Sunday, November 9, 2008

Responding as a Jets Fan Does

This has been an interesting week, hasn't it? I mean, yes, I had a feeling the Jets would win at Buffalo, but then I was even more surprised that they did it well, especially at the front line, especially in the secondary. I came away feeling oddly uncomfortable, as if this meant something truly sinister. This is the way I am. I've commented before that my wife has picked up on the general mixture of happiness and displeasure that accompanies my experience of my football team actually winning. When they do.

Then there was the election. I work with a 50-50 split between Democrats and Republicans in my department. This is a highly conservative white blue-collar community with a diversity of relatively conservative Asian, Middle Eastern and South Asian families and a politically liberal African-American one that has been growing for years. Our English Department is 90% white, which means that it reflects its community, especially among its men. I can talk sports with my fellow men, but when we talk politics, I know I'm going to be somewhat in the minority. I voted for Obama this year, and in any other high school in any other suburban area outside Philadelphia, I would probably not be as alone as I am here among Reagan's children. But unlike in years past, when I had to endure the self-satisfaction that I grant some of my colleagues felt in the wake of two Presidential elections (one more notorious than any in American history), this year my team won.

My team? Actually, I hate that. When I was in high school during the final decade of the Cold War, no one spoke of Red states and Blue states. Red was the dubious color of international Communism whose influence could be felt in pink and purple. Lots of colors weren't safe from red's emasculating influence. It's what Tories wore in the Revolution. Blue was more manly and patriotic. It's what we were taught the Minutemen wore. It was the color of all Government-issued material. I drove my parents' blue 1980 Chevy Malibu in high school that I discovered one day my friends had garnished with the words "Property of the Federal Government" with their fingers in its layers of winter dust. We weren't split into teams yet. Yes, there were Democrats and Republicans, but even then these weren't two absolutely discernible sides. There were Democrats and Republicans of a variety apiece, some liberal, many more moderate, some conservative. I may be romanticizing the past a bit, but I recall that we were not yet forced to identify ourselves with the colors of the electoral map. I have only one team, and their colors are green and white.

But since I have a team already, I'm accustomed to what it feels like when my team wins. Or, rather, I'm accustomed to my team losing, which is why I'm more at home when they do lose - in the regular season, in the playoffs, or even in a Presidential election. When they do win, it's an uncomfortable thing for me to talk about with people the next day. I'm used to complaining about a losing pass rush, no offensive line protection, a mercurial coach, a lack of tall receivers. I'm never under the impression that I need to explain or enjoy their winning.

In fact, I usually predict a loss ahead of time. "I wouldn't bet on it," I say to someone about the Rams-Jets this week, even when, at home, the Jets might actually win. Nevertheless, history teaches us nothing if not caution, and so I advise NFL pool people to take the other side in almost every case. After a while they know not to ask. So when a couple of my Republican friends asked me a few days before the election what I thought were Obama's chances, I responded as a trained Jets fan. Predict the loss. And I feel I predicted with a level of accuracy. I mean, how was it possible that Obama could win Ohio, Florida, Iowa, Indiana, Virginia, North Carolina, Colorado and New Mexico? How could one have expected him to win in the Pennsylvania's Carbon, Centre, Cambria and Elk counties? History tells us it's safe to bet against. I realize that this borders on a superstition, but superstitions are made for the fans of losing teams; they are a safeguard against the pain of an unrealized hope. Why bet on your team, as it were?

So the next day my colleagues might have thought I had been putting them on. I swear I wasn't. Who would have predicted Obama winning 364 electoral votes? I was just going by what I knew, following the basic instincts of my less than sunny disposition, my less than hopeful outlook.

Which made me consider things even further when I saw Happy-Go-Lucky last night, by one of my favorite filmmakers, Mike Leigh. What if I went through life favoring the best in people and circumstance and not relying on a depressive's doubt, on superstition and the subsequently comforting need to make everyone else think the way I do? Now wouldn't that be nice?

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