Monday, December 1, 2008

We Believe They Can Fly

I was going to write about watching one of my kids cratering at school and jeopardizing his future, but that's too miserable a topic to delve into. So, on to the New York Jets, equally traumatic, but less personal.

I've been thinking about how certain organizations have, or don't have, that certain something. I had ringside tickets at Wrigley Field for a decade, and there was something about the Cubs' futility that was constant, even while ownership changed, new front office people were brought in, hot managers picked up and players rotated. While it's empirically true that Alfonso Soriano has no connection to, say, the '69 Cubs, it is also a fact that the Cubs, in some metaphysical sense, are all of a piece. Whether it's the 2008 team certain to vanquish past demons, or the 1989 team certain to vanquish past demons, or the 1984 team certain to vanquish past demons, it all ends up following the same pattern from Aramis Ramirez to Keith Moreland.

On to the Jets. I was just a boy when Namath led the New Yorkers to their Super Bowl III victory over the Colts, but that moment had a lasting effect, so much so that our third son is named Joe Willie. It's easy to forget that after that January 1969 triumph the Jets were the odds on favorite to continue as champs for the next 2-3 years. I have pre-season books from that era that pick the Jets, albeit with the caveat that Namath had to be healthy. He almost always wasn't. From this point on, the Jets followed an eerily similar pattern of horrible play, but with just enough big victories or successful seasons to give the average fan hope.

Watching the Chiefs game a few weeks back at the home of a friend, it was all unfolding as predicted. Here they were, with a Hall of Fame QB who was clearly not enthused about playing for the white and green, struggling to beat a terrible K.C. squad. As they eked this one out, I turned to my host and said, "You'll see. They'll play great against the tough teams and, once they have you believing in them, they'll crush you." And so it proceeded, starting with a solid win over Buffalo, a crushing of the Rams, and impressive wins vs. New England and Tennessee. They're cruising now, Favre looks great, who can beat them, and on and on. Time to start booking the flight to Tampa Bay for the Super Bowl.

Of course, playing at home to a mediocre Broncos' club should have been a cakewalk, but, remember, these are the New York Jets. They are not to be trusted and for good reason. They proceeded to get whomped. There are only four weeks to go, a pretty easy schedule, but you just know they will limp into the playoffs. They will win the first game they play. They will convince the doubting public. Then they will get destroyed by a clearly inferior team in the next game.

I'll watch, but with a lot of detachment. I stopped investing emotionally in this franchise in late 1980 when they lost to the Browns by a field goal. That was my last Jet-induced stomach ache. To you die-hards, I wish you well.

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