By MICHAEL FAIRLIE //
Being that I have been a Jets fan since my early childhood in the late 1970’s, it is needless to say that I have experienced my share of heartbreaking, gut-wrenching disasters, on countless Sundays, throughout the years. There is a seemingly endless list of disappointments that I, and so many others unfortunate enough to be passionate about the Jets, have endured over the past three plus decades of NFL action.
Year after year, we have been let down on countless occasions, by regime after regime. We have been built up only to be knocked down by the inevitable wrecking ball of dreadful destiny.
There was the miraculous magic act of A.J. Duhe, making three of Richard Todd’s passes vanish into obscurity along with the Jets’ Super Bowl aspirations, on the excessively rain-soaked turf of the Orange Bowl back in January of 1983.
And who can forget that time back in 1994, when the 6-5 Jets were thirty seconds away from defeating the Dolphins? That was until Dan Marino faked the spike, essentially driving a dagger into the team and their fans’ hearts, sending them on a tailspin that would end in a 6-10 record and Pete Carroll looking for a new job after only one season at the helm.
How about that fascinating finale to the 1997 season, in which the 9-6 Jets were well on their way to a Wild Card berth, jumping out to an early 10-0 lead against the Lions? Then, of course, we had that wonderful halfback option pass to the endzone by Leon Johnson that ended up in the claws of a Lion, as did the game by the final score of 13-10.
Another true gem in our collection of catastrophe would have to be the entire two seasons with perplexed pilot Rich Kotite in charge. The Bad News Jets rattled off a whopping total of four victories during that sensational stretch.
Even our younger generation of Jets faithful have had their fair share of miserable Mondays, courtesy of Gang Green. Enjoying a promising 17-13 halftime lead in the AFC Championship Game against the Colts, our Jets laid an egg in the second half, finishing with a 30-17 loss.
If that wasn’t enough, the Jets defeated Peyton Manning’s Colts and Tom Brady’s Patriots on the road to make it back to the AFC Championship the next season against the Steelers. The only problem is that the Jets forgot to show up for the game until it was already too late. After falling behind 24-0, the Jets battled hard in the second half, only to come up short in the end, suffering a 24-19 loss.
Oh yeah, we also have that beautiful Butt-fumble on Thanksgiving night of 2012, against “everyone’s favorite,” the New England Patriots, who dismantled our Jets to the tune of 49-19.
And as much as I would like to put it behind me, we have this season’s rollercoaster ride which started out at 4-1, evened out at 5-5, and ended with five straight victories heading into Week 17, with a victory guaranteeing the team’s first trip to the playoffs in five years. Going against a Rex Ryan led, bewildered Buffalo Bills team, the Jets came up empty, dropping the season finale 22-17 (identical to the Week 10 score against Buffalo).
I could write an entire book to address all of the debacles bestowed upon us by the New York Jets, but I think I have already assisted you in reliving enough of the horror. It goes without saying that this team has been a constant source of anguish for anyone who bleeds green and white.
Just in case the repulsive resume of agonizing defeats alone is not enough to turn your stomach, the media has relentlessly mocked the Jets over the years, which is a strategy that was enthusiastically embraced by those who cover the team locally.
So many of my Sundays have been spent screaming bloody murder at my television screen, utilizing a voluminous vocabulary of brutal expletives that I will not dare to repeat at this time. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have thrown my hat across the room in disgust, along with various other objects.
Those sorrowful Sundays have so often turned into melancholy Mondays, and on several occasions throughout the years I have vowed to never again allow myself to be sucked in and spit out by this team. Yet I am still here, wearing my green and white heart on my sleeve.
The funny thing about all of the trauma and misery that we have withstood is that it is nothing in comparison to the plight of fans of some of the other teams in the league. Imagine being a fan of the Cleveland Browns, a team that has had two winning seasons since coming back to the NFL in 1999.
The Browns have been to the playoffs once in that time, losing 36-33 to the Pittsburgh Steelers, in a 2002 AFC Wild Card game. They have NEVER been to a Super Bowl or even anywhere close to one in a very long time. They even went without a team for a few years, which may have actually been a blessing in disguise at the time.
If the horrible history of the Browns is not enough to alleviate some of your self-pity, try being a Detroit Lions fan. The team has only been to the playoffs 10 times in the past 56 years, winning one playoff game in that stretch … in 1991. After that win in the NFC Divisional Playoff game, the Lions had their doors blown off by the Washington Redskins by the score of 41-10.
They also suffered through an 0-16 season in 2008. Barry Sanders, one of the greatest running backs of all time, abruptly retired just prior to the 1999 season. And just the other day, Calvin “Megatron” Johnson, one of the most dynamic Wide Receivers to ever play the game, has announced that he is planning on retiring.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have had a total of six winning seasons since their inception in 1995 and have not had more than 8 wins in a season since 2007. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers did win a Super Bowl in 2002, which is much more recent than the Jets last Super Bowl victory, but they have had quite a track record of futility over the years. The team has had eight winning seasons in 40 years and have not made the playoffs since 2007, when they lost 24-14 to the Giants in a wild card game.
There is absolutely no doubt that being a fan of the New York Jets can be an incredibly difficult undertaking, leading to sorrow and heartache on more occasions than I care to elaborate on. Not making it to the playoffs in the last five years after the team went to back-to-back AFC Championship games has been extremely hard to take, especially with the way this past season came to an unceremonious end at the hands of the boisterous Rex Ryan.
But it could always be worse, and as torturous as it has been at times, I somehow feel fortunate to have this team to root for. Let’s hope that the improvement the team made this year and the excitement that they created at times along the way are a sign of things to come.