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Sunday, December 30, 2007

Thus It Ends,...

And a great wave of relief washes through my system. Mike Nugent's field goal sails through the uprights. The Jets win, 13-10.

"Four and twelve!" I say, my arms raised in what can only be described as a seriously compromised sense of victory. My wife remains unmoved. But wait. Of course. A holding penalty on Wade Smith.

There is no undiluted pleasure. The play goes from being a 33 yard attempt to a 43 yard attempt. The idea of enduring the game much longer seems cruel, but then I've been here before. It's the end of another gruesome season. There have been several shots of a lone fan wearing a D'Brickshaw Ferguson jersey - standing on a seat, mind you - from the concrete peak of the Meadowlands, surveying with a restless sense of undiminished purpose the conclusion of a meaningless game against a Chiefs team that has lost eight straight games. (If only Miami had been in their division, but then Kansas City is coached by Herman Edwards, and my sympathy dies there. Ha.) So few fans actually came to the game that the announcers speculated with uncharacteristic savvy that it was possible that CBS' cameras had panned across the man in the #60 jersey as many as six separate times.

Mike Nugent's field goal sails through the uprights. The Jets win, 13-10. Thus it ends, and a great wave of relief washes through my system.

"Four and twelve!" I say, my arms raised in what can only be described as a seriously compromised sense of victory. My wife remains unmoved.

****

It has been a ponderously dull season. Maybe it's because I went off Paxil four months ago. Maybe it's just that football in general has become less important in light of the existential funk into which I fell when someone in my family died young and unexpectedly in early December. Maybe my job has just been bothering me too much. Maybe that fucking dog that my neighbor leaves alone to bark and whine day in and night out in the apartment next door to mine makes me perpetually insane with anxious rage.

In Philadelphia, an unpleasant pallor has colored the complexions of most Eagles fans. They are angry with Andy Reid for being a bad parent or a bad coach or both. They are angry with Donovan McNabb because he is getting old. Should the Eagles really have kept Jeff Garcia and sent Donovan to the Bucs? Hardly. If they were Jets fans, they would have had plenty of similar disappointments, watching as we have all kinds of former favorites going to the Pro Bowl wearing someone else's helmet.

To be fair, this hasn't been a good year to enjoy athletes in America. Of late, they seem like an unpleasant manifestation of all the things we dislike about a society that we seem unable to change. Perhaps in them we see the bloated sense of entitlement that comes to people who possess power and money in the United States who also want to shirk responsibility for their actions and ideas.

The plain truth is that the glaring disparities between the classes in America leave us loathing and envying those who possess more than they will ever need. Professional athletes only get to the top through hard work and practice. Theirs is hard work. No one would question that. It comes down to money. Glaring up at these high-paid performers makes us wonder if we'll ever get there, especially since many of us - me, actually - work our asses off in work that will always underpay us, not overpay us. Such is the American economic status quo. We grind away, buying on credit, living with minimal health coverage, placing our standard of living at risk. Meanwhile the extravagantly paid gods in American sports play out the contradictory allegories of our age. This is how we roll.

I read somewhere this year (you know you're reading a blog when a sentence begins that way) that contentment runs statistically high among northern European countries because their populations go through the day with low expectations for happiness and success. I'm sure this also means a high rate of suicide attempt, but, well, whatever... My point is that being a Jets fan means having low expectations. I feel bad for Philly fans - their expectation for high performance is labored with a self-involved cynicism that somehow always means that they are right - even when they're unhappy (especially when they're unhappy). That's not living with limited expectations; that's wallowing in misery. I've made that point often on these pages, and I'll keep it mind as the real-life miseries of the winter compound. As my wife pointed out to me, the Jets cannot lose next week. There is that.

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