In our neverending quest to explain the universe around us, we have picked up an odd habit. We (us humanoids) try to ascribe causality where there is none. The more absurd and self-indulgent we are about this, the better.
In the realm of gambling our superstitions are obvious. Most everyone has a lucky article of clothing. It seems like most poker players have some kind of lucky chatchka they keep next to them on the felt. In the pit, it’s even crazier. Go play craps and try refusing to request the same dice the next time you toss one off the table and see how everyone else there regards you.
Even otherwise rational non-gamblers fall victim to this habit. We eat the same breakfast every time we take an exam, thinking it will imbue us with the same ability we displayed the first time we ate it and aced a test. We credit our spotless driving record to the decrepit stuffed animal sitting on our dashboard. We think that hearing a certain song on the radio guarantees a big night out. We knock on wood. We do all sorts of silly stuff; people can (and do) develop obsessive-compulsive disorder keeping track of it all.
Being a sports fan is no different. We think that sitting in a particular chair increases the likelihood of a win. We put on our lucky jersey before we turn on the TV. We think that we can help our pitcher strike out a tough batter by twirling our hands around in circles. Just ask that old lady who used to sit behind the plate at Shea Stadium.
I’m certainly not immune to these strange habits, particularly when it comes to the New York Jets. I’m being perfectly honest and not exaggerating when I say this: one of my life’s unfulfilled dreams is to see the Jets win the Super Bowl. I have a hard time accepting the lack of control I have over making this eventually somehow happen, and the fact that the Jets have provided nothing but disappointment and heartbreak since I have been following them (which is a very long time) certainly doesn’t help. I am quite crazy over this, and I have struggled along with the New York Jets for my entire life in a very real and very personal way. It’s beyond question that I suffer more profoundly than the players on the New York Jets when the team loses, which is often. How I got this way is up for debate, but I’m definitely out of my mind. Should the New York Jets ever win the Super Bowl (this is something I frequently daydream about by the way), I believe my stunned reaction would be equal parts elation and catharsis.
Of course, I’m just as deluded about the Jets as those craps players who think that a red cube bouncing onto the carpet foretells disaster. I’ve always done whatever I could to control the outcome of Jets games. For a long time, my father and I agreed that swapping seats at the stadium could reverse three quarters of poor play. While watching at home as a child, we routinely banished my mother from the room if her presence coincided with a Richard Todd interception. I’ve tried everything, from articles of clothing too numerous to list, to uttering the same phrase before every play, to closing my eyes before third down plays, to screaming my head off before every snap, to three hour vows of silence. Never have I managed to create the kind of correlation I’ve been searching for. Until now.
It turns out that the connection is much simpler than I’d ever imagined. Almost too simple, in fact. It seems that I am the Jets’ problem. That is, my physical presence anywhere in the vicinity of the New York Jets football club causes them to suck.
Witness their 2008 season. From September through early November they played basic New York Jets football–the middling crappy .500 football to which I am accustomed. They opened the season 5-3 thanks to a creampuff schedule and weren’t fooling anyone; they were going nowhere. Then I left for Chicago for my wedding and honeymoon, and what happened? While I pined away for my Jets and whined like a baby about missing their games for the first time since I was in diapers, they broke loose like an unshackled maniacal inmate.
While boarding the plane bound for my honeymoon, I discovered that the Jets were dismantling the Rams in the first home game I had failed to attend in many moons. The following Thursday night, as I enjoyed a steak dinner in Mendoza, Argentina, the Jets beat the New England Patriots on the road, in an overtime thriller. Two Sundays later, as I helplessly sat in a Brazilian airport, the Jets did the unthinkable, delivering a crucial win against the undefeated Titans by thumping them in their building. The Jets were 8-3. Logic and the pundits agreed: this was a team to be reckoned with, headed for the playoffs and likely to do some serious damage once they got there. While I was pretty upset about having missed their wondrous ascent to the top of the NFL power rankings, I was thrilled that an exciting winter and the possible fulfillment of my lifelong dream laid in store. Then I came home.
With me back in the fold, the Jets have reverted to form and have DONE NOTHING BUT SUCK DONKEY BALLS FOR A FULL CALENDAR MONTH. What looked like a great team has collapsed before my unbelieving eyes. Draw your own conclusions, but the evidence is irrefutable. I watch every single Jets game from 1979 until the middle of 2008, the Jets lose. I miss three Jets games and they turn into worldbeaters. I come back and resume watching, and they stink like a pile of steaming dog shit. Barring a miracle, there will be no playoffs, no dream fulfillment, not even a little smug satisfaction. Nope, just the same old, same old: another Jets season swirling ’round in the toilet.
Sorry everyone. I doubt you feel worse than me, but still, I’m sorry. The Jets are in my DNA and I have no plans to move to another continent where American Football is not televised. We’re all shit out of luck.