Monday, September 8, 2008

Jets 20 Dolphins 14 - Week 1 (Part 2)

To see Brett Favre dance like an untrained firewalker after throwing his first Jets touchdown to Jerricho Cotchery was an unfamiliar sight to me, and not just because I still can't believe Favre is quarterbacking for us. I think I'm actually getting used it. It was Favre's well known joie de vivre, his pure trademark sense of joy that accompanies his play that has been almost altogether absent from my career as a Jets fan. It was something new cloaked in something, by football standards, quite old. It signaled in so many signs that there was a better way. It's still worth being very suspicious, of course. The team went through an exhale that turned into the equivalent of falling asleep on the couch in the fourth quarter.

Push 'em back,
Push 'em back.
Waaaaaay back.

And where was I? My parents were in town, so I obliged them by watching the Phillies-Mets game with them on the plasma set in their hotel room. Mom's a big Mets fan. I had already coached myself into following the Jets game on my wife's BlackBerry, down by down. I know I sound like the worst kind of phony by saying that, the biggest yuppie bastard. Can any man call himself a real fan, a real man, even, if that's the best he can do? Make his team a tertiary priority? But here's the thing. I live in a state with two teams - the Eagles and the Steelers - better known during World War II as the "Steagles" - one AFC team on CBS, one NFC team on Fox. If CBS feels generous, we get the Jets, but Sunday it was obviously feeling a bit on the miserly side what with Brett Favre's opener and all, and so no Jets game. Again, I do not own NFL Network. Again, sue me.

And Mom's devotion to the Mets is the real thing. It started somewhere in the early 80's. I'm not sure how, but there were a few odd days where suddenly Mom was paying more attention to baseball than she ever had before. She had been a Brooklyn Dodgers fan so the association was a completely authentic one. And coming as it did with the arrival of my awkward years, I don't really remember what started it exactly. I was probably too busy staring in the mirror that the feeble mustache under my nose that she assured me made me look "retarded."

And it wasn't that she jumped on a booming bandwagon. She started paying attention to them in about 1982/83, the George Bamberger to early Davey Johnson years. Instead of Gary Carter, Ray Knight, Lenny Dykstra, Darryl Strawberry and Kevin Mitchell, the Mets had Hubie Brooks, Mike Fitzgerald, George Foster, Dave Kingman and Ron Gardenhire. They were barely .500. Yet she got attached. Really, really attached. On the last day of eighth grade, I walked out of school ready for summer and to my surprise, Mom stood in front of the school bus and told Charlie and me to get into the car. Dad sat behind the wheel over in the parking lot. He shrugged at us.

"We're going to see the Mets tonight," she said. "Get in the car."

It's been pretty much like that ever since. Several years after the Mets won their last World Series, I was living at home right after college, doing a job interview over the phone which had to be interrupted so that I wouldn't have to speak over my mother's blood-curdling screams and curses coming from the other room. Gregg Jefferies had done something stupid at short.

And though Dad got me on the Jets in the first place, it's Mom whom I most resemble as a fan. She and I share the same feel for the omnipresent doom that circles our teams. Not again. Oh God. How could you do this to me? she asks as the Mets lost their way in the first game of the doubleheader against the Phillies. Pedro Martinez continued his long death march into oblivion, and the Mets simply refused to hit against the Phillies, the team that joyfully won the division last year. The game could not be mistaken for anything but a metaphor for the Metsies' howlingly insane collapse at the finish line of the NL East last year. Not again. God, no. No, no, no...

So what better time to check the score of the Jets game than when the Mets were losing bad? The damn BlackBerry froze on the Jets leading 20-7 with 11:00 left in the fourth quarter. It was getting late, and I knew - just as Mom knows the Mets might well blow the playoffs - that Miami had probably scored again and were threatening, with Brett Favre probably looking on helplessly from the bench. Sure enough, I managed to distract their attention and turned to CBS, who had decided to show the end of the game. I was right.

Pennington was on the 18 with three attempts to go and two timeouts. Now that seemed familiar. What the hell did you guys do? What happened? Damn it.

Blow the lead,
Blow the lead.
Please not again.

Within a few seconds, I am curled up in a ball on the end of my sofa, and no one - not my wife, my Mom or Dad - notices anything strange about the pleading sounds emanating from this ball of bones. Not again. Oh God. How could you do this to me? Not again!

Even Darrelle Revis' interception of the next pass looked like the usual portent. There was a flag on the play. You want to be released from the ball of tension on the sofa, but the little detail in the corner of the scoreboard onscreen reads "FLAG" in yellow. Sort of like the flag that fell on Mark Gastineau when he late hit Bernie Kosar; sort of like the flag that greeted the late hit on Drew Brees in the 2004 playoffs; sort of like the holding penalties and offsides flags that nullified about a season's worth of touchdowns by Wesley Walker in the 1980's.

And yet, upon closer examination it looked unequivocally like offensive pass interference. Revis made a great catch. It was never a question. The referees thought how lucky they were to have thrown a game-ending flag for a foul so flagrant. How lucky could they get? Another harrowing Jets win, and then it was quickly back to the Mets game, where the whimpering sounds of powerlessness could persist again unabated from a different part of the room. As mckeown.ian mentioned about his own experience on Sunday, "I had a terrible day today watching the Jets win." Agreed.

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