Friday, September 08, 2006

Don't Need a Weatherman to Know Which Way the Wind Blows

The Prologue: The Good Lord smote the Sox, and declared of the JETS fans "Thy Faith Shall be rewarded (just not this year...or next)"

Before I get into the soon-to-unfold disaster that will be known as the New York Jets '06-'07 season, let's talk a little baseball.

The Sermon: One Last Hail Mary, Sunday Mornings Coming Down, Hope Springs Eternal (and more Mixed Metaphors)

For the masochists out there: what will it take over the next 10 Days for the Red Sox Season to mean anything? During the next stretch of games the Sox season will almost certainly become a total and utter disaster. One losing series to the Royals or Orioles, and/or a sweep in the Bronx will spell the OFFICIAL end. For the believers out there, who refuse to admit a season is over just because 3/5 of your starting rotation has never won 2 games in a row in the Major Leagues, there is still hope. It comes in the form of a schedule that, on paper, favors the Olde Town Team. However, a thing on paper doesn't always translate well to a thing in reality. So, yes, on paper, there is hope. To wit, schedules over the next 10 days:

The Walking Wounded: 3 v. KC; 3 @ BAL; 4 @ NYY
Hawk Harrelson's "Best Team in Baseball" (According to a July WEEI interview) : 3 v. CLE; 3 @ LAA; 3 @ OAK
The Dizygotics (Johan Santana and Boof Bonser? Decidedly NOT identitical) : 3 v. DET; 3 v. OAK; 4 @ CLE

So that's it. The question is, can the Red Sox score some runs? If so, it isn't outrageous to think they can sweep the Royals at home, take 2 of 3 in Bal-a-mer, and split a series in NY (with Schilling and Knuckles back in the rotation.) During that same stretch, you have to root for the West to take 4 of the 6 from Chicago; Cleveland to play like the team everyone thought they'd be in March; and just pray that Ron Gardenhire remembers he is Ron Gardenhire and gives away two to Dee-Twah, and lets his team get beat and possibly swept in OAK (Santana won't be pitching, so its a possibility.) If all of that happens the Sox can be in striking distance when they play the Twins in a week and a half. So that's it. Not gonna happen. Final records? I don't know. Try these:

Twins (WC): 94-68
CWS: 92-70
Pawtucket: 86-76

The worst thing my uncle ever did to me...isn't what you think. Christmas, 1994, football was on at my grandparents and, being 12, I didn't really understand much. I knew Dallas was good, I knew Barry Sanders was a (GREAT) running back. I think I knew Boomer Esiason was a Quarterback, whose job was (supposed to be) to throw the ball to his recievers. That's about it. Oh, I also knew the Jets sucked. To the point where my typically calm and quiet uncle was known to burst into a tirade of profanities while the rest of us quietly scraped our forks against our plates, and chewed our ham, all secretly embarassed for the maniac in the TV room wearing a hideous green jersey, yelling things like: "Why are you throwin' the ball to Ryan Fuckin' Yarborough? Godammit, Pete Carroll, you will NEVER win a game that counts!" (the Jets record at the time? 6-9. It was indeed "a game that counts.") That offseason, for whatever reason, I simply decided I was going to be a Jets fan. I think it was a joke at first. Or maybe it was because for all his yelling and frustration, my Uncle Fred seemed to be the only person at family Christmas who was actually enjoying himself. It's like he got a sick satisfaction out of losing. It allowed him to vent all the frustration that builds up around these ceremonial family gatherings. The rest of us held it all in during an awkward meal filled with small talk, and obvious avoidance of discussions involving politics, culture, or the fact that it was my father's fault (along with Joe Namath and John Lennon) that Fred tunred out this way. Meanwhile Fred could take it all out on Adrienne Murrel or Fred Baxter. Seemed like fun.

I mention all this, not because I feel it necessary to relive the awkward moments of Schmidt family Christmases, but because it is essential to understanding this generation of Jets fans: we were "born" losers. That is to say we came to the Jets at a time when hope was lost. We chose a team knowing full-well that we would be disappointed by them for years to come. Almost every Jets fan between 20 and 30 I have ever spoken to started rooting for the Jets as a joke or "because it was too easy to root for the Giants." One co-worker, who is slightly older than me, told me he started rooting for the Jets because in 1990 he was a Penn State fan, and when they drafted Blair Thomas, he decided since the Jets were just as close as the Giants, he would switch allegiances so he could root for a home town team AND Blair Thomas. Blair Thomas and the Jets. I've never seen this guy crack a smile. Essentially, all young Jets fans, like myself and my miserable co-worker, picked a loser. ON PURPOSE. Fans are sick people. Jets fans, in particular, are really sick people. We had a choice between perennial winners, and perennial punch-lines. We chose the agony. It's in our nature. In September of '95 a classmate offered to bring Brian and me to all of the Jets home games. His dad worked for M&M Mars, where his co-worker was a season ticket holder. Seaon-Ticket-holder guy's wife had terminal cancer. He gave us his tickets. In other words, the desire to escape from awful family gatherings and bond with my semi-normal uncle made me a casual Jets fan. Terminal cancer made me a fanatic. See where I am going with this? For the next six years of my life I attended almost every single home game. I merrilly chanted "Kotite Sucks" while they lost all but one in 1996. I booed Neil O'Donnell. I cheered on Vinny Testaverde while the Jets trounced the Jaguars in the playoffs in January, '99. I thought Chad Pennington was the next Joe Montana. Then, I made my dad a fanatic-by-proxy. He was forced to root for the Jets because for the last ten years a Jets loss almost certainly meant the inevitability of thrown breakable objects (or from Freshman year of college on, a drunken voicemail rant where I would threaten to drop out of school if Paul Hackett was not fired by Monday morning.) I became obsessive. I fully expected this team (which I picked because they were a bunch of losers) to actually start winning. Every single Sunday. I was an irrational fan. I was uncle Fred.

