I can sense the smug remarks. I can hear them before they’re spoken, and see them before they’re written. I can feel them in my bones! The average NFL fan has little respect for the New York Jets. Forty years without a Super Bowl appearance can do that to a team’s public appearance.
Acceptance and respect in professional sports is only garnered through victory. My New York Jets haven’t had a lot of that on a consistent basis. It’s even more difficult when the town looks to embrace the New York Giants and their history.
Calling Giants’ Stadium home, and posting green wallpaper around the sidelines on Sunday afternoons doesn’t help to classify my team. The Jets are New York’s other team.
To further elaborate on that point, the stranglehold the New England Patriots have had on the AFC East over the last six years hasn’t improved the Jets’ public profile much either.
With the, “What have you done for me lately?” nature of NFL fans, it’s completely inconsequential that the Jets have more wins than losses against the Patriots in nearly 50 years of competition.
Football fans should learn to appreciate the Jets more. Without “Broadway” Joe Namath’s charismatic persona, Super Bowl guarantee, and New York Jets’ victory, the NFL we have all grown to love would have never existed.
Competition between the AFL and the NFL was laughable as the Green Bay Packers stomped the Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders by substantial margins in the first two Super Bowls. Without the excitement Namath created leading up to that game, the merger was doomed for failure.
Throughout the seasons, I’ve learned a lot about camaraderie between absolute strangers, as told through the language of professional football.
In 2006, when the New York Jets were surprisingly successful, random fans would give the thumbs up, a smile, and sometimes a fist pump when I walked by with my Jets’ hat.
It’s an incredible feeling. This is New York City, where a stranger is sooner to spit on you than share a friendly moment of familiarity.
In 2007, when the team could barely scrape together a win, I felt the smirks. It was beyond paranoia. Football fans sneered at me disdainfully.
Yet, I remain. I’m the fan that wore a Jets’ jacket the day after the Giants’ won the Super Bowl. I made it my personal responsibility to remind everyone in New York City that we’re still here!
However, this relationship is what a marriage counselor would call unstable, and one-sided. The abundance of heartbreaks doled out by the New York Jets is almost criminal.
When you believe the team is on the verge of greatness, the football gods have different plans. These disasters have come in many forms throughout the years.
They have come in the form of the starting quarterback getting injured for the entire year early in the season. We’ve seen it happen to Vinny Testaverde after the 1998 12-4 campaign that ended with a loss to Denver in the AFC Championship game. Most recently, we’ve watched Chad Pennington succumb to injury at the most inopportune times.
They have come in the form of defensive phenoms being traded away because they no longer fit the defensive scheme that was installed by a new coach. Bill Parcells sent Hugh Douglas to the Philadelphia Eagles, where he ultimately became an All-Pro. John Abraham was sent to the Atlanta Falcons, and Jonathan Vilma is now a member of the New Orleans Saints.
They have come in the form of terrible drafts, with Kyle Brady being selected in favor of Warren Sapp, and Dan Marino being bypassed for Ken O’Brien. The Jets’ selection of Blair Thomas as the next great running back was also a monumental failure. Peyton Manning’s decision to stay in college because Parcells wouldn’t promise to make him the first overall draft selection in 1997 is another heart breaker.
They have come in the form of losing stars to arrogance in Keyshawn Johnson and Johnny Mitchell; and in the form of inept coaches in Pete Carroll and Rich Kotite.
They have come in the form of losing players to injury in Al Toon, Wayne Chrebet, and Curtis Martin. They have come in the form of getting superstar players on the back end of their careers, such as Brett Favre, Ronnie Lott, and Steve Atwater.
They have come in the form of Bill Belichick resigning after one day as the Head Coach before he was formally introduced. And instead of Bill Parcells doing the honorable thing and resuming control, he opts to hand the team to Al Groh and remain in a background capacity.
The average football fan would have mounted a new bandwagon at this point. They would have latched on to an alternate fan base until they could ultimately acclimate fully.
However, it’s the hope that keeps me going. The hope for Super Bowl glory drives me—because when it does happen, I will bask in the light longer than anyone else. I will shout louder, stomp harder, and applaud until my skin breaks in the name of my New York Jets.
The horror of losing that bond to an organization terrifies me. Watching football without the passion of wanting to see one team succeed is futile. It’s a rush more exhilarating than gambling, and more exciting than watching your fantasy team.
It’s the thrill of giving your heart to something, and watching it prevail.
Or knowing that the athletes you’re watching will suffer with you when it’s all said and done. So, I accept the criticism, and I tolerate the disdain. But I don’t mind it, because I’m in on the secret that every single New York Jets’ fan knows:
This is the best damn team in the NFL, and you’re wrong if you disagree.