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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Brett Favre's Debut II

Seasons end. Seasons begin. This time next week I will be digesting the business surrounding our new school administration, the new course I'm teaching, the old course I've made my own. I'm an old pro at this, but lots of things have changed, and nearing Labor Day, I'm not quite where I thought I would be. But I can do this. I've handled beginnings and endings before. I guess I'm just like Brett Favre. Just like him, in fact.

I expected to go to Hofstra this week in order to see the Jets say farewell to their old training grounds. I did not. I attended none of the practices this summer, which is kind of too bad - except that it isn't. I have no excuse except that I didn't feel like schlepping from Philly to Long Island to see the Jets train. This is contrary to my previous feelings about "seeing the greatest QB ever to wear the number 4 blah, blah...," but like many Jets fans who did not attend Brett Favre's preseason opener at the Meadowlands, I just didn't feel like it.

You know, I too was surprised at the number of no-shows at the Meadowlands for Favre's preseason debut, but unlike Peter King, I sympathize with the fans. Maybe people were at the shore. Maybe people were spending time with their adolescent kids. Maybe they were in a nice air-conditioned bar getting hammered, complaining about their PSL's. Maybe they were at home, fixing something that got loose under the sink. Maybe they were arguing with a spouse. Maybe they were out on a date. Maybe they were tucking their little ones in. There are lots of good things to do instead of attending the second preseason game. There are even lots of good things to do in lieu of seeing Brett Favre wear a Jets uniform for the first time. Jets fans are a little like the "difficult" and "reluctant" students I teach who never really seem to like what you're teaching, never appreciate it when you're teaching your ass off for them. They greet your extra help after school like they're taking toll money from you on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. But those students are always the ones who wave their arms off the next year and say, "Mr. Roche! Yo! My favorite teacher!" Really? Why? I thought you didn't give a damn. Well, they don't. Except that they do. Afterwards, though. It's complicated.

Because of Gate D, because of the cheers for Chad's injury in the opener last year, Jets fans are now the convenient (and often justified) target of the talking heads at ESPN and Sports Illustrated. I spent the better part of the last two days digesting Peter King's anger at the disrespect his friend Brett Favre got when so few fans showed up for his debut. So here's yet another reason to say Jets fans have no pride, no self-respect, and on and on.

Maybe. I mean, these are Jets fans. Look who we are rooting for. The team that won the Super Bowl over New England...oh, wait. No. How embarrassing. I'm confusing us with that other team from "New York." Gosh. Is my face red? Green, more likely. Envy and shame have a corrosive effect on the conscious and subconscious processing of the human mind. We have always has been the runt and mutt of the litter. Fans behave accordingly. Sometimes it's ugly. Sometimes it's just a matter of being difficult.

So maybe it's nurture and not nature. Like the blue collar 11th graders I teach who spend their Monday mornings discussing who got arrested over the weekend - as opposed to the better off kids I teach who spent the weekend studying - Jets fans have not had the opportunity to hone the skills normally attributed to the better class of person. It would be easy to blame the former; why can't they just be more like the latter? But what does it take to be a Jets fan when really you could just root for Big Blue? It may be loyalty, dedication, love, faith, and other such wonderful traits. Or maybe not. Maybe Jets fans feed off of a hearty KFC bowl mass of passive aggression, fear, self-hatred, shame, and insecurity. Despair and disappointment are a hearty stew, but they can be an elixir, too. You get used to it. And it changes you. So you don't show up.

Actually, I don't know if any of that is a good explanation of what Peter King is upset about. Of course none of this character analysis can excuse Jets fans' garbage behavior at Gate D last year, but those were the specific actions of a minority of fans. Not showing up for Favre in exhibition, however, should not be equated with the sociopathology of a bunch of sick fans last year. There's an enormous difference.

The no-shows are just parcel of the general air of grumpiness and disconsolation in Gang Green Land, and there should be no apologies for that. It's a tough crowd, but then they're not the only ones. Football itself is a large, grumpy person's sport. It's sad, but here it is - I wouldn't take my kid to a Jets game the way Dad took me to Shea back in the day, but then I wouldn't take my kid to Lincoln Field to see an Eagles game, either. Some places are just not suitable for kids. That's why baseball exists. That's the reality.

And finally, if - as is suggested by the way the PSL's are promoted - fans really are investing in their seats the way you think of investing in other things like education, cars, boats, etc., then maybe fans are entitled to do whatever they like with their investment - like not use it for a preseason game. Owning the license to your seat does not require you to be a good sport. If sportswriters, the self-appointed gatekeepers of good sportsmanship, do not appreciate that truth, I would hope that Brett Favre does.

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