Monday, August 20, 2007

Don't Panic

What the hell is preseason for, except to hector us with irrational hope and despair. Trying to discern the future season from exhibition is like trying to figure out what your week is going to be like from your dreams. I mean, it might have worked to predict Egyptian droughts in the Axial Age, but in an age of pragmatic reason, aren't there better ways? Like, just waiting to see what happens? Still, it needs to be said that what I saw against Minnesota was clearly not just a bad dream, but a certifiable nightmare. Scary, yes, but remember (I tell myself) it was just a bad dream. Bad dreams can't hurt you. Go away, bad dreams. Go away.

The preseason has a difficult history for all clubs. How many favorite players through history were injured badly at some point in the preseason? How about Joe Namath being lost for most of the the 1971 season after being injured in an exhibition game against the Detroit Lions as he tried to react to a turnover. OK, I don't remember that. I was two. Dad still cared about the Jets back then so he must have lost his mind. Bob Davis and Al Woodall managed fairly well, but if Namath had been there before he returned in week 11, then maybe he could have lead the Jets to three more wins and maybe a wild card, where they could have had the honor of getting their asses beaten by Miami in the playoffs. I can see it clearly. Stop laughing.

How many empty promises were first made in the exhibition phase? In 1975, the Jets went 5-0 in exhibition. Then they lost 42-14 against Buffalo in the opener. The big talk that year was they were for once all healthy, ready to go. Then there was Browning Nagle, the future of The Future in 1992. He looked awfully good their undefeated preseason games that season and then went on to a 4-12 finish. His is now now a name synonymous with mistaken impression in Gang Greendom. I mean, he didn't throw away his greatness into a deep chasm of dogfighting, so he had that going for him. And he eventually had some very nice arena football stats with the Orlando Thingywidgets.
The preseason only illustrates the fragile nature of promise. This is why we hate preseason games - for that and for all the stupid sideline interviews and endless discussion of off-field politics as the third-stringer throws another interception - or in the Jets case, as Marques Tuiasosopo throws a touchdown near the two-minute warning to Jason Pociask. The promise of total self-destruction is also a potential illusion, maybe a self-hating delusion. Look, as bad as Chad Pennington played in the first quarter, perhaps it was just one of these selfsame illusions. I even wondered if his dinky passes and two interceptions were just diversions to lead defenses in future games to play him soft, although I think such strategies are more the property of the football game played by the 4077th in the MASH movie. Next time, Mangeniuses, try injecting guys like Darren Sharper with morphine in warm-ups. Works every time.

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