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Saturday, October 11, 2008

A Day in The Jets Fan's Life - 10/11/87

OK, it's time to, y'know, continue my personal campaign to make myself sound like the most miserable person on the face of the Earth for being a Jets fan...

But first, I would be remiss if I did not admit to being miserable for lots of other reasons, too. Maybe rooting for the Jets is merely a symptom of a larger predilection for misery I have masochistically enjoyed all my life. It has been the most nourishing feed for the beast, not the root cause. I can't blame it all on the Jets. But sometimes where the Jets' miseries and mine begin and end can be confusing.

Take October 11, for example - technically week six in a 16-game NFL season. On this day in 1987, I experienced a singular day of misery that showed the remarkable interactions between the depression of my own life and the ineptitude of my favorite football team. These were in perfect syncopation on October 11, 1987, when the Jets played the Colts in Indianapolis. My family had moved hundreds of miles south from where we lived in New York, and I had moved further north to New England where I was in my freshman year of college. Most of my days were spent staring into the slate gray of the autumn sky, wondering when the gods would lift me off the ground and hurl me somewhere else, some dark, numb oblivion where I wouldn't feel anything anymore. I guess I was a little suicidal, but maybe not seriously so. I don't know. I studied for my exams. I got good grades. I was miserable.

Everything that I had taken for stability had vanished, minus the fact that there was money there for my tuition, room and board. So I worked hard. I made a few friends, but they looked at me like I was a mangy cat sometimes. They kind of walked around me. Could the simple, evocative routine of following the Jets provide the relief?

No. Because as Fortune would have it, this was the year of the replacement players, the football strike. On the 11th of October, the replacement Jets lost to the replacement Colts 6-0. As an example of maddening futility, you could find no better example than two phony professional teams playing one another under the Hoosier Dome - a ceiling as numbingly white as a New England sky - in front of as many as maybe a couple of hundred human beings.

But on the day of the game I was nursing the very first true hangover of my life, one brought on by my first ever Saturday night binge drinking. I had been an awfully good kid in high school, but now that everyone had left me to my own devices, I finally decided to get really, really drunk for the very first time. Josef from Switzerland, Phil from rural Maryland, and I bought a couple of six packs of Molson and watched the NLCS from San Francisco on the tiny black and white TV propped on a desk chair. I drank a great deal, taking Pepto Bismol as a chaser in anticipation of what I assumed would be a night of intestinal failure, only to wake the next morning with a black tongue. The morning was spent vomiting, begging God for release from this life, with assurances that this was the only time I would ever let this happen to me. Ah, youth.

As I moved in my blanket from toilet to bed, toilet to bed, I finally found some peaceful slumber, the kind where the body is too exhausted even to hurl anything more. When I woke up, Maryland Phil was kind enough to lean over me and give me the Jets score, 6-0.

I spoke to him like the Gipper to Rockne. I mustered the strength to speak my last words:

"What quarter?"

"Quarter?" he asked. "No quarter, man. That's the final score."

Perhaps I was delirious. That was impossible. "Wha...what time is it?" I asked, not comprehending.

"It's dinner time. Me and Joe are going down. It's Cordon Bleu."

But it had been morning only a few minutes ago. Or maybe it had been afternoon. Hadn't it?

"Dude," he offered, trying to speak a measure of reason to the dying, seeming simultaneously amused by my blanched, awful state, "you're still sleeping it off. It's nighttime. It's six o'clock. You want anything from the dining hall?"

But it couldn't be. But it was. Six-nothing. Six o'clock. "Get me a roll, willya?" I said, before lapsing back into unconsciousness. I don't know how they greeted that ridiculous request. They had been kind enough to share the score with me, probably because the only thing they knew about me was that I was a Jets fan, because that was pretty much the only thing anyone could really probably draw out, even with a lot of Molson in me. But how else was I to respond to the unfamiliarity of losing a day in the wake of a bender? How else could I respond to the results of what was probably a crushingly dull scab game?

A week later, the Stock Market would crash, but on October 11, 1987, I had missed Mass for the first time in my life and, even more, missed following a Jets game for the first time in my life. I had missed lunch. And aside from following the Jets, I had found a new hobby. Oh brave new world...

****

One final note - on October 11, 1992, the Jets lost to the Colts in the Hoosier Dome by an improved score of 6-3. There were no scabs or replacements. Just bad, bad, bad football. I was living in an unfamiliar city, drunk, unhappy, isolated and alone...

Well, you get the idea.

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