Enough with the credentials. The point is, for the last 10 years of my life (since 1997) I have been convinced that each year was "The Year." Whether the experts had them winning the division or going 8-8, I always had private reasons why the Jets could be the best team in the NFL. I always had hope. This year is hopeless. This year is beyond hopeless. It's the kind of year you wish you could fast forward. Our QB is a corpse. Our best offensive threat played all of last year like he was still suffering from flash backs of the things his family members did to him (much worse than making him a Jets fan) and our most exciting young stud is an offensive linemen. Try getting excited about a great play by an offensive linemen. Unless your name is John Madden, it can't be done. Seriously, try it. So what's a fan to do? I'll tell you what. Root, and root hard. For the other team. A 6-10 team is painful to watch (and doesn't provide nearly the comedic value of a 1-15 team.) A 1-15 team provides hope. Next year has to be better, and the year after that, with all your young top picks coming of age will be even better than that. If this team can be the 1996 Jets, then there is hope that in 2 or 3 years, they can be a contender. And hoping for something better is what being a Jets fan is all about. Just Ask the guy who sat behind us all those years (see the image of hope-personified, above.)

Epilogue: Take 'er easy, dude!

So in the end there just isn't much for all you Sox/Jets fans--errr, me--to root for. It's going to be a long autumn, but a good one. Sometimes the world is slightly bigger than sports. Plenty of time to enjoy the changing leaves, read some books, and get to know my new neighborhood. Plenty of time to focus on the Hot Stove season, College football (wait I'm focusing on sports, again.) Plenty of time to mentally prepare for this year's family Christmas. Where for once, Fred and I will be glad to watch the Jets lose.


At 8:28 AM, Blogger Brian said...

Ah, jesus dude, that was a great post. Endearingly nostalgic and nihilistic at the same time. Following the Jets is both horrifying and sublime, always. Carmine would most definitely be proud to have his picture atop this post.

At 10:19 PM, Blogger jake said...

Please. You know nothing of what it is to suffer. Observe:

1992-1997: A young Jake has to watch his beloved Vikings lose six straight first round playoff games, with Denny Green finding more and more creative ways to blow the season.

1998: BREAKTHROUGH! The vikings go 15-1, seemingly on there way to a sure superbowl birth. Pubescent Jake smiles long and wide through his braces as Randy Moss streaks down sideline after sideline.

Atlanta comes into the dome for the NFC Championship as heavy underdogs. Nursing a 27-20 lead, Vikings kicker Gary Anderson (WHO HAS NOT MISSED A KICK ALL YEAR! NOT ONE KICK!) Blows a 38 yard field goal. The Falcons tie the game as time expires with a Chris Chandler touchdown pass, and win in overtime.

1999: Vikings get obliterated to the Rams in the second round of the playoffs as Randy Moss squirts an official and gets ejected from the game.

2000: Back in the championship game, the Vikings play at NY Giants. My roomate Jordan Becker is a die hard giants fan. The Vikings get scored on to start the game, fumble the ensuing kickoff, get scored on again, throw an interception on the next play, and get scored on again. They're down 17-0 after 3 minutes, and eventually lose 41-0. I'm forced to wake up every morning for the rest of the year and stare at a Sports Illustrated cover that reads simply "41-0" with a picture of a liquored up Kerry Collins giving the "No.1" sign.

2001-2002: The Dark Years. Denny Green decides he doesn't want to try anymore as the Vikings go a combined 11-21.

2003: After starting out 6-0, Mike Tice realizes he's Mike Tice and leads the Vikings to six losses in their next nine games. Still, the Vikings can win the division with a simple win at the worst team in the league-Arizona. With the Vikings up by six and 3 seconds left on the clock the following happens:

Josh Mccown drops back to pass, can't find anyone, and sprints straight to the sidelines, where he a launches a desperation 40 yard heave downfield, which Arizona receiver Nate Poole catches in the corner of the end zone, while managing to get both feet in bounds. Jake is forced to sit through a 10 minute review, where the call eventually stands. In one play the Vikings lose the division title, miss the playoffs, and allow the arch-rival Packers to make the playoffs. The TV cuts immediately to Lambeau Field, where word has just come in and the packers and their fans celebrate joyously on the field.

2005: The Vikings are the embarassment of the league as the love boat scandal ruins the season.

You have no idea what my people have been through.

At 7:18 AM, Blogger g.m.s. said...

yeah...but at least you had the love-boat scandal. I'd trade Brooks Bollinger for one loveboat scandal any day of the week, and twice on Sunday. Speaking of Brooks, how does he look in purple?


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