Monday, May 31, 2010

NY Jets: #10

With updates....

Erik Ainge (#10)
At the moment, the New York Jets fourth string quarterback Erik Ainge, formerly from the Tennessee Vols, formerly #10, may yet spend his career riding the bench the way quarterbacks do, this time wearing #3. Yes, he is Danny Ainge's nephew, which could happen to anybody. Erik Ainge is still waiting for his big chance. I have chosen to co-opt the photograph to the right as a representation of his life in limbo - as being half up on his own feet, half down by someone else's power. Now that QB Kevin O'Connell has been brought over from the Patriots, the wait continues. We are all waiting, I suppose. Where will the axe fall? Before it does, I would like to offer a numbers tribute to Erik Ainge. It's the least we can do. Tune in....

Pat Ry
Pat Ryan? Yes, the man who nearly rescued the 1986 season from certain ruin after playing years as a backup. And then came certain ruin. He was injured in the January 1987 Divisional Playoff against the Cleveland Browns after starting the game off by throwing a magnificent flea flicker touchdown to Wesley Walker. What happened? Did he not stretch before the game? Even after the mortifying humiliations and shame of my Irish Catholic childhood, the worst thing that ever happened to me by the age of 17 was Pat Ryan's groin pull in the January when the Giants first won the Super Bowl. What a desolation.

Jack Trudeau
Now for the tens who make less of a dent in the memory. Like Jack Trudeau. He was supposed to be the next big thing for the Indianapolis Colts, and then, in turn, he was not. He was a star at the University of Illinois. I remember Illinois playing UCLA in the Rose Bowl as I sat in the little Italian restaurant in Pleasantville, and Jack Trudeau was quarterbacking. I wandered away from my family into the restaurant bar and gaped up at the TV there, ignoring the stares of the lonely New Year's night drinkers, ignoring the sensation of misery of knowing that I was 15 and eating dinner with my family in a small town and that Christmas vacation was over. Ah, youth. Trudeau played one year as a backup for the Jets in 1994, but there are no pictures that I can find of him in green. It was his second-to-last season in the NFL. Last year, Trudeau had to pay a fine for serving alcohol to minors at his child's high school graduation party. Twenty years ago, he punched a cop in an Indiana bar. Can there be such a thing as a promising quarterback without a behavioral problem?

by Marty Domres
Marty Domres was another big hope at quarterback for the Colts. Of course, he was from Dartmouth, so it makes sense that what he was better at was writing than he was at quarterbacking. He's the guy who played for Baltimore between Johnny Unitas and Bert Jones. And while we're at it, we could spend days tracing the history of failed Jets quarterbacks, but look at the Baltimore/Indianapolis Colts' QB's over the years before Manning arrived: Art Schlichter, John Elway (who never arrived), Mark Pagel, Gary Hogeboom, Jack Trudeau, Jeff George. It's a hard life being a fan sometimes.

As with Jack Trudeau, there are no photographs of Marty Domres in a Jets uniform. He backed up Joe Namath for one season, in #10. However, if I'm in a second-hand bookstore and I get a chance to find his book on his first year of playing in San Diego, I will be sure to skim its yellowing pages, even as they fill my lungs with paralyzing mold. The cover alone is a piece of the past, a picture of a time when any book on any subject required the depiction of a busty stewardess, sort of like the one (if you squinted your eyes) who was serving you a bloody mary on your Eastern Airlines flight to an insurance convention in Omaha.

There's something about
the Colts and our #10's.
Cary Blanchard played two seasons with the Jets toward the beginning of his career. He came and went. I don't know why. He is the first kicker of the post-Pat Leahy era, and I suppose the chance to nab Nick Lowery was just too much for the Jets. Or they were too cheap to hold onto Blanchard. Then he went to have a successful career with - wait for it - the Colts. Must be something about the #10.

The same year the Jets were trying out Blanchard, Jason Staurovsky was also used as a place kicker. It was a brief career for Jason, starting with the St. Louis football Cardinals; it continued with the woeful New England Patriots of my college years, and it ended with the Jets. Nothing beside remains. This is Jason Staurovsky's entry on Wikipedia: "He is the uncle of Garrett and father of two. He is also a tutor to many children." OK. Fair enough. But why does Garrett get named in the entry but his own kids don't? Oh God, never mind.

Julian Fagan also ended his career with the Jets - in 1973, his only season kicking with them. By the time he was done with them he was already practicing law in the off-season back home in Mississippi. I'm only curious about this because as a graduate of Ole Miss, he belonged to one of the first classes to graduate African-Americans, which, as a white man himself, must have been an interesting experience. After college, he kicked for the New Orleans Saints. Can you imagine what it was like for a Deep South boy to suddenly play in Queens? Is that why he decided that practicing law in Jackson was better than kicking into the Flushing Bay swirl? Did playing in capital city of the East Coast Intellectual Elite (albeit one of its residential boroughs) drive him back home? Did he work for Trent Lott's campaign? Kirk Fordyce's? Yeesh.

Julian Fagan and friend
But have you ever seen a more telling photograph than this one at right, courtesy of AP? We just recently finished our long tribute to John Riggins, one of only four legendary Jets to get his own Infinite Jets profile - a tribute for which every pro Jet longs, no doubt. No doubt. Here is Fagan on the sideline of an exhibition game with Riggins during the latter's brief '73 holdout. There are two worldviews at work here. One appears to appreciate sportsmanship, knowing your place on the totem pole, showing up, not making a display of yourself, and getting in line just like everybody else. The other is clearly carving his own face on the totem pole. I've already adequately explained why John Riggins needed to wear this version of "authentic" Native American wear. Was he moved by the weeping Indian? No. He was following cosmic advice. But Julian Fagan is looking southward, back to the place where he imagines this kind of weirdo stuff is not so important just yet. He's looking toward a refuge unspoiled by the need for self-expression, where people follow rules and stuff like that. As if it were that simple.


Bobby Renn?
I know this is very likely the Bobby Renn who died in 1971 but played in #10 for the New York Titans and the Jets. He got to be on the cover of the Florida State's yearbook because he was an exceptional player, the kind that college fans love because he was all heart. I mean, let's face it, working for nothing is a Southern thing, and that's still why college football is a Southerner's game. Good ol' Bobby. Sounded like a great player. He was a sixty minute man, playing both running back and defensive back, a position eccentricity that was already fazed out of the game by the time he was starting at the same positions for the Jets in 1963, his only season with them. My wife still thinks that football should be a two-position game, which will give you some idea of what our household chore assignments are like.

But why did Bobby die before his time?


Slimbo said...

Would I be incorrect in identifying Keyshawn as the prototype of this 'new generation' of wide receivers? The uniform numbers between 10-19, the combo of size and speed, the outsized ego? It all fits. The anti-Cherbet.

Martin Roche said...

I think you're on to something, although Keyshawn seems strangely sane compared with the peculiar lot of them. But he did make himself the center of attention in NY and Tampa. The low numbers seem to be indicative of its modern manifestation. But it's possible that Michael Irvin was its early prototype. Troubled men with mink egos.

David Letterman said...

This is all very Gay.

Martin Roche said...