep. This year Jet fans were confident.

"Jet fans are never confident!" screamed Bob Payne, long time Jet fan and season ticket holder from Long Island (Those are some hardcore Jets Fans out there). "The year after we lost to the Colts in the AFC Championship, I wasn't confident, but we did it again and lost to the stupid Steelers. This year was the year."

Payne had sat behind me with his buddy "EggHead" practically all my life going to Jet games. When the new stadium came along, every body's seats changed. Some people from the old section 140 didn't even buy season tickets at the new stadium because they're so damn expensive. The happy ending to the Payne and EggHead story is, even though we don't sit in the same section anymore, we tailgate together, which is something we didn't even do at the old stadium.

"You have to beat the Bills today," said Steve "Egghead" Taggart (I felt so weird asking him his real name). "I don't care how they do it. Pretty, sloppy, who gives a sh*t. You can't afford to lose anymore. And if we do win out, I still we get screwed out of a home playoff game.

Payne and EggHead didn't make  the playoff road trips my family made the last two seasons. But EggHead is right. We pretty much have to be perfect the rest of the way if we're going to have a shot at the postseason and even still the Patriots will probably have a better record and win the division. And we had a sloppy win against the Bills.

Payne and EggHead are some of the best Jets fans ever. Even though Payne doesn't sit by us any more I keep his spirit around by shouting some of the classic Payne lines. "Snap it over his head! OOOOVER his head, OOOOOVER his head."Or, "Run like MOOOOSEEEE." Egghead never had any catch phrases but he delivered a line that I laugh at to this day. A band called "Better than Ezra" was playing at halftime and the Jet fans, ruthless as always, practically booed them off the stage. It was girl sounding pop music, inappropriate for a football game half time show. Anyway, no one else ever thinks this is funny, but EggHead shouted at the top of his lungs in a think Long Island accent, "You're not better than Ezra!" Gets me every time.

And now the moment we've all been waiting for....

It wasn't only Jet fans that I talked on Sunday, I talked to my Aunt and Uncle who both work at MetLife Stadium. My Aunt is in charge of the Pepsi gate security and my Uncle is an usher inside the stadium. They work both Jets and Giants games on a weekly basis.

The question was simply this.... Who has the more passionate fans, Jets or Giants?

Aunt Debbie ( master of the Gate )
That's tough to say. The Giants sell more tickets but they are not as rowdy as Jet fans when they get to the gates. Can we change the question to who has the more drunk fans, because Jet fans win that category. It's hard to tell whether Jet fans are just more drunk or they're passionate about the team. I guess I'd have to say the Jets. 

And she's a Broncos fan. And now from My Uncle Dave (Charge Fan and nicest usher at the Meadowlands).

The stadium gets really loud for both teams, but more people show up to the Giants game so I'd have to say the Giants are louder except for the Jets chant. I'll put it to you this way. I wear earplugs for both teams. The Jets get into more fights though. I'm always breaking up fights at Jets games. I don't like it, but it says something about their passion for the team. That or they are just really hammered. 

So there you have it Jet fans are more drunk and obnoxious than Giants fans and by default are more passionate about the team. I say this often, there is no such thing as a casual Jet fan. There are casual Giant fans. Some are just casual football fans.

Who's your favorite team?
I don't watch football that much
 but if I had to pick I'm a Giants Fan.

That doesn't exist in Jets Nation. You're either die hard or you like some other team. You have to be strong willed to be a Jet fan. If your not passionate about the team all the disappoint will kill you. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Next up....

We have the Buffalo Bills for the second time in three weeks this Sunday at MetLife Stadium. Like Usual I will be in attendance. The Bills are looking like they're having their annual collapse right about this time. It's the same thing every year with these Bills. People get excited about the Bills early, then the epic collapse. They just got beat up  by the Dolphins. I wouldn't be surprised if they finish out the season last in the AFC East, especially now that Miami is starting to come around.

