Before this game began, I took this photograph of myself, wearing my Namath greens. The shot's most prominent feature is, of course, the index finger pointing somewhat obnoxiously at the viewer. The picture unwittingly conveys my own mixed sense of hesitation and hope. I thought I might try to communicate some enthusiasm before an important football game during this most unusual Jets season. But to be honest with you, it's difficult to hide years of disappointment. I'm sort of gesturing like, You guys better not be getting me excited over nothing. I'm freakin' warning you guys!
And yet, realistically, I knew that this was going to be a tough game. How could it not be? Keith Bulluck alone frightened me. And though last year's Patriots would have manhandled this year's Titans of Tennessee, I did not think the modern manifestation of the Titans of New York would escape a late fourth quarter Jeff Fisher drive. The worst was realizing that if the Jets didn't beat the Oiler-Titans then Tennessee would probably go 14-0, if not 16-0, so light is their second-half schedule. And that just wouldn't have been right. Mercury Morris would have just about lost his mind. And I right with him.
But break out the champagne, Nick Buoniconti. Have the Jets been the spoiler of an undefeated season (other than their own) ever before? I don't think so. I would like to have my crack GGL team work on that one. Anyway, this was one of those days where I was forced to follow the game online. Again, I don't know if I enjoyed this win more following it online than I would have had I watched it on the set. There are lots of complicated emotions at work here. If the Jets are on a good drive downfield, do I feel less stress if it's just manifesting itself as a series of arrows and markers on a green field that looks like the old NFL Strategy board game? Yes. Why? Does it really matter?
And what was on CBS-3 TV in Philly? Well, nothing football-related, actually. No one wanted to compete with Fox's coverage of the Eagles, even when the home team play as bad as they did against the Ravens. This is one of those seasons where the Eagles are like a bickering, unhappy family who are making everybody at a reunion picnic incredibly uncomfortable. One was almost tempted to watch CBS Sports' coverage of rodeo at 2:30 pm instead. On public access was a paid programming infomercial that outlined the most successful ways that you - with just a minimal investment - can profit many times over from the epidemic foreclosures across our nation. Is there a better candidate for Hell than the twisted amoral f@#$ who came up with that little idea? Happy Holidays! Now you can buy up homes and turn their former owners into your servants before flipping the house and turning them out onto the street! Ah, America.
But what of the Jets game? The story is the exuberant Favre, the irrepressible Leon Washington, the consistent and determined Mr. Jones and the best draft choice at tight end in Dustin Keller that the Jets have ever, ever, ever had. Kyle Brady? Silence! Johnny Mitchell? Howls of derisive laughter!! But how fantastic was the defense? Well, actually it did precisely the job it needed for the 20 minutes of game time that were required for them to play. Twenty minutes. Beyond that, the offense controlled the ball and the entire game. I kept following it online thinking there was some kind of delay in the f@#$ing wireless again, but there was none. "Wait," I thought. "The Jets don't still have the ball, do they?" Surely it was an "optical gallusion," as a somewhat lower level student of mine described the picture on the cover of his copy of The Great Gatsby on Friday. You be the judge.
No and no, but thanks for sharing. The Jets simply kept the ball and controlled the clock the way the '90 Giants did against the Bills. Keep it, run it, throw short passes. This Brian Schottenheimer is some kind of genius, isn't he?
Well...maybe. Are you just joining us? Would you like me to delineate the host of blown expectations for the Jets over the years? I hope the answer is no. I'm tired - really tired of doing that. Instead here is your offensive captain speaking of his afternoon in Nashville:
"We didn't think we could dominate them in the running game or the passing game, and in all honesty, we did both," said Brett Favre after the game. We didn't think we could...(but) we did both. Do both again, boys. For the love of God. Do both again.
In the midst of my postgame meditations, I got that confirmation that this was a Big Game - a phone call from Dad, the fallen-away season tickets holder from the 60's and 70's. He has never spent too much of his time devoted to watching Brett Favre over the years, but he mentioned that the Jets hadn't quite had a QB like Favre since Namath, and obviously he is correct. To compare the two is misleading on one level. Favre is a much better quarterback at 39 than Namath was at 33. And no one since Joe Willie for the Jets can even compare to Namath. Recall if you will Todd, O'Brien, Ryan, O'Donnell, Testeverde, Lucas, Pennington. Some better than others, obviously. No. Even if he had more interceptions than touchdowns, it was Joe's style that made the permanent mark. And though Brett Favre doesn't wear fur coats, Joe Namath's insistence on playing in his own style and in his own way, his throwing with abandon, his refusal to abide by sensible quarterbacking standards - all of this is embodied in Brett Favre. That's what got Dad excited about the Jets in the first place - their unconventional style of play. Brett Favre's fake, fade and hurl to Laverneus Coles for the 20-3 lead in the Titans game was a microcosm of all of those little, weird idiosyncratic things of which a genius is capable.