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.