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Monday, September 27, 2010

NY Jets #45 - Part 1

There both is a Kern River and a Carson Falls, each located in Southern California, which is utterly unrelated, except by name and general location to Kern Carson, graduate of San Diego State University and running back for both the San Diego Chargers in the early 60's and for the New York Jets in 1965. For the Jets, he wore #45.

He also passed away in 2002. The only other bit of information I found about him is that he was born in 1942 in Hope, Arkansas. So, in the moments of his infant life, did he ever once see the passing carriage of a little boy named Billy Blythe, whose momma later married Roger Clinton of Hot Springs? Who knows? I'm certain that I probably walked the same grocery aisles with my own mother that Debbie Gibson did as a child in Merrick, NY. So, there you are. Brushes with greatness.

****

A man named Oliver Celestin must certainly come from New Orleans. The name Oliver has a resonance in the city. His first seasons were as an undrafted free agent at #45 with the Jets, and his best season was with us, with 25 tackles in 2005, which then saw him on his way to Seattle the next year, hot on the heels of the Seahawks' dubious loss to Big Ben in the Super Bowl. Then he played for the Arizona Cardinals in the Super Bowl two years later. Oliver Celestin has been closer to the big game more often than most New York Jets can ever claim, and yet his career was forced to end with the UFL's New York team, the Sentinels.

That's right. Don't act like you didn't know that New York had a UFL team for nine weeks. They played at Shuart Stadium at Hofstra, where I used to go see the Jets play scrimmages during training camp in the 70's while trying to weasel extra autographs from the likes of Wesley Walker.

You didn't you even know the New York Sentinels existed? Well, me neither. Seriously. Here, I'll show you their uniforms:


Except, this doesn't do you much good, does it? Because after winning nary a game in 2009, the New York Sentinels promptly packed their bags and moved to -

wait for it....

That's right! Hartford! Very good. They are now the Colonials of Hartford, as of this year. And their uniforms look like this:

It's hard to get excited about a team that basically looks like the football equivalent of the Milwaukee Brewers. According to Wikipedia: "Colonials was not one of the four names voters could choose from, but was said to become an 'overwhelming favorite' among the fan suggested names," which means that no one in Hartford cared to vote in the first place. And if the UFL weren't a doomed enterprise, sans teeth, sans eyes, sans everything, imagine for a moment what could have been. Instead of just being a tax write-off, imagine a Lamar Hunt or an Al Davis wiping that corn-fed smile off of Roger Goodell's face, explanding a market that could compete with America's flagship league.

Ah, well. Business as usual. They don't make entrepreneurs like they used to. The Hartford team does not play Oliver Celestin now, but then the Colonials don't play even close to capacity at UConn's Renschler Field, either. The league and its people will be a distant memory in no time, less bloated than the USFL, with uniforms much less cool than than the WFL. So who weeps for Oliver Celestin, with his NFC Championship ring? Not I.

****

Were I to travel the short distance from my home in East Falls to Chester, Pennsylvania, I would be near the haunts of Dick Christy #45, a running back whose time and place in our history is as forgotten as the relative blue collar success of Chester itself, whose Ford auto plant closed in 1961, the same year Dick Christy joined the New York Titans. Today Chester is a little piece of rust belt outside of Philadelphia, a region notorious for crime and poverty since the 60's. They have a racetrack there, which is the usual gesture of a hopeless community, although in an act of unique creativity, the Philadelphia Union MLS club chose to build their soccer-only stadium there. And that's cool.

But Dick Christy himself is gone for good. After playing for both the Titans and the Jets (1961, 63) he was then killed on July 8, 1966 in a single auto accident back home in Philadelphia. There is little to clarify anything more than that. What happened?

But when you were once a star for an unlikely ACC championship team like North Carolina State in 1958, the alumni memorializes you accordingly. Though he may have traveled far from home when he attended NC State, Dick Christy chose the Wolfpack because they were the only school that would allow him to play on the squad and marry his Chester sweetheart.

But Dick's not to be confused with Earl Christy, the man who replaced him in #45. My wife wondered somewhat cynically if they simply replaced one Christy at #45 for another. I imagine that Sonny Werblin's budget was more expansive than that. Earl Christy played defensive back for the Jets from 1966-68, and was also a return man. Dick Christy seemed to have been the rough-hewn, straight-jawed boy from an industrial town. Earl Christy, on the other hand, seems like a visitor from outer space. First, he is not to be mistaken for the prolific magazine illustrator. In fact, Earl Christy the Jet has the distinction of playing the proverbial bookend to the nadir and zenith of the Jets' moments against their most hated 1968 rival, the Oakland Raiders.

First, there's the Heidi Game, the extraordinary watershed moment in the history of TV's coverage of professional football. The histrionics of the game itself are well-known: fights, penalties, ejections, then a little girl trapsing through the Alps. We know this already. With the Raiders ahead with 1:05 to go, their kickoff went to Earl Christy (move to 1:25 in the link), who fumbled it at the 10, with the Raiders recovering in the end zone. Raiders 43 Jets 32. This was the nadir.

Then, leap ahead a few weeks later, to Shea Stadium and the AFL Championship against Oakland. After the Raiders scored in the fourth quarter to take the lead at 23-20, Christy takes the kickoff and runs it back 32 yards to set up a Namath pass to Sauer, followed by Namath's wild throw to Don Maynard, which then set up the clinching touchdown. This is what athletes must do. They must shake off the goat. It is what we all must do.

But Earl Christy, Super Bowl champion, is quite an active fellow. He is an apparent spokesman for any and every anti-aging medicinal made from deer antler velvet. Yep. And sure, he gives motivational speeches to Jets fans in Tampa Bay, who appear to be under the big tent for nothing else other than the buffalo wings. But the man is clearly on fire. Are you?

But Earl Christy also promotes Chi Machine International, an apparently international organization geared around, well, the Chi Machine. If it sounds vaguely Scientological, that's because it involves a 110 volt machine, your spinal alignment, and your personal life force energy flow. I will let you, gentle reader, peruse the information and judge for yourself.

But what's most compelling about Earl Christy - the omega of the Heidi Game and the alpha of the drive that put the Jets into the Super Bowl - is what his bio for the Chi Machine International reveals to us. He is apparently an:

"Outstanding athlete, football coach, broadcaster for over 30 years, team member of Harlem Wizards exhibition show basketball team, elementary school teacher of the year, Chief of nine villages in Ghana, motivational speaker and founder of Athletes For Education Association (AFEA)."

Let's see: Harlem Wizards basketball team? Check. A teacher of the year - well, I think that's pretty incredible. And, ah, broadcaster. Sure. Football coach, no surprise there.  And....lessee...he's...

"Chief of nine villages in Ghana."

Really? I mean, wh-...really? How? I mean, I know #54 Wahoo McDaniel was an actual Choctow-Chickasaw Native American, but he isn't even so much as a greeter at the Chocktaw casino in Durant, Oklahoma. Has Earl Christy has been reading too much Heart of Darkness or something? I mean, are the nine villages in Ghana aware that their property taxes go to Earl Christy? I certainly hope so.

1 comment:

Slimbo said...

The picture of Earl Christy (in uniform, not shilling for snake oil) is spectacular. It's like he's appearing to you in a dream. "YO MAAAHH-TAAAYY

The UFL team in HAHTFID should just be called The Whale. Period.