Ever since that Sunday afternoon back in 1986 when I sat down with my father to watch the NFL highlights program over here and we decided to pick teams, he went first, (as fathers do) and chose Dallas, damn him! I wanted them! I recognised them from that tv show he sometimes let me stay up late to watch, so I had to choose another.
The New York Jets? 10 and 1. I liked the logo, the colour, I knew where New York was! Ken O`Brien? Al Toon, Wesley Walker? Freeman McNeil and that 51-45 game? It all seemed so perfect! What could go wrong? The scoreline that would appear that day gave an indication I didn`t know the significance of until much later, a 45-3 defeat by Miami, and here I am 22 years later, a much older but probably not wiser person, who wonders if he will ever see the day he can look back on it all and smile. I was now a Jets fan and proud!
I went to school in the mid to late 80`s, surrounded by people wearing shirts of the Raiders, 49ers, Giants, Dolphins and Bears, the most popular teams at the time. I was told that the JETS SUCK! Did I regret picking the Jets? Hell no! They were now my team and I would stick with them whatever, and even though sometimes I would often ask myself why, I would never leave them, and to this day I never will.
When the game was at its peak over here, I joined the local team, my favourite player at the time was Erik McMillan. I wanted to be a free safety just like him and came SO close to having a #22 shaved into my head. After a few weeks of being run close to death by a pyschotic American, I decided I didn`t want to play anymore. Sunday was better spent recovering from a hangover and not being made to “drop and give me 50 you limey piece of sh*t”.
It was clear I wasn`t meant to play the game but watch it and suffer.
Then came the tragedy of my all time favourite Jets player, Dennis Byrd. News of this came late, we only had a dodgy radio signal that would fade repeatedly to keep us updated on a Sunday evening. When I heard I was truly heartbroken, no-one really understood and to this day I don`t think they do. When a player gets carried off in a soccer game over here, the crowd will usually jeer and chant and laugh at it all, but in the NFL it was different. I tried to explain to my friends during the Buffalo game that those fish things on the back of the helmets and the #90 stickers, were a sign of respect, that’s what they do in American sports I told them but they didn`t care. I DID care, it really hurt me to hear of what happened, and only when I watched Rise & Walk the Dennis Byrd story did I fully comprehend what had happened. Every time I watch that film I cry my eyes out, I loved that guy, I really did, and I make no apologies whatsoever for crying over the the whole thing, none at all.
A skiing holiday in Andorra in 1998, one in which I personally made the travel agent call the hotel and make sure there was a TV that would show the Jacksonville game. When I got there to find the only place in 500 square miles closed, I was furious. I went to the bar and got trashed, only when I made a call to my mother in England at 3am in the morning would I know the Jets won! I came home on the Sunday for the Championship game against Denver, yeah, that really made me feel better…
When would we ever get that close again?
Of course, the Pittsburgh game, the one after the San Diego game, where I had quit smoking but convinced myself cigars were different so bought a pack for that game. So close and then Eric Barton decided to commit assault and give them another chance. I won`t write what I said after that play, suffice to say my mother shouted at me that night “Don`t you EVER DARE use that word in this house again”. I went to bed as the Chargers were driving down the field feeling it was over, only to be woken by my mother a few hours later, “If I EVER hear you use that word again you can move out”, “oh and they won by the way” she said. I leaped out of bed, racing to check online she wasn`t just getting back at me in the evil ways mothers can do, she was right!!
Years later and here I am again…
Another season, another failure. Who saw this coming? Not me! Ever since the Favre trade was announced I truly believed this was the year, this was the year my 22 years of suffering would end. So much so I ran down to the bookies that morning, knowing the Jets were 100-1 and put £10 laughing at them for not shortening the odds in time, HA! HA! HA! victory would be mine!
I almost bought a Favre jersey this year, so sure was I that he would lead us to that 32nd pick I nearly spent £70 on that jersey( thats about $12 on our current economy). In hindsight I`m glad I didn`t, it would be an almost embarrassment to wear now. Much like my #83 Moss and #10 Pennington shirts.
I was so certain it would be my year, I told everyone I knew.
At 8-3 what could go wrong? A soft schedule to end, and to spank those Dolphins already having won the division. I had no idea a collapse was on the cards, but still I believed, its a fairy tale isn`t it? The legendary Brett Favre on the Jets, his swan song to close the curtain on his career, to take my beloved New York Jets to the promised land and end the misery.
At the end of the game, as I watched Brett run through the tunnel I switched my TV off, if I knew where that betting slip was I`d take it outside burn it and stamp on the ashes, scoop up those ashes and flush them down the loo, (yes we do call it a “loo” over here). The season is done, my friend was supposed to be coming around tonight to watch his soccer team, but in my fury at this cruel end, I cancelled my TV sports package this morning, I don`t want to know anymore, and I called to cancel my subscription, he was not happy at all, I offered my sypmathy but sport has for me is over until August. “Don`t you want to watch the Superbowl” she said? NO I don`t, I just don`t care anymore.
Possibly the worst thing about it all is not having a sympathetic ear to listen over it all, as much as the NFL wants to push the game over here and play a game at Wembley stadium, its not a game that is talked about at all. Soccer is the game of Europe, and always will be, sure they can pat themselves on the back over almost filling Wembley stadium with a game but a day later no-one wants to talk about it. I can`t go down to my local pub and say to the guy sat down in the corner with his pipe, newspaper and mug of real ale and say “what did you think about the game last night?” “who do you think will win it all?” Not because I really don`t give a crap now but because no-one cares, no-one cares at all.
Well actually that isn`t true, during this year I`ve met the most wonderful person, someone who even though they know nothing of the game itself or sport in general found time to console me during last night, and take the time to learn about the Jets, and to become a shining light in a year of darkness and someone who I hope will be there for me throughout my suffering as a Jets fan and someone who I hope will be there when I can finally jump up and down and amongst my tears say “we did it!”
Elizabeth, you are just wonderful and I adore you..
Now Mangini is gone, I WANTED him to succeed, I really did. As I have every coach of this team, I want so badly to be watching late on that last Sunday of the year as my team has a chance to win it all and make me run out onto the streets screaming J-E-T-S!!!! and no-one having a clue what I am on about, I really won`t care who says what when it happens, because it WILL happen, of this I am so sure, I have had to much pain and suffering through life to not be granted a New York Jets Super Bowl victory and that is why I will put myself through it all again next season, and I know I`m not alone, we all share the same pain and wonder when it will happen.
I`m sure I speak for us all when I say we just love those JETS. Keep the faith! Discuss this with other Jets fans here.