This is the position most Jets Fans remember Boomer Esiason in.
With the upcoming football season still far off on the distant horizon I figured I could use this free time to try and explain how one becomes a fan of a franchise whose history is mired in broken dreams and heartache. Specifically how I could became a fan of the New York Jets when the years I started watching them in the early 90's were some of the most miserable in team history.
I don't have any memories of the "good ol' days" to look back on. I am too young to remember Namath doing anything but color commenting on preseason games and making an appearance on the Simpsons. The only time I saw Mark Gastineau was in a mug shot and not as part of the "New York Sack Exchange". I couldn't pick Bill Baird or Emerson Boozer out of a line up. The Freeman McNeil I know takes phone calls after every game on the radio. No. I have none of these players implanted into my memory banks. No heroics of Jet teams past for me.
My strongest memory comes in the form of a fake spike, which was the birth of a hatred for Dan Marino so deep that I actually root against the teams he picks every week on Inside The NFL. I hate him so much that I can never watch Ace Ventura. As far as I am concerned I should be allowed to take legal action against Dan Marino for pain and suffering caused by his act. Weren't the Jets winning this game? Didn't they have the lead in the third quarter? Was I foolish to bruise my hand punching the coffee table in disbelief and anger? Are any of these questions relevant anymore? Am I talking to myself?
I remember 1991 watching the Jets choke away a possible upset victory in their first playoff game in five years. Watching them in the fourth quarter try to move one lousy yard at the Houston three-yard line twice and failing miserably. I close my eyes and I can see Boomer Esiason on his back so many times you'd think he would just start the game from the ground. I remember Pete Carroll's short tenure and seeing that "I don't have a clue what I am doing" face the whole time he was here. I painfully remember the Rich Kotite years highlighted by Bubby Brister's shovel pass. I remember Neil O'Donnell losing all his nerve, coming to the Jets as damaged goods. I can recall putting all of my hopes on a career NFL back up from Boston College. I remember wondering to myself "How can this team have a back rush for 1,000 yards and only win one game?" I remember Parcells' first season where Leon Johnson and a raw Ray Lucas were entrusted with the playoff hopes of the team and crumbled under the pressure in Detroit. I remember 1998 in Denver where Keith Byars and company fumbled away the hopes of a Super Bowl appearance. I remember the season after with Vinny Testeverde crumpling to the ground on opening day and never being the same again. I can see and inept Rick Mirer replacing Vinny and being afraid to do anything on a football field. I can remember the 2000 season and still feel the chill of the rain as I sat in a stadium filled with all of the other hopeful fans as the Lions again defeated them because Al Groh coached the game not to lose. I also remember the hurt of Parcells, Groh and Bill Belichick walking out on us.
These memories burn in my head and are some of the strongest images I have of my short term as a Jets fan. So why do I love this team? Why do I live and die (mostly die) with a team that sets me up for a fall every time? Why do I put myself through the annual torture of watching while my team comes up short? Can't I just be a band wagoner and buy a new jersey every January? Better yet buy two; one for each team and wear the winning teams colors at the end of the Super Bowl. I doubt anyone would blame me. I could just say to them, "former Jets fan" and they would understand.
I guess I won't do that though. I will still bleed green and white. I will live and die every Sunday.
I will do so because of an un-drafted free agent named Chrebet who plays with more heart and toughness than any athlete I have ever seen. A local kid who became one of the best wide receivers in the game. He succeeds at this level not because of his speed or size but due to his tenacity and desire.
Maybe because one late afternoon surrounded by friends and fellow Jets fans at my local watering hole I watched a quarterback named Testaverde who was much-maligned throughout his career try and put an exclamation point on a historic season. A quarterback who outplayed a hall of famer while on the road in the biggest game of his life. Watching as he cut through the harsh cold Denver winds with near perfect passes.
Maybe because of a soft spoken running back named Martin that quietly has become the best in the league (this I will not argue). One who plays through pain and never says a word. A running back that has accomplished feats only previously matched by two other men considered legends.
Maybe I was drawn to this team thanks to a man named Parcells. Someone who is probably the greatest coach that football has had in the last twenty-five years. He reclaimed this team from the ashes and made them something worth rooting for again. A coach whose blueprint for success can still be felt on this team today.
Maybe because a rookie coach named Edwards convinced me he knew what had to be done to go to the next level. This same coach seems to have won me over with speeches delivered with such fervor and conviction in his voice that I can only laugh and agree with him.
I probably haven't cleared anything up or helped anyone understand what drives me to love this team. Let me try and put it this way:
I have this friend who lives in Boston. He was there during the Patriots Super Bowl victory. The way he described the sheer euphoria that enveloped the city of Boston that night seemed somewhat exaggerated.
Then I went there this summer to visit. We went on a historical tour of the city taking in the sites and listening to the stories about all of the events that had occurred there. About halfway through the tour the guide began to explain where the parade for the Patriots went. Then he told us about how large the crowd was. Then he told us what he did. Then where he was for the Super Bowl. He went on for fifteen minutes. Imagine hearing about Paul Revere one minute and then Tom Brady the next. It was that important.
I guess I felt a sort of kinship with the guide that day. The idea that for that one moment in time all those years of cheering and lamenting would pay off. The idea that your team, the one you lived and died with (and mostly died) finally reached the summit. They finally paid you back. The idea that the loyalty you showed them was worth it because they were champions. There was no more "wait till next year" because finally this was their year.
Well I guess I'll stick around because I always have that hope to hold onto that this is the year they get it done. This is their year to finally win it all. And if it isn't...well there is always next year.