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Tuesday, April 1, 2008

NY Jets By The Numbers: #19 (Rated R)

If the Gods of Wiki are to be believed, when the Baltimore Orioles offered Chris Farasopoulos a baseball contract, they asked that he shorten his name. He refused. So he chose football. Can you imagine a team trying to pull that today? Ask Troy Polamalu. While he hasn't been asked to change his (uncharacteristically short) South Pacific name, the NFL has only just tabled a rule on whether or not a player's name on a uniform should be permitted to be covered by a mane of hair that flows from his helmet. This was a smart rule given that the league might have been seen as racist in doing so, a concern not so profound when Chris Farasopoulos was a defensive back from 1971-1973. Luckily, the New York Jets were a team that welcomed eccentrics and individualists, as they already had one for a quarterback. Chris wore #19 for the Jets.

Once while riding Amtrak from Philadelphia to NYC in the spring of 2000, a man of Caribbean origin was in the seat directly behind me, insisting to the person on the other end of his cell phone that "Dat bitch has tayken all ma fahkin money, mon. All of eet. Shit, mon. What da fuck am ah ganna do?" The whole way. He was upset. The bitch took his money.

As he and I egressed at Pennsylvania Station, he caught sight of my Jets t-shirt and addressed me in the same distressed tone, as if it were part of his ongoing troubles:

"Oh mon! Ha could dey let Key-shahn go like dat, mon! What da fuck day gonna do now, mon?!?"

Well, we know what Keyshawn Johnson did. He won a Super Bowl that the Eagles should have been in. I still resent him for it the way that I resented John Riggins for leaving the Jets for more money, more respect, more chances at a ring (and got all of them). And then #19 Keyshawn went and got kicked off the Bucs. He was the first player of this era to whom I had ever heard of that happening. But then Keyshawn was always special. First, he was tall as hell, and the Jets have not had a receiver of his caliber and height since then, so indeed, my friend on the train was not off the mark with his rhetorical question. He also made a mark by being a petulantly difficult author/rookie on a 1-15 team. That takes something special. The only thing he really did wrong was to slam Wayne Chrebet in his book, which was both a tasteless and a poor call. But then no one will retire his #19 anywhere because he played in too many different places.

Bobby Riley was a replacement wide receiver with the #19 for the scab New York Jets of 1987. I wonder if the squad has reunions.

Well, if we are going to be profane, then what better way than to celebrate the legacy of the Jets' first regularly starting quarterback, #19 Malcolm "Dick" Wood. Yes, among Dicks he may be a lesser figure, maybe a little less important than Dick Trickle, though certainly only in stock car racing. Then there was Dick Pole of the Red Sox and Mariners in the 1970's. Interestingly, after quarterbacking throughout the AFL, Wood coached his way back to the Jets, where he was running backs coach. Sadly for him, this was in the Kotite era. Sort of like being the Education Secretary in the Bush Administration.

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