In the annual Jets-Eagles Meaningless Bowl, I actually glimpsed shades of seeming hope. There were suddenly answers to two offensive questions: Does anyone really know a good backup QB anywhere in a green and white uniform? and Does anyone promise to gain more than two yards a carry - NOT you, Thomas Jones? The answers to these questions were suddenly apparent last night here in Philadelphia, where I reside. No, I did not attend last night's game at Lincoln Field. In fact, at times, especially when Kevin Kolb was running the Eagles offense, I found myself switching over to the Cubs-Phillies game. Then I went to bed around 9:30 pm. Sitting through two three-hour motivational talks this week, both intended to get us psyched to teach a new school year, was exhausting enough. I think they put those things together to make us long to get back to work with our adolescent students that much more. Preseason education sucks about as much as preseason football.
Ah, yes. Of course, the answers came in the form of the other Brett and a Chatman - Ratliff and Jesse, respectively. Question: how do Ratliff and Favre avoid the confusion that their identical first names present? Answer: Easy. Ratliff is "You There," while the Favre is "Brett" or "Sir." I myself was needlessly worried about the extent to which Brett Favre's nose would feel out of joint about not starting a game, but I suppose I needn't have worried because the legend himself says it is no big deal. Then I said to myself, Self - are we going to worry the whole year about how Brett is feeling about being on the Jets? Like an ugly duck afraid that his hot date is going to ditch him, yes. It's hard to imagine a Jets fan not worrying about Brett Favre thinking exactly what he, well, actually said when he arrived: "What have I gotten myself into?" Brett, Sir, it is what we have been asking for years.
With Sir Brett on the sidelines, it was nice to see someone else steal the show last night, and while neither Ratliff nor Erik Ainge astounded, they didn't appall, either. Mind you, we once thought similarly of Clemens at another Meaningless Bowl with the Eagles last year; maybe it's just that our second team offensive line is really just a much better offensive line than the Eagles' second team defensive line. I have never done online dating, but I guess that the process of meeting and greeting on the interweb and setting up a subsequent appointment is not unlike watching preseason games and deciding how your year is going to go. Caution.
The show was actually stolen by Jesse Chatman, who almost took my breath away. Running, catching, a modestly prayerful touchdown celebration. Passing and receiving yards impressive. I mean, each time I found myself close to getting a little too excited over one of his runs - like his breakaway YAC from Erik Ainge in the third quarter - I just kept having to jolt myself to reality: It's a dream, only a dream. And it's fading now...fading away... This is preseason.
Now that I'm back at work, my co-workers find me setting up my classroom, and they congratulate me as if my wife had just given birth or as if I had just gotten married. They look at me and ask aloud, "Do you feel different? Do you like your new life?" While it would be nice to imagine that I actually accomplished something on my own of which they might speak with such anticipation and praise, I know that they're just asking about having Brett Favre as my quarterback. He keeps me up at night worrying about his health, but, y'know - it's a magical thing. I acknowledge the strangeness of it all, how peculiar it seems even now after nearly a month of it. I'm still making breakfast for him in the morning. It's almost as if the honeymoon's still going. But what the hell can I say? They look at me exactly as an Eagles fan does to a Jets fan. Even despite our playing the Eagles last night, all this past week my colleagues felt happy for me. I am not a Giants fan. I am no threat to the always fragile Philadelphia ego. "I'm happy for you, man," they say. "Really happy for you." Knowing a little of the Philadelphia mind - one I have come to acquire just a little myself - if Favre doesn't work out, then I'll probably be met with derision by the same people near the end of the semester. "Well," they'll say. "I could have told you that that whole freakin' thing wasn't going to work out." Indeed. Indeed, you could have.