I did not play organized football beyond the fourth grade, and like a lot fans, I compensate for my limited experiences in sports with an almost childlike obsession as a spectator. I did play a sport in high school during my freshman year, and I was pretty good at it. I was a varsity letter cross-country runner. It did not pull the honeys.
The point of mentioning this, though, is that while trudging back from yet another five-mile practice run with the team, I would spy the high school football squad going through the motions. Their football coach was a towering, lugubrious looking figure with a cold, sneering, cruel face, yet with an accent just short of sounding like one of the Three Stooges. To add to it, he had a fu manchu mustache more appropriate to Ming the Merciless than Joseph William Namath. His team did not like him.
Let them hate; so long as they fear. This is the essence of Machiavelli's rule of leadership, I suppose. We have not evolved far enough as a species to really produce leaders of a pure moral essence, so Jean-Luc Picard wasn't exactly my high school's football coach. Neither was he particularly self-conscious. I find that tyrants are often not. A very talented player on his team went to the trouble of producing a very good likeness of the coach dressed as Darth Vader, wielding a light saber, and hung it outside his office. When I asked the coach - callow kid of 14 that I was - why he didn't take the picture down, he replied, "Because I want the bastard who did this to feel ashamed of himself for what he did." Somehow, even so young, I knew that coach's plan wasn't going to work. Displaying his work under any pretext will only embolden your average artist, and so I had my first real taste of dramatic irony.
The real point of mentioning this, though, was that (as I began earlier before Truth broke in with all her matter-of-fact) as I fumbled back into the locker room at high school, I passed by football practice one day and saw the coach blistering three players on the sidelines for sitting on their helmets. "I told you idiots once, I told you a million times I don't want to see that."
But why? If it was OK for John Riggins, then why not for the chubby boys of my high school? Did they seriously weigh that much? Was the coach worried about replacing equipment that would go cracked under a lineman's buttocks? Could he actually have been worried for their brains' fragile cages? Was this just a peeve? A peeve, probably. One that #40 James Hasty evidently would have had no problem deflecting. Hasty and Russell Carter are two secondary players I was sorely unhappy to the Jets let go.
Sometimes I play a little game with myself in which I imagine what if.... There's so much in Jets history from which to choose. There are too many examples. Suffice: what if James Hasty had not left the Jets secondary to join the Chiefs in 1994? If he had stayed a Jet, he would have endured Kotite and then Parcells' grinding mill. How would a high profile defensive player have been received by the Tuna Overlord? I mean, Otis Smith, Ray Mickens, and Aaron Glenn all played for the '96 squad and then for Parcells, so maybe Hasty would have been able to play for the Great Manipulator. He might not immediately have been painted as a prima donna. For the Chiefs, Hasty earned Pro Bowl seasons from 1997 to 1999. Had he been on the Jets during that time, would Parcells have told him to get up off his hemlet? I believe not, though it might still be a good idea for my old high school coach and Parcells to be in group therapy.
It certainly looks as though Dainard Paulson #40 wants us to say something about him, doesn't it? And why not. There's a little surprise here for some of you unfamiliar with the early history of your beloved club. King replaced Dainard Paulson in #40 in 1967. Originally a New York Titan, Paulson came out of Oregon State and eventually caught 12 interceptions in 1964 as a Jet, a statistic placing him not only in the AFL All-Star Game but in the all-time annals of the game itself - tied at #5 for all-time single season interception records. Paul Krause did the same in the NFL for the Redskins in '64. The only person afterwards to approach this single-season record was Lester Hayes in 1980 for the Oakland Raiders, but remember that Hayes did it in a 16-game season. Dainard Paulson was just two seasons away from having the same distinction as Bill Mathis, Larry Grantham, Curley Johnson and Don Maynard - as both Titans and Jets in Super Bowl III - but Paulson's career ends without statistical distinction at the end of 1966. The rest is silence.
If Dainard Paulson was that good - and he was - where did he go? To vanish irrevocably from the game must have been traumatic for him. Or was it, all the same, just a boy's game and not a man's endeavor to him? Maybe it was just time to return to his childhood home in California, to begin his life as a surfer, to discover bliss in the warm ocean and under God's sunshine. These are the mysteries that keep me awake at night.