As the first post to this blog I thought the best place to begin would be to discuss what it means to be a New York Jets fan. While it may be simple to define what exactly a ‘fan’ is, we Jets fans have a far more complicated relationship with our team then the word allows. Dramatic irony be damned, hope springs eternal on Woody Johnson’s brow. Having seen failure at every turn we give in to our anger, at once comforted by the hope of the preseason but confident enough in our knowledge of history to be assured of a good draft pick come spring. The struggle is masochistic; a perversion, but a pleasure nonetheless.
The nature of our relationship to the Jets is paradigmatically different then New Yorkers have with their other sports teams. There is a requisite level of expectation that comes along with rooting for a team in this city. The Yankees success is well recorded, the Giants are one of the flagship organizations of the NFL and the Knickerbockers and Rangers have had their days in the sun. Even the New York Metropolitans have tasted the sweet nectar of victory. Our pride is built off an entirely different foundation.
What do we as Jets fans have? We have the struggle. Founded in 1960 as the New York Titans, the team has managed only a .448 winning percentage in the last 48 years, a number remarkable only in its inadequacy. When I compare the Jets’ success to the highs of the Yankees and the Giants a dull throb of pain starts to grow in my temple. This number begs the question—how does a team, in a league which prides itself on parity, consistently produce so poorly? The question has myriad well documented answers. A long history of draft failure, terrible coaching (see: Rich Kotite), the ignominy of playing in a stadium named after another team etcetera, etcetera. Our failures cut a wide breadth; our disappointments are always around the next corner.
However, to say that we have built our ‘fandom’ from failure does not give us enough credit. To better explain this point we must turn to the draft. Draft day demonstrates all sides of a Jets fan. The single best commentary on the Jets on draft day ever written comes from an espn.com article:
‘With the No. 16 selection, I mock ... all those who mock New York Jets…fans. Yeah, they're nuts. You got a problem with that? There is no better draft-day highlight than seeing the utter despair and anger on the faces of Jets…fans after their teams make a selection. It doesn't matter who gets picked."
This statement sums up all that it means to be a Jets fan. Draft day stands as a beacon of hope for most teams, and this is no different for the Jets. But for us it is also an opportunity to publicly voice our displeasure, embodied by the ‘boo’ (and we boo for good reason, check out this video: Jets Draft Day Blunders). The video and the draft is a perfect microcosm of our lives. While Radio City is packed with fans in green and white, we vehemently question our team’s choices at every turn. We are all too prepared to show our love and our hate for the organization. When we draft we expect a player that will produce and we know enough to question the choices that the organization makes. We heckle because we need to win, even though we don’t. We don’t need to win in a little brother inferiority complex kind of way, but because we expect to win-- even in the face of history.
I can’t help but be proud of this insanity. Looking back at last season’s halftime fair well celebration for Curtis Martin I see proud, pissed off fans. While the event was supposed to be a commemoration on the career of the truly great running back, the cheers for the player were intermingled with choruses of heckling with any mention of former coaches, players and administrative brass. No forgiving, no forgetting, no quarter for those who have slighted us.
I suppose that this is the best way to describe our relationship with the team. Cliché though it may be, we at once love the Jets while simultaneously hating them. We have no choice but too. We have developed a great deal of passion and camaraderie characterized by our boos. We are not complacent, nor do we expect anything less then a winning squad. We are fatalistic in our analysis of each successive season and unforgiving as a whole. We come back every year, roses in one hand and thorns in the other.
The life of a Jets fan is a struggle. We are not Giants fans; we are not Chiefs fans swimming in an idiotic ‘sea of red’. We are a proud group and a complicated group, willing to vocalize our discontent and our pleasure concurrently. There is a degree of insanity in our passion. Just as it takes a great deal of courage and skill to sit on a drunken man’s shoulders and pantomime the letters J-E-T-S, so does it take the same courage and skill to cheer and hiss in the same breath. There are no fans like Jets fans and no place like the Meadowlands on a Sunday. Now with the beginning of mini-camps I must return once again to my beloved ritual. I put on my jersey and my hat and get ready to expect the worst. But I bleed green and white no matter what.