Wednesday, May 5, 2010

NY Jets #44 - Part 1

There are many reasons why numbers are so important to sports fans. Whether it be about scores, statistics, years, schedules, prices or uniforms, numbers are immutable, honest, a rock of certainty in a world that unsuccessfully tries to shake off its postmodern nature. Players lie about their performance enhancements because winning always invites a level of human cheating; the numbers merely reflect the truth about human nature. Management lies about their loyalty to cities and about their financial dealings because it's their franchise, not the fans'. When they raise your tickets, or have to sell off players you love or let players go, or move your team to a different city, it is because the sport you love is actually a business, guided by numbers. The numbers don't lie. People do. Numbers are often our undoing, but fans know we can trust numbers to tell the truths that people cannot.

People also have favorite numbers, not quite the way they have favorite colors. One establishes a relationship with a number because of something or someone attached to it. For me, as a child, the number 44 was my talisman. It didn't lie. I suppose it would have been simpler if I had just loved the #4, but #44 would not be denied. It seemed important enough for a cough medicine, so it must have been a lucky number. At Syracuse, it is such a tremendously important number that they have now retired it, in large measure because of the too-weighty expectations that accompany wearing it, the way Jim Brown, Ernie Davis, Floyd Little, and Derrick Coleman all did. When he played football for the University of Kansas, John Riggins wore #32, but when he was drafted in the first round by the New York Jets in 1971 he got #44 because Emerson Boozer wore #32, and the rest is history - his and mine, for it was my lucky number because it was his. So I've been waiting for #44 for a while. Maybe my whole life. Here it is.

But first, let's talk about everybody other than John Riggins who's worn #44 on the Jets.

We begin with defensive back James Ihedigbo (right), the present wearer. Here is his website. Here he trains. Here are his tats. Before they had their own web sites, players advertised chain saws, cigarettes, spark plugs, "smokeless tobacco," foot powder, soap, snow tires, mufflers. Now, in the post-Norman Mailer era, they have only to advertise themselves. I don't think any of us are in a position to talk about whether or not this a good thing. Almost all of these web sites advertise the accomplishments of a players and the charities to which he contributes. Here, Ihedigbo shares his "views." I'll cut to the chase. He believes that "cardio, cardio and more cardio" are the key to a strong belief system. Can anyone whose whole life has been devoted to a career in athletics be expected to know or believe in anything else? Other than Jesus (no offense to Jesus)? Not everybody can be Frank Ryan.


Keyshawn's helmet (top right)
Submitted for your approval: for the benefit for the offended Lions fan who said that Jets fans "were all bad" compared with Giants fans: the tail end of the hit that former Detroit Lion Corwin Brown laid on Keyshawn Johnson in 2000. You will note that the former Jets receiver is bareheaded, in large measure because his helmet has left his person and is on a trajectory to go beyond the top right hand corner of the frame. Before he was a Lion, Corwin Brown was Jet.

And, briefly, a Jets defensive backs coach. Corwin Brown #44 belongs to the continuously revolving axis surrounding Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick and Eric Mangini, all silently brooding, uncommunicative men. The fourth horseman awaits his day in the black hole sun. Is Corwin Brown the next One?

Parcells, Belichick and Mangini are men who bristle ambiguously with resentment, and they foster a sense of lingering disdain wherever they go. Brown recently became Belichick's defensive coordinator after playing in the Dark Lord's scheme while playing for the Jets in the late 90's. Prior to that he had played for both Parcells and Belichick while on the Patriots.

But Parcells and Belichick are different kinds of men. One is open with the press in a wholly negative fashion, like a bellicose dad who is indulgent with all your hangups, problems and gripes until he lashes out at you, and then leaves for good. Thanks, Dad. See you at Christmas. I guess. The other is your creepy next door neighbor about whom you are clearly jealous: look at all that cool lawn equipment he has, look at his wife, his achieving kids - how did he get that way? Until you realize he's watching you move around your house with his high-powered Minolta lens. Last year, while coaching defense at Notre Dame, Corwin Brown showed something of this weirdness. He got mad at Navy's head coach for speaking with tepid disparagement of the Irish's defense after Navy finally won one in South Bend. Brown's retort is part Parcells, part Belichick - part spleen, part paranoia.

As you can see from the story, Brown's reaction was a little over-the-top, but among these kinds of men, slights are everywhere. If anything, Brown is a sore loser, a misunderstood person in the world of sports if you ask me. I've been nothing but a sore loser for years, and we have feelings, too. Corwin Brown sure does. But now that he's back with Belichick, I wonder. Perhaps he's not just just a bad loser? Maybe he's exactly their kind of Nixonian archetype. Who can tell? I wait and see. I wait. And see. But remember - you heard it here first.


Slimbo said...

You know, at the Cuse, all the university phone numbers begin with 44. No lie.

Great write-up about Brown. Never knew about him.

Can't wait for Riggins.

Martin Roche said...

I did not know that about the telephone extensions. I wish my alma mater had as much a sense of ghosts, other than Catholicism.

Can't wait for Riggins, either. It's a tough one.