Safety Jim Leonhard took a pay cut to move from Baltimore to the Jets and to play for Rex Ryan at the end of the 2008 season. He said that "We decided this was the best situation for me."
A pay cut? The best situation? The Jets? When I first read this, I simply appreciated anyone saying that we are the best situation. I felt a little like the experienced teacher who looks with winsome despair at the new recruit who is full of naivete and idealism. Sure, you say that now. A long line starts right there, kid. After all, we are Jets fans. We are never the best situation. But Jim Leonhard has played since then like his is the best situation, and in a matter of a season and a half, he has made people around the NFL believe that he is right. As of this writing, the Jets are tied for first place with New England at 9-2 and are playing for that undisputed place in an upcoming Monday Night game in Foxboro.
But Fate works mysteriously, ironically, cruelly. With days to go to the game, Leonhard broke his leg in a "freak thing" during what was, according to Rex Ryan, the best practice of the week. Eric Smith will replace him, and while Smith is tough, Jim Leonhard is a leader. Symbolically, he represents the heretofore pathos-free hubris of Rex Ryan. He is the man you see depicted above, the small, confident, fearless figure who faces the opposition without concern for either his team's history of failure in December or his opposition's superiority. This is the mental strategy of winners.
And now, as we await a recharged version of the clinical Patriots offense against a derailed Jets defense, I feel happy to at least have come this far. Ryan's reaction to Leonhard's injury was to say, "I feel sorry for Jim, but not for us." That's the attitude I'm talking about. But I've been around too long to believe him. With Jim Leonhard or not, I know the rest of this story, or this one, or this one. If the Jets win this week, it will mark a dramatic change in the narrative I have known for so long. If they beat the Patriots, I will teach all Tuesday in my Namath jersey. And who knows? Maybe I should believe in something bigger than a loser's narcissistic sense of perennial despair. I should try an alternative to that. Maybe I'll try the mental of strategy of winners someday. Meanwhile, I suspect I will not need the Namath jersey.
A while ago, you could, for $5 on Ebay, purchase a signed photograph of University of Hawaii Assistant Coach Rich Miano (above) fighting with some unknown persons on the sideline of a recent game. An article on Miano's career (mostly with the Eagles) makes the photo seem even funnier: "He had to fight for a roster spot; he had to fight for playing time. He had to fight for respect. And after the fight was over... Miano raised his arm in victory." OK. Fair enough. Miano is still at Hawaii, but I don't know how much this photo goes for.
But I remember Rich Miano playing defensive back in #36 for the Jets in the 1980's. You can also spend the same amount of money on a signed 1985 photograph of Miano in a 19-6 losing effort against the soon-to-be Super Bowl Champion Bears. Now this I might just buy because it was taken on the day of my first car accident. I was 16 and Christmas shopping; it was freezing but clear and beautiful, and while trying to pull into a parking lot, another 16 year-old Christmas shopper rear-ended me. My parents had just installed an FM radio in my Dad's Chevy - mostly for my benefit - and I was so scared they would think that they had made a mistake in buying it for me because 1) they would assume that I wasn't paying attention to the road because I was trying to turn the dial to just the right place and 2) they would find out that I had been listening to the Jets-Bears game on AM and wonder what the point was of buying the FM radio (with its promises of rock, friends listening to rock in car, friends hooking me up with a girl with whom I could listen to rock in the car so as to shield my mortifying social skills) if I were still listening to AM. What Rich Miano knew about life I also knew about FM radio. I had fought for that thing. Sometimes it feels like you've got to fight for everything. All was well, though. Because I was 16 I underestimated my parents' capacity for understanding. We never did get that dent repaired, though. Or did we? Oh well. I can't remember everything.
You can't say much about #36 Joe Fishback's five-game career with the New York Jets, but you can say two things about him. First, he ended his career in Atlanta (where he began) playing in the Georgia Dome for the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl Somthingorother against the Bills. This obviously means that he ended his career with a Super Bowl ring; not since I wrote about #24 Johnny Sample have I mentioned a Jet who ended his career with a ring. Secondly, he is the winner of the Booth Lusteg Award Winner for Funniest Sounding Name among the #36s. My apologies to Buddy Crutchfield.