However, the Jets may be collapsing as well. The three game losing streak early, followed by a two game losing streak that we're riding now, if we lose this one we might as well Just End The Season.

What if the Bills aren't in a state of total implosion, what if this is just a rough patch? It worries me slightly, but I'm confident this week. Just for this week. However, I was confident against the Broncos and look what happened.

The Jets are a good team, they're just not playing together, they're not motivated, SOMETHING IS OFF!

We can maybe afford to lose one game the rest of the year. Don't lose it to the Bills, we might need it against a better team.

I'll be bringing my tape recorder with me to the stadium on Sunday with a couple things in mind. I'm going to interview a couple of long time Jets fans. Season ticket holders that remember the days of the Polo Grounds and the Titans of New York. Finally a perspective of someone who has suffered longer than my brief 23 years on this planet.

But I also want to settle a long time dispute. Which fans are more hardcore, Jets or Giants fans? What a relief it is to play in a stadium not call Giants Stadium. Now that each team has an equal share in the building, I want to know who has the more passionate fans. And I will obtain this answer from the most objective people at MetLife Stadium on Sundays, da da da The Event Staff. These brave people deal with drunk idiots from both side on a weekly basis. Surely they are the only qualified to settle this dispute.

I got Tebowed

Go figure, I do all this smack talking about Tim Tebow (God's gift to football) and he makes me look like a moron. He single-handedly drove down the field to win the game against the Jets.

But still, did Tebow make me look foolish, or was it the Jets? It was the Jets, it was always the Jets. This was a team that had the #1 Defense and #1 Rushing Attack in the NFL two years ago. Now, not only can't we play defense or run the ball, we can't block and our Quarterback, now in his third season, hasn't gotten better, but got worse.

I'm trying to remember if I felt this way last year or the year before. Last year we went 11-5 in the regular season. We have five losses now, mind you. It was fairly certain this time last year that the Jets were in good postion for at least a wild card playoff spot. I don't think I was this miserable last year. The year before we went 9-7 in the regular season. At one point two seasons ago, all playoff hopes were lost. Even our rookie head coach calculated wrong and officially declared us out of playoff contention. But he was wrong, and we eventually made it to the AFC Championship game. Was I as miserable as I am now? No. The fact is that we had a rookie quarterback and rookie head coach and there weren't big expectations.

This year I had my eyes on the prize. We have the same team, pretty much. Now, we're in a position with 6 games left in the season and we really can't afford to lose one.

Traditionally, 11-5 gets you into the playoff just about every time. 10-6 most of the time, but Jet fans know all too well that 10-6 is no guarantee. 9-7 is a long shot. It has happened. It happened two years ago. The Jets even won the division in 2002 with a 9-7 record. Dare I say the good old days.

I miss you Chad Pennington. I miss having a quarterback that I could trust with the football and completed the majority of his passes. Even if those passes never went farther than 15 yards.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Up Next Tim Tebow and the Broncos

I'd like to think the Jets can win this game. The problem is the Jets can't get pressure on the quarterback and Tebow likes to scramble. Fortunately, Tim Tebow is not a good quarterback and will probably never be a good quarterback in the NFL. He seems like a corn fed country boy and to be honest comes off dumb. To be a quarterback in the NFL, you need a head on your shoulders, not just use head and shoulders. Andrew Luck, the inevitable 1st overall pick in next years draft is a Stanford product. Peyton Manning is a genius and studies film like a lunatic. I swear if he wasn't a football player, he'd be building rockets.

Remember how the vote for the Prom Queen and class president was all just a popularity contest? Did you ever imagine that the position of starting quarterback would be based on anything other than talent and ability? Well it is in Denver. Tim Tebow, a very public Christian, almost too public, is starting for the Broncos. Mr Can't do no wrong off the field but can't do anything right on the field is starting against the Jets this Thursday.

I'd like to think the Jets can win this game.