Another Lost Sunday in New York: A Jets Fan's Tale

Patrick SchusterCorrespondent IApril 7, 2008

Will this be the season? Can we win this week? Hope abounds upon us every summer when teams get to training camp. This is not a unique feeling for Jet fans. Every fan has vision of the late January game where we may be we could win the big one. As a Jets fan, the cynicism sets in pretty early. We already know we do not have a chance to win it all. We just do not know how the season will play out and what this year’s disappointment will be. Could it be an injury? Could it be a bad play, a bad call, or just lack of talent? Could it be we were good all year and miss a field goal in the playoffs? One way or another we have answered, yes to each of these questions. Through out my years this is how the football season has gone for a Jets fan.

When I was a kid, Sunday was my single mother’s only day off, so she would plop me in front of the television and let the NFL act as my babysitter. At the time, I did not understand all the rules of the game, but would still sit transfixed, my mind analyzing the patterns of movement. I do not know when I decided, but the Jets have always been my favorite football team. My father was also a Jets fan, and I likely adopted them as my favorite team to lessen the distance between us.

Like the host of this site, Pat, my earliest Super Bowl Memory is that of the Raiders and Eagles. I rooted for the Eagles because of their green and white team uniforms, which were similar to my beloved Jets.

I would also spend the occasional Sunday at my father’s house cheering for the Jets with him. The most memorable game I watched with him had to be the 1986 Dan Marino/Ken Obrien Shoot out. The final score 51-45 in overtime. The joy of that game still lives with me today. That was one of only a very few early highlights as a fan of the Jets.

If I could sum up my long-term relationship with the Jets, it would be one of weekly heartbreak. Each year, the Jets give me just enough hope to keep me watching, with that faint whisper that maybe this year could be the big one. And, every year without fail, the Jets break my heart, often getting “this close” to winning that crucial playoff game, only to blow it in the end.

To further understand my dysfunctional relationship with the Jets, you also have to take into account the other famous New York Team: the Giants. Growing up in New York, you are either a Jets or a Giants fan. Often, there is some overlap in the fan alliances, and you root for the Mets and Jets, or Yankees and Giants. These alliances can make or break friendships, turning neighbor against neighbor in a yearlong frenzy of smack talk.

I believe the difference between a Giants fan and a Jets fan comes down to age. The Giants have been around longer than the Jets, so some New York fans have had season tickets since the before I was even alive. This is your standard “Andy Rooney” type who goes to every game. The Jets fan base is considerably younger. The Jets have not accomplished anything significant in a long time, and old fans have given up their season tickets. However, as Jet fans we still holding out hope for that one great year.

I have a group of friends who are Jets season ticket holders, and while I have never purchased season tickets myself, I have had occasion to attend a few games. One weekend, there will be terrible weather during an even worse season, and one of my friends will offer me their seat. At the games I do attend, there are always diehard fans who insist “there are only eight of these games a year,” and imply that you are less of a fan if you let a little thing like weather or a losing season keep you from your seat.

The Jets failure to win the big games makes New Yorkers regard them as the Giants’ uncoordinated little brother. Around 1986, after the Jets had been in Giants stadium for a couple of years and the Giants won the first of three super bowls is when this started to become evident. Of course, the Giants 2008 Superbowl victory solidified the Jets status as merely second best. The inner conflict I felt as I watched as the Jets mortal enemy (Patriots), Bill Belichek (former HC of the NYJ) compete for a Super Bowl and for the Giants to win yet another Superbowl. Congratulations, Big Brother!

A few years ago, after another particularly tough autumn Sunday evening, I heard the perfect comment about the Jets as a franchise. As I lay in my bed listening to sports radio the over night radio personality who is an even longer suffering Jets fan, only because he is older than I am. I was anxious to hear his comments of another forgettable loss.

“Do not let your kids grow up to be Jets Fans,” his voice warned. “If you love your children, you will not saddle them with this weekly heartbreak.” He went on and on with the analogies and the list of failures was endless.

A couple of years later, it looked like the Jets were turning it around, and I called and asked that same radio personality if he still felt that way. He backed off on his earlier comments, but he would likely be back to agreeing with his statements after this past dismal season.

One of my biggest complaints over the years would be while watching a game I would see a highlight of a previous Jet doing something big for another team. The Aaron Glenn’s, the Kyle Brady’s and even the Hugh Douglas’s of the world. They leave here and play for ten more years, or at least it seems that way to me. The reason this has happened is because the Jets would have a bad year, change coaches and this or that player would not become a priority of the new staff. The player in question does not fit our system.

This previous complaint is not only specific to the Jets. There are so many coaching changes that this happens quite often in the NFL. When a player does not fit your new coaches system, they clean house and have 20 or more new players on their roster. The coaches of today are very stubborn in their control of every detail. Changing their philosophy is not an option to them. To the ordinary fan, we say why don’t we try this or that. Like run a 4-3 instead of a 3-4 if you do not have the NT or the Linebackers to run this system. I am sorry this player does not fit your system, but your job as a coach is to make the best of the players you have. If you do not have the players to run a system, run a system that will help your players succeed.

The draft is a month away, and the hope is starting to creep in. Will all these off-season moves pay off, will we get a big time player in the draft? Who will start this year Chad or Kellen? As the months go on I will try and put these events into words for your enjoyment.

Stories to look forward to

I will try and explain the Philadelphia sports fan from an outsiders perspective. Since I moved to Philadelphia a year ago the attitude and hunger for a title is evident.
Fantasy sports has become huge in the past ten years. I have some inside knowledge to this phenomenon as I have become quite fantasy scout.

The system coach, and lack of desire to adapt to the players he has.