Suffering Jets fans want only one thing
You are a Jets fan, and maybe you go back to the Polo Grounds, the way 83-year-old Arthur Pollard does: “They were lousy when they were called the Titans. I really should’ve taken that as an omen,” Pollard wrote this week in an email.
Maybe you go back to 1968, to the Orange Bowl, to Namath and Snell and Maynard and Sauer, to Gerry Philbin and Johnny Sample, to Weeb Ewbank and a sliver in time when there was no other team on earth you’d rather root for.
“The ’68 Jets,” ex-WFAN radio personality Joe Benigno once told me, “still make me smile, even with all the garbage that’s come afterward.”
Maybe you only go back as far as Bill Parcells and the near-miracle he pulled off at the end of the 1990s, or as far back as Rex Ryan and all his blustery, boastful belligerence, when he tried his best to quash decades of despair by talking over it.
Maybe you only go back 10 years or so, in which case the only question is: How have you maintained your sanity?
You are a Jets fan, and so you suffer and bleed now. You try not to throw things at the television when you hear your latest head coach, Robert Saleh, say that his kid quarterback, Zach Wilson, looked terrific in practice during the week before the Jets were whitewashed in Denver, 26-0.
You wonder if Jets coaches do this specifically to haunt your dreams. Adam Gase did that quite a lot the past two years. Rich Kotite used to insist every week that his guys played hard, as if that were consolation to anyone, let alone the fans. Even Ryan’s act grew a little thin after a while, when his team’s performance fell short of his expectations.
You are a Jets fan, and there are times you and your tailgate pals must fantasize channeling Peter Valentine, Ron Freiman, Morris Spielberg and Arthur Milne. Those four should be household names among football fans around here, for they were the ones who rented The Plane.
It was 1978. An angry-fan consortium called the “Committee Against Mara Insensitivity to Giants Fans” had gathered and agreed to urge fans to come to Giants Stadium, burn their tickets, and they’d send the embers and the ashes to Wellington Mara. It was Milne who decided to up the ante after that: “Let’s fly a plane over the stadium.”
And so for the grand cost of $236.50, the skies of North Jersey were treated to the forever site of a plan tugging a sign: “15 years of lousy football …we’ve had enough!”\
A few years ago, during another lost Jets season, I reached out to Valentine.
“I’m not a Jets fan,” he said, “but maybe all of that would be worth it for some Jets fan to hire a plane. It’s been a long, long time for them. You know?”
You are a Jets fan. You know. You’re tempted. But you also try to be reasonable. All you want is to be able to go to MetLife Stadium, or tune in to the Jets-Titans game on TV, and not feel the pit growing in your stomach. All you want is to be able to watch your football team without wondering how it will embarrass you this week.
Is that a lot to ask?
It shouldn’t be a lot to ask.
“Other teams lose their share,” Pollard wrote. “But just losing is never enough for us.”
Maybe this will be the week. Maybe this will be the game. Maybe the Jets will surprise the Titans, and surprise you, too. Maybe this will be the week the offensive line protects Wilson, and maybe this will be the week Wilson gives you a surge of hope that better days are ahead for everyone, but especially him. It’s really all you want. You hate to admit it, but you don’t even need the Jets to actually win the game.
Although that would be nice, too.
You are a Jets fan and you keep telling yourself there will one day be a payoff for all the patience, justice for all the accumulated misery. You don’t even dare to dream what that will feel like when it happens. Faith is easier to follow quietly. All you want is something: a morsel, a crumb, confetti of hope. Maybe this week. Maybe this game.