We're finally getting through #42. But not before we talk about Maurice Turner.
He wore #42 for one game in 1987. Having said that, the first thing that should pop into your head is "replacement player." And that he was. He played a season and a half with the Vikings and was traded near the end of 1985 to the Green Bay Packers. Then, two years later, Maurice Turner played one game for cash in a strike season. He was a replacement player, easily replaceable.
Why do we include replacement players in our roundup of all the players who've ever played in a Jets uniform? Aren't we just rewarding corporate fraud? Mom always told me as a kid to never to cross a picket line. Aren't we just suggesting that all of us are replacements in this life, with replacements of our own waiting for us, as the fictional Langley Collyer suggests in E.L. Doctorow's recent novel, Homer and Langley?
About Langley's "theory of replacements," Homer tells us:
...I remember thinking there as something collegiate about it.
I have a theory, he said to me. Everything in life gets replaced. We are our parents' replacements just as they were replacements of the previous generation...
I said, Langley, people aren't all the same like dumb bison, we are each a person. A genius like Beethoven can't be replaced.
But you see, Homer, Beethoven was a genius for his time. We have the notations of his genius, but he is not our genius...Besides, it's not what any of them achieve but how they stand in relation to the rest of us. Who is your favorite baseballer? he said.
Walter Johnson, I said.
And what is he but a replacement for Cannonball Titcomb? One of the constructions is for us to have athletes to admire, to create ourselves as an audience of admirers for baseballers. This seems to be a means of cultural communizing that creates great social satisfaction and possibly ritualizes, what with our baseball teams of different towns, our tendency to murder one another. There will always be in America for as long as baseball is played someone who serves the youth still to be born as Walter Johnson serves you.
The notion is chilling, especially when we think about how replaceable all athletes are, from the Walter Johnsons of our time (LeBron for Jordan) to the monstrously nameless multitude - the rest of us - who play out our positions and our roles ever without distinction, and fade away from the cosmic memory. When one considers the great numbers of college football and basketball players who will never graduate, let alone play a professional sport, you begin to appreciate why Doctorow uses sports figures as object examples to illustrate Langley's theory. You begin to comprehend reasoning like Langley's. The fact that one man wears a departed player's number simply reinforces this lugubrious train of thought all the more.
But everything depends on the view one brings to things, and though blind, Homer Collyer also recognizes in Langley's voice that his brother is probably making up his theory as he goes along. Homer also comes to suspect that the Theory of Replacements is merely a product of Langley's "bitterness of life or despair of it."
Rashad Washington played in #42 for the Jets from 2004-07. I try not to be lazy about these things, but if you really want a beat on Washington's career with the Jets - which encompasses his NFL career - then take a look at his page on the all-time roster, which features all sorts of unmoored statistics on his work in special teams. The basics are these: injured at the end of 2004, he saw frequent action in 2005, and then some in 2006. Then less in 2007. There are few statistics that really give dramatic worth to the role of special teams player, but Washington's lends a hand with phrases like "special teams tackle," which are "recorded," "tallied" or "notched" (always curious synonyms for "made"). One of Randy Lange's articles on the Jets' web site from the beginning of the truly disappointing 2007 season concerned Washington's ability to roll with change and, implicitly, disappointment. He did not finish 2007, and though he recorded 24 tackles the year before, he managed only four the following year. Either the competition to which Rashad Washington alludes in Lange's article got to be too much or he was simply out of gas. The numbers don't lie, but they don't tell very good stories, either.
But what I want to know is Clyde Washington's story. This #42 played at defensive back from 1963-65. According to his page on the Jets' all-time roster, he had come from the Patriots to the newly revised Gotham Football Club and "pleasantly surprised" Weeb Ewbank. The last detail on him from the 1964 New York Jets Yearbook indicates that "still single, the 26-year-old Washington lives in Carlisle, PA," a rural college town. Still available, ladies of 1965, and very much interested in a long-term commitment.
But after that, there's the little one line paragraph that follows:
"Clyde passed away Dec. 28, 1974."
That was the same year my grandfather died, but he was 76. Clyde Washington was all of 36 years old when he died. Three days on either side of Christmas and the New Year, how and why did Clyde Washington die?
I've looked and found nothing so far. We become so accustomed to the notion that the Interwebs will reveal everything we need in order to sate our desire for something, anything we want in the moment (usually it's something morbid, like the reason for people's deaths) that we assume there isn't anything we can't know. But the truth is that no matter how powerful it becomes, the Web can only scratch the surface of human meaning. It loves facile things that are destined to be replaced out of memory by newer yet equally facile things. Its existence is the product of desires that belong to a people with low expectations for human knowledge. And no matter where I look, I can't find anything about Clyde Washington's death. There is a town called Clyde in Washington State, though.
This has been bothering me for weeks. What happened to Clyde Washington? If anyone knows, I'd be grateful to find out. This is more than just a passing whim or a moribund itch. If we go by the number itself, Randy Beverly was eventually the replacement for Clyde Washington, sort of like Johnson for Titcomb. Looking at him there in his 1964 Topps card, he stands steady on his feet and hunched ever so slightly in the manner of the defensive back who is ready to move backward at the snap of the ball. But the more I look at it, the more I notice that he also looks strangely undecided, as if he feels like the play isn't really going to get off. Clyde Washington appears vaguely prepared for whatever is next, just as we all imagine ourselves to be in our life's work. But he also stands as a solitary figure against the yellow void, suddenly looking vulnerable, reminding us that in the end all men die alone, destined to be replaced.