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Monday, June 4, 2007

Chargers 24 Jets 16 - Monday Night, 1975


I'm starting to get that sadness that comes with knowing that although rookies have started wearing pads, random numbers and their last names on white, label-less helmets at Hofstra, it's still months to go. To that end, Monday evening seems so bittersweet. Always has. The Jets have amassed a reasonable Monday record to offset an ignominious Monday Night Football record dating back to my earliest time as a Jets fan.

My first Jets season was 1975. A dreary one among many to come. I was six. Dad told me the Jets would play San Diego Monday night late in the year, and the Jets' 3-9 record going into the game didn't dampen my enthusiasm.

"But Dad," I said, trying to liven him, "it's MONDAY NIGHT," thinking already as all good American males did in the 1970's that something magical did indeed happen on Monday nights. Surely the Jets could beat lowly San Diego. Surely.

"Maybe," Dad said. He was the original Jets fan. A Giants fan who couldn't get tickets. "But, really, kid," he said, "believe me," he said of our team, "they're really freakin' horrible. They...," he checked his slang for a moment's glance at my mother, who glared over her reading at the kitchen table. "They suck eggs," he said somewhat weakly. "Come on, kid," he said, trying something else. "You want me to read you a story or something?"

We would have this conversation so many times. It wasn't fair, it wasn't right. He went to the AFL Title Game against the Raiders at Shea while Mom was still pregnant with me, sitting at home, watching Curt Gowdy do the game on NBC, knitting the pink footsies she knew would look perfect on what she knew had to be a daughter. "She gives me agita like a daughter will. Every morning. That's how I know it."

So Dad had seen it all. Couldn't I at least see my first Jets Monday Night Football game?

"No. To bed," he said, gesturing his hand toward the stairs. "For your own good."

I whined, I cried. I caught a glimpse of ginger-haired John Riggins, playing in what I didn't realize was his second-to-last game in a Jets uniform. A still shot, with the plain mustard all-caps lettering of the ABC caption at the base of his picture. God, I loved him.

And the next morning, when I found that they lost to lowly San Diego 24-16, I felt just as robbed as I would have had the score been the other way. It didn't matter. What mattered was that I wasn't there to hold their hands while they screwed it up once again. I didn't realize I had a problem, but today that's when I see it all so clearly, like a sober alcoholic sees back to his first real drunk through the heartless veil of thousands that followed. Pure powerlessness at its origins. Monday, Monday.

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