I had the pleasant luck to be born in the early 1980s, which means that I never got to see Joe Namath play for the Jets except in archive footage. No Super Bowl guarantee for me. I had to make do with Ken O'Brien.
I got to watch The Jets go 6-9, 8-7-1, and 4-12 during my formative years between 1987 and 1989.
Even when the team followed up that run with 6-10, 8-8, 4-12, and 8-8 seasons, did I give up and stop watching? No.
The reason why is simple—my grandfather.
He had worked for the NYPD for 25 years and then took his pension and ran. He ended up working as a security guard at Hofstra University in the early '80s. Hofstra, for those that don't know, is where the Jets have their training camp and practice facility.
Every couple weeks over the summer—whenever I'd see him—my grandfather had another piece of Jets memorabilia for me. Sometimes it was nothing special—a new team photo, a team roster, or just a new team hat. Sometimes he'd have something a little more rare for me—like the time he bumped into Joe Namath in the lunchline and ended up with an autographed football.
Or the time he had to give Ken O'Brien's car a jumpstart in the parking lot and had a ball signed by both the quarterback and Al Toon. Whatever the gift was, I treasured them all deeply.
I remember spending hours staring at the Jets' training camp roster and trying to memorize the names, jersey numbers, positions, and colleges of every player on it. All this at just eight years old.
I liked my grandfather a lot, don't get me wrong, but we just had nothing in common—except for the Jets. We could both sit and watch a game and both yell at Ken O'Brien for taking a sack again, and again, together.