Thursday, August 16, 2007

Ah, Jets Crap

When I was a young man in college, my friends and I would put off studying until very late in the evening and then go over to 7-Eleven, and buy something sugary to keep us awake. Coffee was a must, but so too were things like Hawaiian Punch and coffee cakes. I remember once making myself laugh one night walking in and asking aloud, "Hmmm, what do I need?"

What indeed? The whole point was that there was nothing there that I actually needed. What I "needed" should have happened hours before: turn off that TV, eat a decent dinner, study, go to bed. "But I was one and twenty," A.E. Housman writes, "No use to talk to me." What would have been the point? Where was the fun in that?

It occurs to me that although married and with a responsible job, I have avoided parenthood, in large measure so that I can still buy myself toys that I won't have to share with an urchin. Thus, I was like a big child wandering around the shop of Jets Fest the other day, wondering for what I would shell out my good American dollars in order to show team pride. What do I need? The obvious answer is nothing. My father was content with one of those great wool hats they used to wear without any logo when he went to the games in the 60's. Me? A Darrell Revis jersey? When he wasn't even signed yet? But I was eight and thirty. No use to talk to me.

Let's peruse a few items at the Jets Shop, and just see how crazy we really are, shall we?

How about the $290 Authentic Riddell Throwback helmet? Under the Jets Fest tent, I saw this in its box, and my first reaction was little giddy. I look for the tilted logo, the little football inside the logo with the strings pointed upward. And then I looked at the price and exclaimed to my wife, "Three hundred bucks? Are you kidding?" Some guy overhears me and says, "Yeah, but it's a savings if you can get Namath to sign it." Really? I guess I'm just not an autograph hound. When I was 10, my Uncle Mike got me the late great Matt Snell's autograph when he chanced to run into #41 at a bar in New York. The signature is on a bill receipt. Now that has value - not just because Matt Snell scored the only Jets touchdown in Super Bowl III, but because Uncle Mike chanced to run into Snell and also remembered how much I loved the Jets. Three hundred dollars for that, though? I'm glad it's not an issue. I'm just cheap.

The $19 Jets Rubiks Cube is fascinating to me. Who came up with this? Who still plays with a Rubiks Cube? Children, right, but the only reason not to get the original Rubiks is if your kid's color-blind. Maybe I'm just old-fashioned. I know that the NFL also merchandises a cube with a Bengals' logo, or a Rams logo, but is there marketing data to go along with this concept? Would I be met with a straight face if I pitched something as silly as marketing a velvet portrait of Marlene Dietrich in a Curtis Martin jersey if there were data to support it?

I don't own a gym sack, and since I'm not as savvy a consumer as I should be, I didn't really know that gym sacks existed. But like a typical American consumer, my previous lack of general knowledge about this product is now making me all the more certain that I need it. Sure, sure, I could put my sunglasses in there, and my keys and then hang that on the coat rack at the gym! The only trouble is that using NFL stuff of any kind at the gym conjures the image in people's minds that you think you're working out like a football player. If I walked in with a Jets gym sack, I think I might be posing just a little. I can assure you that if you saw me on the treadmill, you'd say to yourself that it was nice to belong to the kind of gym where sweaty, heavy-set, middle-aged straight men didn't feel self-conscious working out. So I'll pass.

This is a no-brainer. It's the $6 "Jets Can Cooler Can-In-Ball." I don't drink alcohol anymore, and this item is certainly not to keep your soft drink cold, so I don't need it. For your tailgate, it's compulsory, though. I grasp the pun-in-name, but the English language affords even more delight in being able to say the words "can," "in," and "ball" together. Probably the only reason why is because it ends in "ball."

So, hats. I have a size 7 7/8 head, so I can't really order a hat online, but for you, I suggest that each of these hats makes a mark. First, there is the $22 New York Jets Straw Hat, complete with logo on the trim.

Then there is the $35 New York Jets Collage Flexfit Cap, complete with logo, like, everywhere. Seriously now, do the men sporting these respective hats have anything in common? If they had a chance to sit down together, might they not develop a constructive cultural and economic conversation that would help bridge some chasms in American society? Straw hat man: "I enjoy playing golf. I watch the Jets while surreptitiously sipping beer out of my Can-In-Ball. I also sell insurance." Collage hat: "Well, I frequently kick it by leaning with my homeslices and, when not watching the Gang Green, I remain, overall, a baller." Fandom - bringing people together. That's what it's all about.

But a treasured tool? Wouldn't you feel a little foolish if your next door neighbor asked to borrow your hammer, and you gave him your New York Jets hammer? "Yeah, well, I love the Jets." Maybe you wouldn't feel foolish. Maybe your neighbor has a Giants Swiss Army knife. Here's where the NFL has mastered the art of marketing to the hidden world of men. Grill covers, desk clocks, checkbooks - all have the capacity to be embroidered with the logo of our beloved team. And you thought the lady who collected things with nothing but schnauzers on them was weird.

However, I know where to draw the line. The "Lil Pro" Collection freaks me out beyond belief. I guess I wouldn't even get it for a child because, for some reason, it depicts the pro as a child, and some of those depictions are downright creepy. I think some wear diapers. I realize it's supposed to make kids understand that even their favorite stars were once children themselves, but I think as a kid I wanted to imagine myself as one of the stars - not as one of the stars depicted as a child imagining himself as a star. Any adult who orders this kind of thing for his own Jets'ed out basement is a person who needs to reassess his priorities. But, of course, he can certainly keep the Jets drapes and valance.

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