While riding Amtrak from Philadelphia to Penn Station in the spring of 2000, a guy in the seat directly behind me, who certainly sounded at high decibel like someone from Jamaica, was nearly spitting in my ear while conversing to the person on the other end of his cell phone. He insisted, time and time again, that The Bitch left him with nothing. The bitch took his money. All his money.
"What am I gonna do?" he asked, over and over again - not so much even to the lucky person on the other end after a while, it seemed, but to the world and to God. "What the fuck am I gonna do?"
It went on like this the whole way. It was OK at first, maybe around Croydon, but it was really old by the time we reached Newark. I couldn't move my seat; there was nowhere else available in the car, and I wasn't about to risk losing it in an effort to look through the crowded train just because I couldn't stand hearing it over and over. The bitch left me with nothing. Nothing. What am I gonna do? New York wasn't far by then.
Finally, New York. I got up, and as he and I exited to our separate ways at the station, he caught sight of my New York Jets t-shirt and addressed me in a familiarly distressed tone, as if it were part of his ongoing troubles:
I looked at him.
"Holy shit. What the fuck they gonna do without Keyshawn, now? Huh? They are so fucked. What they gonna do?"
Well, we know what Keyshawn Johnson #19 did. He won a Super Bowl with Tampa Bay that the Philadelphia Eagles should gone to and won. I still resent him for leaving the Jets for more money, more respect, more rings the way that I resented John Riggins for doing the same in 1976. But then Keyshawn went and got kicked off the Bucs a little while afterward. He was the first player of this era to whom I had ever heard of this happening. But regardless of where he went, Keyshawn was, deep down, always that petulantly difficult author/rookie on a 3-13 team. He was tall and singularly self-possessive to the point of narcissism, which laid the groundwork for all the headcase wide receivers to come - Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, Ochocinco, Braylon Edwards - and yet the Jets have not had a receiver of his caliber and height since then (including Braylon Edwards) so my friend on the train was right to worry after all.
The only thing he really did wrong was to slam Wayne Chrebet - someone who came to the Jets as a walk-on and not a first-round draft choice - in his 1995 book. And then, after being picked up by Tampa Bay, Keyshawn compared himself to Chrebet by saying. "You're trying to compare a flashlight to a star. Flashlights only last so long, a star is in the sky forever." Their careers are the same number of seasons, with Keyshawn finishing with 814 catches in 162 games, whereas Chrebet finished with 580 in 152. Hardly a star to a flashlight. To this day, Keyshawn's unkind words about Chrebet provide the lone basis for my judgment of him. You can see Keyshawn Johnson on ESPN as a talking head on Sundays, wearing the inexplicably bad suits that they put their talking heads in, but no one will retire his number anywhere because he could never be a part of a team for long enough.
Wayne Chrebet has lost a great deal more. He has lost much of his memory and cognitive function due to the frequency with which he was pounded on the field, and unlike Keyshawn, Wayne Chrebet will be immortal with us, for whatever that is worth to Wayne. Number 80 hasn't been worn by anyone lately, and it should be retired by Wayne Chrebet's only team. Star to a flashlight indeed.
Bobby Riley was a replacement wide receiver with the #19 for the scab New York Jets of 1987. I wonder if the squad has reunions.
Number 19 and former Jets quarterback Malcolm Wood's nickname is "Dick."
When did the name "Dick" became something a widely understood slang - scurrilous, profane and insulting? It must have been somewhere around the early-70's, after the declarations of the sexual revolution, just after the Nixon Administration, about when I first became a Jets fan. I don't exactly know when in grade school I first learned that among all the terms for the male member the most notable was "dick," but its usage was widening fast. Thus, when Dick Cheney became Vice President, the name and its bearer were already so inextricably linked as to be anticlimactic, redundant. Of course he was a dick. What kind of man shoots his friend in the face? Now I'm worried that Cheney's complete and overall dickness as a Dick has actually softened the impact of this all-purpose slur.
But talk about redundancy and bad luck, how about "Dick Wood?" When he was drafted in 1959 by the Baltimore Colts, the name Dick was perceived as no more poisonous to the common person than a basement lined with asbestos. But by 1979, most of my classmates named Richard were already nicknamed "Rich" or "Richie." Nobody was a Dick anymore. But Malcolm Wood was still Dick. That wasn't going to change just because society did.
Today the use of "dick" has been expanded to encompass the usage as noun, verb, and adjective - all pejorative, all useful, while "Dick Wood" is now the kind of name that intramural college whiffleball teams give themselves. Among Dicks, Dick Wood is still a lesser figure, despite throwing the first touchdown at Shea Stadium and being the most traveled quarterback among different AFL teams, which, when you think about it, may not be all that much of a compliment.
Yet he retains a distinction of having a name that scores high in repressed giggles, along with names that are even funnier, like Dick Trickle of NASCAR or Dick Pole of the Red Sox and Mariners in the 70's. And interestingly enough, Dick Wood coached his way back to the Jets, as running backs coach for a Richard - Ritchie - Kotite's 3-13 squad of 1995. Just a couple of Dicks.