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Being a Jets Fan: Hazardous to Your Health?

by Tyson Rauch
Contributing Columnist

~At halftime the Jets were up something like 21-3 and I was miserable. No one could understand why, but I had to break it to them. The Jets will blow this game like all of the others.~

While going through my yearly physical my doctor seemed concerned with my blood pressure. He inquired if I had any stress in my life. I answered no. Then he asked about family or occupational problems and again, I said no. Then, chuckling, he asked, “It can’t be the Jets can it?‿ We both laughed, but then I stopped…

Could it be?

Thinking back, it all could have started on November 27, 1994. Jets vs. Dolphins in the Meadowlands playing for 1st place, or you may know it as “The Marino Fake Spike Game.‿ The fish rally from a big deficit and I watch my favorite player Aaron Glenn get duped on a fake spike for a game-winning touchdown. The pain and frustration I felt watching Boomer throw his final hail mary through the goal posts was past what words could explain. Did the Jets just really blow this? Why did this happen? Questions I thought I would never have to repeat.

Little did I know, ten years later, the same thoughts still go through my head.

Unfortunately the off-season of 1995 was no better with the hiring of Richard “Dick‿ Kotite and the blunder of drafting Kyle Brady over Warren Sapp. Why in the hell would the Jets hire a losing coach and draft a player that A) is not the best on the board and B) does not address a gaping hole on their team? Rich Kotite? Kyle Brady? Rich…Kotite? Kyle…Brady? It could have been then! But, in the end, I think the beginning of my health problems began with the dreaded 1996 football season.

Do the Jets ever win? During the 1996 football season I sat personally through eight, yes eight, home losses. Each loss was different in and of themselves, but the majority of them included blowing 10 to 14 point leads in the 4th quarter. Some highlights included bringing a very good friend of the family to the Jets/Pats game. At halftime the Jets were up something like 21-3 and I was miserable. No one could understand why, but I had to break it to them. The Jets will blow this game like all of the others. And what happened>….late in the game on a 4th down play Ben Coates catches the ball short of the first down marker and Victor Green drops him, taking him back another five yards. The game is over, the Jets did win!!!! Oh wait a minute, the referees are meeting..wait, they are moving the ball. First down Pats!! What the F!!! I jumped out of my seat, covered everyone in beer and hot chocolate and cursed for about ten solid minutes. Needless to say, the Jets ended up losing the game and the friend of the family never wanted to go to a football game again.

But that was not bad enough. No!

The Jets vs. Oilers topped it all. It was a cold rainy day and I brought my girlfriend, her sister and her boyfriend to the game. The stadium was empty, maybe 25,000 suckers like me in attendance. While entering the stadium I see Neil O’ Donnell get taken off on a cart. What the hell? This is only warm ups, what, did the turf blind-side him? But no! It got worse. By the middle of the second quarter Eddie George had about 150 yards rushing and the Jets as a team had quit. It was pathetic and I had enough. I think all of the losing had just gotten to me. As halftime approached, I walked down the field and began yelling at players, any of those gutless bastards that would take their hoods down. Before you know it, all of the fans began yelling and cursing and hats begin flying. Kyle Brady walks by and I throw my gloves and hat to him…somehow thinking it would improve his lackluster catching abilities. Lo and behold security comes down and arrests all of us. Yes, I got arrested in front of my girlfriend and her sister. Off I went to the security room, and I could not be more pissed. The Jets sucked, I lost my favorite hat and now I had to deal with explaining this to my family. God, this team pisses me off! It couldn’t get worse, could it? Could it!?

What a birthday present– 12/21/1997. The Jets playing the Lions with the chance to make the playoffs. My friends throw me a huge birthday party. The Jets are driving with a chance to put the game away and “the Tuna‿ calls for a Leon Johnson halfback option-pass into the end zone…and it ends up getting picked off. What the hell? And to top it off, theLions safety bobbled the ball and was out of bounds to boot, but no replay, no overturning, no respect for the Jets. Yelling and cursing, the party turns from fun to miserable. Giants and Fish fans are yucking it up. Again anger and frustration set in. I wonder how many birthdays I have left like this. Does this ever end on a happy note? Will 1998 will be better?

New year, new result?– The 1998 season was great with the Jets going 7-1 at home and even getting a first round bye in the playoffs. The January 10th playoff game against the Jaguars was a wild setting with all of the Jets fans ready to party and move on to the championship. Keyshawn Johnson had a game for the ages and the Jets won 34-24. The parking lots after the game were wild with champagne everywhere and fans hugging and crying thinking that yes this could be the year. Bring on the Broncos!!! Bring…on…the…John Elway..Broncos….I will never make a prediction again.

