Tuesday, March 30, 2010

NY Jets #43 - Part 1

On April 23, 2005, Mike Brim #43, who played cornerback for the Jets from 1991-92, was murdered by another man outside his home in Virginia. At present, the only thing I can find about his death is that it was the result of an "argument over a woman." When people die young, there is always a question of a suicide, an overdose, an accident, or a murder. His violent death is familiar considering how many athletes who, through their own fault or someone else's, go well before their time. Last year Steve McNair was killed by a woman, while Mike Brim was killed "over a woman," reminding us once again that a crime of passion is more likely to involve a mere injury any other society where owning a gun is not perceived to be an inalienable right endowed by one's creator. I was shaken by McNair's murder last year, but the event has already entered into our consciousness as just another unfortunate event with nothing to do with our society's pathological love of bearing arms. It enters into our minds with the same bland acceptance as massacres at schools.

The above link from Bassett, and the comment that follow, both speak of Mike Brim's fine play. His best years were as a Jet; other than a Jet lifer, who else can we say that about that we've looked at so far? His best season was 1992, especially with a touchdown (on one of his six interceptions that season) against his former team, the Detroit Lions. His career from 1988 to 1995, with five different teams, seems parabolic. Football is not like life; in life, moments of joy may be sparse, but they're distributed over a broader spectrum than a football career provides. For a football player, life is Hobbesian - nasty, brutish and short. Joy is always a peak on the graph.


Why do I read the marriage announcements in the New York Times in the Sunday Styles section? Even I don't know. Who do I think I am, some kind of old Dutch family squire? And what am I looking for? I saw one person that I graduated high school with who ended up there about fifteen years ago, but that's it. It's a Sunday habit. I also go copiously through my college bulletins to see what's happening to the people of my graduating classes (there's not much, actually). I've stopped looking to see who's gotten married, and now I'm on to seeing who's having their third kid. I have two ex-girlfriends who are published writers, so I'm always curious to read about their exploits even though I have no intention of contacting them. I do not imagine that I will end up in anything they write. Which is good, believe me.

But pretty soon I'll be looking there to see who's died. I'll become one of those people who look at the obituaries every day. We're all just perennial browsers, making note of all the recorded ceremonies of birth, school, work and death - marking time in the family of humanity.

The only trouble is my family and my friends are spread out in many places, and there's very little sense of community that I have with anyone out there, largely due to my own introversion. I am a quintessential kind of American, a lone soul successfully disconnected from the points of community, who's actually not as self-reliant as he'd like to believe. I shop at all the same stores as everyone else. I eat the same food as you. I watch TV when I could read, and when I read, I read things that you're probably reading. I drive when I should walk. With the exception that I refuse to do Facebook, I am principally average.

John Dockery
On Valentine's Day this past year, I saw in the Styles section the notice for the marriage of a Ryan Kaple and Ciara Dockery, and I wondered aloud, "I wonder if that's John Dockery's daughter?" And by God, it was. If you watched a football game between the late 1980's and the 1990's, it's very likely that you saw John Dockery #43 on the sideline of a college football game, usually reporting for CBS or NBC . But John Dockery was also part of the crew that ran around with Joe Namath back in the day and played cornerback for us from 1968-71. I believe he still reports from the sidelines for Westwood One on Monday Nights.

Dockery graduated from Harvard and was on his way to studying Urban Planning at Columbia, according to the Jets' 1971 Yearbook. But clearly he had a view that football glamor led at least to some speaking parts on the margins, so that career in building things fell aside. He had a big season with the Jets in 1969, with a team-high five interceptions and had a single shot at playing both ways with one rushing attempt for seven yards in a loss against Denver. It must have been a great time to be a Jet, waltzing into Bachelor's III with the man himself. When Dockery started doing TV with Bill Mazer (on Channel 5?) in New York when I was little, I remember my parents independently pointing him out to me as a relic of a Jets' past that I had just missed. It was sometimes hard to imagine someone as a Jet if he wasn't standing right there, in front of you, in the green and white. I was jealous of their memories of a time when the Jets were good, when life was good for the Jets and John Dockery's name was called at games. If the Jake Gyllenhaal biopic of Namath ever happens - and I'm starting to doubt it will - then who will play John Dockery? He and the man himself currently run a football camp that shares their name. All things total, it has not been a bad life for John.

So when I saw his daughter's marriage listed, I reacted as the perpetual loner living in his imaginary village, half-heartedly search for community. I thought, How great for John Dockery. I'm happy for him. What an auspicious match! I wonder why I wasn't invited. This is why being a fan is an essential part of being a human being. Simply by assigning our loyalty to a club, we are suddenly a member of a community that can exist to whatever degree we like within our imagination. As if being a Jets fan is, in some ways, a network of belonging that defies logic, opening doors to belonging the way that being an actual Jet did for John Dockery. If it hadn't, then perhaps he would have been an architect.


Slimbo said...

I once saw an ex-girlfriend's marriage in the Sunday Styles. She'd married a PhD who undoubtably is smarter and more successful than I am, though still looked like a putz.

She was a Duke alumni and broke up with me on my birthday.

Martin Roche said...

There is no way someone who graduated from Duke is not going to do that.