Friday, July 11, 2008

New York Jets By The Numbers: # 26 - Part 2

Rob Carpenter?
No, Ron Carpenter.
The defensive tackle for the Cincinnati Bengals, right?
Ah, no, actually this Ron Carpenter did play for the Bengals in his first NFL season, 1993, but the one you're thinking of played for Paul Brown from 1970-76. Got it?
This is the one who played for the Eagles, too, right? Wide receiver?
No. No, again. You see, you're thinking of Rob Carpenter again, who yes, was a receiver for the Jets when Ron Carpenter was a return specialist for them, which was also confusing for Dave Jennings when he had to broadcast Jets games. But Rob played in #82 while Ron played in #26. OK? Got it?
Right, yes, the running back, #26, who played for the Giants.
No, no, no. That's another Rob Carpenter, who played for the Oilers and the Giants. We're talking about a guy who played free safety for the Jets and specialized in returns. He lead the NFL in kickoff return yards in 1995.
Wow. You're a fussy little man. Getting all worked about this stuff, aren't you?
I'm sorry. I realize this is confusing, but work with me here. (Silence) Actually, I guess maybe I'm having ridiculous fantasies about Brett Favre being snapped up by the Jets.
Oh. I see. Well, that is ridiculous.
I know, I's what happens when you have a quarterback problem.

Erik Coleman has left the building. Though he was kept out of the some of the action in parts of 2008 for head injuries, it might be said that this past season was hardly a test of anyone's potential. We know how the coach feels about concussions, too. His time to blossom in #26 for us has passed, and he is playing in lowly Atlanta now. I include this extraordinary photograph (from NY Daily News) of him and Jason Taylor because here Coleman looks like another of Taylor's dance partners, though I can't figure out why both defensive players were on the field at the same time. Maybe this was an instance last year where the Fish were so rightly desperate they put Jason Taylor in as a tight end (my wife tells me has one). Even then, this picture just seems like a swing dance gone wrong, with Coleman throwing his partner away, a righteous gesture considering all of Taylor's alleged "false partnerships" on the ballroom floor. (I laugh.) Anyway, Erik Coleman also got attention last year for the rather poignant story of his relationship with his reformed and recovered mom.

Cornerback Donald Dykes played in #26 for the Jets at a time when I saw phantom possibilities of Jets glory that only an unknowing child could believe in. It wouldn't have mattered if I had understood the slang meaning of his last name when I was 10 or 11. I was naive to both the hidden meanings of words and to the hidden pitfalls of Jets teams. Even after the fact, he and his likewise unsuccessful teammates remain special to me. Sometimes I'll find myself staring at the administrative keylime green-painted cinder block walls of the teacher's lounge, and I will suddenly hear, echoing in the chasm of my rattled skull, the voices of Spencer Ross or Sam DeLuca of WCBS - 88 on your AM dial - saying a player's name, and it's sure to be a Jet of Donald Dykes' era, 1979-81. Dad actually tried to dissuade me from my high expectations during those years. Coming back from the hardware store some time in September 1980, he told me that the Jets would probably not make the playoffs, despite what the pundits were predicting. I told him I would eat my shoes if that happened. The Jets went 4-12. Dad did not hold me to any of it. Donald Dykes' own son, Donald Jr. was born that season, and today Donald Sr. coaches at University of Arkansas-Monticello. Donald the younger made dubious news in 2002 at Notre Dame but was cleared of all charges.

Wayne Fontes was and is that rare thing in pro football - a colorful character (and not Jerry Glanville) on whom a fan can hang all of his frustrations, neuroses, hopes, bastardized dreams, sorrow, and rage. Above all, rage. In other words, he was the perfect coach for the Detroit Lions, an organization whose true fans share a wisdom that might provide aid and comfort to me in my many hours of darkness. When they lost the NFC Championship in 1992 to the Redskins, I saw a grown Lion fan friend weep like a child who had been told it was time to leave the amusement park. Wayne Fontes - cartoonish, part-genius, part-guru, part-clown - so embodies the Lions' fans sense of frustration and purposelessness that a kindred spirit has named his Motor City sports blog, The Wayne Fontes Experience. Somehow I feel like we're all having that experience. Most importantly, Wayne Fontes played nine games in #26 for the Titans (of course) in 1962, during which he caught four interceptions at defensive back, one of which he took for an 83 yard touchdown - a record for the Gotham Football Club as a whole that would stand for 27 years. And it was his only playing time as a pro. Wayne Fontes. Share the experience.

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