All of my buddies decide to have a huge party at Manny’s in Moonachie for the AFC Championship Game. NBC sports would be there. The Jets were big-time. They come out like a team on a mission and take a 10-0 lead (which should have been at least 17-0) at halftime. The Jets fans in the place are all chanting, booking our super bowl packages and really believing that the time had finally come. The anchor from NBC sports comes over and asks me several questions, including what the final result will be. “The Jets are going to the Super Bowl! I guarantee it!‿ On national television, I guaranteed it. Why god? Why God did I do this? Have I learned nothing? Well, the rest is history, a muffed kickoff return, blown coverage on Rod Smith and 6 turnovers result in a heartbreaking loss 23-10. As the final seconds file down, my head is on the table and I cannot take it. One half away from the Super Bowl. 30 minutes. Gone. The pain is excruciating, I want to put my head through the table. And I have a bigger problem, this is all getting filmed by NBC as well, which I did not realize at the time. My guarantee, my misery, national TV. My fifteen minutes of Jet fame, ending in pure misery.

I arrive home, leaving all my friends at the bar and I cannot believe the amount of calls on my voicemail and cell phone. 15 messages! What the hell? Did someone die or something? I then turn on the tv and HOLY SH$T!!! The lead story on NBC, the Jets demise, accompanied by my early prediction and post game depression. Are you kidding me? I hate this team!

Moving on…

The quietest a Jets game can ever be–September 12th, 1999. The Jets are amongst the favorites to go the Super Bowl as the team is stacked with talent and Parcells has them motivated. Vinny drops back, hands the ball off, drops to the ground…immediately grabs his Achilles and is rolling around like he was shot. 78,000 fans silent…stunned…I have never heard the stadium quieter in all of my years going to the games. In that one instant the season was over. The first half of the first game of the season. Unbelievable! Only the Jets.

But then…

Only the Jets can ruin Christmas — The Al Groh regime came and went but it sure left a mark on the Jets fans minds. There was the ‘Flashlight Game’ with Wayne and the boys getting revenge against Keyshawn and his mouth. There was the midnight miracle (which I saw in person, including the game-winning kick in OT), but the game that made its impact on me most was played on December 24th, 2002. Jets vs. Baltimore-Win you are in the playoffs. It was Christmas Eve and the family all got together early to celebrate the holidays and share some holiday spirit. (Note: My family is primarily made up of Giants fans). The game starts off and the Jets shoot out to a quick 14-0 lead. Vinny and the gang are throwing the ball all over the place, making the feared Ravens D seem very average. Then, right before half, the game took a major swing for the worst and it ultimately ended in a loss. The Jets were up 14-12 and on the Ravens 2 yard line. Vinny drops back to pass and throws a slow sideline route intended for Dedric Ward that ends up in Ravens CB Chris McCalister’s hands. Off he went, 98 yards .07 before halftime. Are you kidding me? I kicked a beer bottle over and flung a piece of Italian bread. The family got a kick out of it, rejoicing in my misery. If I heard one “Vinny is color blind” joke, I heard them all. Why throw that pass? How many times has that pass not worked before? The second half did not get much better, but the Jets trimmed the lead down to 7 at the beginning of the 4th quarter. The Jets then attempted to pin the Ravens down in their own end and….Jermaine Lewis returns the punt 89 yards for a touchdown. CHRIST!!! Food was flying. Curses were flying. The Ravens were flying. My blood pressure was flying. Why can this team not do anything right in the big spot? At this point, the room cleared out and I was left alone to wallow in my sorrows. I lost the holiday spirit, not to mention my patience to deal with the “J-E-T-S Suck! Suck! Suck!” jokes. Way to go Jets, you can even ruin a holiday.

Cannot teach an old dog new tricks — Fast forward to the 2004 football season. The Jets start out strong with a nice 6-1 record and playing against a physical Bills team. Chad Pennington scrambles for a first down and takes a hard shot to his shoulder. It did not appear too serious at first but by the fourth quarter Quincy Carter had taken his place. The Jets lose and “The Quincy Carter Regime” begins and he makes his home debut in a big game against the Baltimore Ravens. The Jets came out strong and took a commanding 14-0 lead and driving again heading into halftime. (This sound familiar?). The Jets offense was clicking well, especially with the running game, and the crowd was going nuts. The chants were electric and Quincy was doing more than expected. Then…the good old halfback pass… (hmm am I repeating myself?) and BAM! Picked off in the end zone. Lamont Jordan to Ed Reed. Perfect Spiral. This stuff cannot be made up in sports folklore. The fans sat there in disbelief, I kicked my chair so hard I knocked over the guys beer next to me. WHAT? WHY? The momentum had changed and the air was sucked out of the entire stadium. The Jets ended up blowing the entire lead. Down 17-14, Quincy drives them down the field in the final seconds. The Jets were down inside the 10 yard line when they completely mismanaged the clock and then lost the game in overtime. What a joke. Again I found myself leaving the stadium, amazed at the stupidity, amazed how the Jets find ways to lose big games. I cannot tell you how many times I have left the Meadowlands feeling this way.

Then there is AFC Divisional Game- Jets vs. Steelers. But wait…Unfortunately my doctor has prescribed against me discussing this game. Hopefully by the 2005 season I will be able to, so stop on by section 305 row 30 seats 19 and 20 and I will be sure to commiserate with you.

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