Saturday, June 28, 2008

New York Jets By The Numbers: # 25 - The Poets

Because of the brutality of the game, we long to find some gentle eccentricity in a player, some unique sense of consciousness that transcends football's impersonal wrath. Onetime #25 Nick Ferguson is a source of endless fascination for me. For one thing, he is a journeyman, a state of being that is likely to produce the philosopher in any player. Behold his odyssey:

According to his records, he was undrafted. He was a practice squad player for the Bengals, the Bears and the Bills. He played in the Great White North for the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 1997, then the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (what is a Blue Bomber?). Let's not forget that between stints in Winnipeg, he played for the Rhein Fire of NFL Europe. Somehow, in some way, Bill Parcells did that magical thing of locating unrecognized, durable players and brought Nick Ferguson onto the Jets for three seasons in #25, and then he made his greatest mark with the Denver Broncos from 2003-2007. Despite an injury that has left his career in limbo, he is currently listed with the Houston Texans, and yet one can hardly discount the potential of one who spent the best of his years as a practice squad player. He clearly does not know when to say when.

Here's the thing, though. Though there appears no evidence of it that I can see, apparently Nick Ferguson writes poetry. He's Odysseus and Homer all in one, the traveler in search (sometimes in vain) for home, and also the blind scribe documenting it the whole time. Blind? Indeed. Do any of us really know where we'll land?

Or is the poet the man who plays on the practice squad, wearing a #25, yet never plays a pro game outside the preseason for anyone, anywhere? Like Robert Farmer in 1999? The invisible ones?

Or Clifford Hicks? Is it the veteran who plays a decade without much recognition or notoriety? Hicks is one of the very few players we mention in these pages who has actually played in a Super Bowl, which should tell you something about the Jets' rosters through the years. He was on two of four Buffalo Bills squads that went down consecutively against the NFC East in the early 90's. That alone could be the source of great poetry about the frailty of the human condition. Finally, in addition to being a defensive back, he was also a kick returner through much of his career. The Football @ site offers his information as having scored no touchdowns on returns but, in 1994 with the Jets, having "5" under the category of "fumbles." Now, are these fumbles recovered or turned over? After having spent some time uncovering the names, the names, the endless list of names on these pages, I am compelled to feel such a persistent sympathy for all of these human beings that I hope, for the sake of Clifford Hicks, it is the former of the two kinds.

Well, let's forget art and philosophy for a moment and focus our attention on the nuts and bolts of the dollar, the final note in sports. One of the more interesting ideas for a reality TV show is one that will focus attention the lives of thoroughbred jockeys. Who would have thought that RJ Kors, former safety at #25 for the Jets over two years (and who looks like a pretty boy in his team photo) would ultimately become a successful agent for jockeys? In a recent debate over jockeys wearing promotions at the Kentucky Derby, an older and more successful Kors suggests that allowing jockeys to advertise is not exploitative; it will likely guarantee better salaries and more financial growth for people in a sports profession not known for high salaries. It's also not as known as it should be for its high rate of crippling injury. Who would ever have thought an agent could do such good for unsung athletes?


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Martin Roche said...

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