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Tantalizingly Close: The Anatomy of a New York Jets Fan

Mike GurnisContributor IJune 9, 2009

NEW YORK - APRIL 26:  Fans of the New York Jets cheer thier teams first round draft pick during the 2008 NFL Draft on April 26, 2008 at Radio City Music Hall in New York, New York.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

It all started on a Sunday afternoon in September of 1998.

I had just turned eight years old, and I was going through a time in my life when sports became my life. It's about the age where you start to comprehend sports, and for me, an obsession was born. At that point, I pretty much rooted for whatever teams my parents rooted for.

My Mom occasionally rooted for the Jets, and my dad didn't really have a team, so the Jets became my favorite after I decided I was going to follow football that year.

If only I had known what I was getting myself into.

The Jets stumbled out of the gate that year, starting out 0-2. But then, an injury to Jets starting quarterback, Glenn Foley, led to the starting job going to journeyman Vinny Testaverde.

Testaverde went on to lead the Jets to a 12-4 record, and their first AFC East championship in over thirty years. He led a team that many refer to as one of the best Jets teams of all-time. 

That year, I had witnessed my Yankees pull off a 114 win regular season, and breeze through the playoffs to win the World Series. So at that age, I was under the impression that the Jets would breeze through and win the Super Bowl.

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They furthered that belief by beating Jacksonville in the divisional round. The next stop on the road to the Super Bowl was a date with legendary Quarterback John Elway and the Denver Broncos

Sure enough, late in the third quarter, the Jets held a 10-0 lead.  There was no doubt in my little, young mind that the Jets were going to face the Atlanta Falcons in the Super Bowl. 

Of course then a barrage of New York turnovers led to 23 unanswered points by the Broncos, and the Jets went on to lose 23-10, breaking my heart.

Little did I know it would be the first heartbreak of many.

The next season, in 1999, I thought for sure, "This is the year." Sure enough, the first game of the season, Testaverde wnt down with an achilles injury, and was finished for the year. The Jets still played well, though, but an 8-8 record was not enough to do anything. 

In 2000, the Jets tantalized me yet again. The Jets pulled off a miracle comeback against the Miami Dolphins on Monday Night Football, turning a 30-point defecit into a victory. New York was cruising along, and then suddenly they collapsed after winning that game.

In 2002, the Jets started out slow, and sure enough, Chad Pennington became the quarterback a few games in. He instantly turned the Jets around, as they finished 9-7, and won the AFC East in the last game of the season by blowing out Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers, 42-17. 

The next week, they beat up on Peyton Manning and the Colts in similar fashion, 41-0. But then a trip to Oakland to face the Raiders was yet another tantalizing moment.

It was a tie game—10-10 at halftime. But once again, the Jets collapsed. Turnovers and twenty unanswered points added up to a 30-10 Raiders win—also equaling more heartbreak for me.

But possibly the biggest heartbreak of all came in 2004.

Chad Pennington, yet again, led the Jets to the playoffs and had pulled off an unbelievable playoff victory the week before against San Diego. The Jets were facing the 15-1 Pittsburgh Steelers, and were considered heavy underdogs. Somehow, New York hung with them, and had a shot. 

But a man, that I will only name just this once, ruined it all.

His name was Doug Brien.

Much like Scott Norwood of the Buffalo Bills missing a Super Bowl winning kick in the early 90's, Doug Brien did something so terrible that we ended up drafting a kicker in the second round of the following draft, because we refused to allow him to choke like that again.

Two potential game-winning field goals, and two misses. The Steelers went on to win in overtime. We would've been one game away from the Super Bowl.

Then of course in 2008, we Jets fans were fooled once again. We were all going crazy over the mid-training camp acquisition of legendary quarterback Brett Favre.

A great defense, and a good offense led by Favre, brought the Jets to an 8-3 record, and they were coming off two big wins. First, an overtime thriller against our rival the Patriots, and then a blowout victory over the previously-undefeated Tennessee Titans.

After that, everyone was annointing the Jets as the best AFC team, a sure AFC East champion, and possibly a Super Bowl-bound team.

Sure enough, the Jets stumbled down the stretch once again, going 1-4 in the last five games, and failed to even make the playoffs. 

People often ask me, "How on earth do you do it?" Well, being a Jets fan sure isn't an easy thing. Things always look good, but then come crashing down in a heartbeat.

It's a good life lesson—that nothing is ever certain in life, not just as a Jets fan. 

But what fuels me to never give up on my team is that there is always hope. When we blow the game in the end after having a big lead, what matters is that we had the shot.

It's always my belief, that one day, whether it be next year or thirty years from now, I'll be at a Super Bowl party with some friends. And at that Super Bowl Party, I'll be cheering on my Jets for the first time ever.

No matter how bad things go, you can never take the Jets away from me.

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