As I return back to work this week, I see the upcoming teaching year as part of the continuing arc of my career. I think about how many things I have yet to successfully put into practice after nine years of teaching public school. Technically, I should have learned by now how to put all my grades on a computer. More of my lessons should have had their start on the web. I should have a file cabinet full of lessons ready to go instead of six copy boxes containing mismatched pages with yellowing corners. I should change that lame bulletin board with the reference to old white writers whom no reads because, well, no one reads. What the hell is wrong with me? Ah, but there's always September, the month of new beginnings in education and in American football. God bless September. She's a harsh mistress.
We are unused, I think, to thinking optimistically about the seasons ahead; last year caught a lot of us off-guard. One of my colleagues is the only Jets fan I know within the Delaware Valley, and both he and I, each with a lifetime of grief to recall, were beguiled at how bad the Jets really were in 2007. We're trying not to be too promiscuous with hope this coming year, even with the radical changes in identity the Jets have undergone since August. Now many prognosticators are even imagining that we are perhaps a "sleeper" team for the coming year. I actually think Chad's going to beat us in the opener. But maybe I'm just overcompensating. I don't know what the hell I think anymore.
But that's not important, either. When I tried to quit drinking some years back, a rather intense non-drinking alcoholic advised me, "Don't think, stupid!" which...I don't know...just didn't seem like good advice even at the time. I mean, don't think? "Thinking just gets you in trouble," he added, failing to include that abstract thought is also what separates human beings from leopards, or ducks, or Labradors. I didn't argue with him, and not just because his name was "Sniper." Instead I consulted Eastern philosophy to help me to understand that while emotional thoughts within the mind were inevitable, emotions did not have to inevitably control my mind. So I took up meditation for a while.
Long story short, now I don't drink and I don't meditate, but I guess along the way I have learned the fine art of appreciating what I can and cannot control. I'm not very good at applying that appreciation often, but the truth is that nothing can help mediate the helplessness of being a football fan during the season. It's not as if I have a plan any better than the ones Mangini and Callahan have in mind for the offense. It's not as if I can will the Jets to have a more effective running game. It's not as if I can teach Washington and Jones to hit the holes better, to make Laverneus Coles talk to Brett Favre, or make Coles grow taller, or make Justin Miller feel better, or Vernon Gholsten learn faster. I don't have the solution to the Jets continuing problems in the secondary. And problems? Why so many penalties on false starts? I am so...alone.
Well, no. And how can I worry like this about something over which I have no control when I can't even find the will to clean out my classroom alcove? Does being a fan become indispensable when it mirrors the true helplessness of our lives? or does the experience act as a fiction of helplessness, a convenient existential excuse for not doing the things we have to do? Ah, screw it. I'll stop thinking now.