Saturday, January 22, 2011

NY Jets #47 - Part 1

Solomon Brannan played defensive back for the Jets and the Chiefs from 1965-67, without much more distinction than any other member of the secondary in the mid-60's. It's an area of the field with an extraordinary rate of attrition. But Brannan is noted here for the weirdness of being in a four-way card collection without having a card of his own for the 1968 season. This might be because he's in a 1967 Jets uniform but listed as playing for the expansion 1968 Cincinnati Bengals, which he never actually did. I believe he retired a Jet.

But he returned to his alma mater Morris Brown University, an institution that is known as Historically African-American. As far as I can see he is still the Head Coach of the football team. This is what some men do. They go back to find a new life in the old.

But it's been a long time for Sol Brannan at Morris Brown, and times are not what they used to be for Historically African-American schools. Like other such colleges, Morris Brown has been hit with particularly bad economic times, and this extends to the increasingly thin football program. According to Wikiwiki, Morris Brown has lost its funding from the United Negro College Fund and its accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Its former President and its Student Aid Director - who had worked together at other institutions - pleaded guilty to charges of embezzling Federal Aid. The defendants claimed that much of the Student Aid money was used to keep the university's basic functions working; its water was shut off briefly in 2008. There were other indications that the embezzled cash went to private uses too, like trips. I could use some embezzled money right about now.

A single five-year old clip of Morris Brown football, coached by Sol Brannan includes the following message:

This is a clip of the Morris Brown College Football program. This institution is in need of your help. Financially, it can use an infusion of funds. This is a great school, but has ran into differences (sic). Please help me to promote its talents.
Mike D'Amato #47
Brannan's successor at both number and position was Mike D'Amato, though D'Amato was also a returner. A Brooklyn native, he attended Hofstra and was drafted by the Jets. His single season with us was the 1968 season. Imagine your lone year in the pros is spent with a championship team, or rather the championship team of the AFL era. Here we see a picture of him traveling with Weeb Ewbank back to the locker room in Miami at the end of Super Bowl III. His arm is around the old man. Somebody else's arm crosses into the picture, and the man on the left with the mustache is Bake Turner #29, one of the oldest Jets on the team. Mike D'Amato has just finished playing the last game of his professional career, though he probably doesn't realize this. I suppose he is experiencing a kind of euphoria that can only last as long as your wildest dream. I hope he had fun that night and the night after. Today, apparently, he works for Hofstra. Is this what I need to do? Do I need to give my alma mater a call? What skills could I possibly hope to bring? My talent for stealing food from the cafeteria?


Is there anything more depressing than Jim Earley's statistics in 1978, at running back, in #47?


I've noticed that quite a lot of my colleagues are former graduates of the high school where I teach, and those in particular who were athletes back then eventually go on to become administrators. At first they gravitate to the classroom but often find its four walls a little too confining. Athletes don't thrive in desks, chairs, or cubicles. When they grow up, and often grow fat, they remain drawn to the idea of having a free reign to eventually go where they please. They like giving instructions to their peers. They respond well to discipline, but they have too many good memories of exchanging that good behavior for having the run of the place. Call it the Peter Principle; call it by Biff Loman's name if you like. Athletes like to be in charge. They remember how fun it looked when they watched the coach tell someone to run laps.

I have no way of knowing of this was true for Scott Frost, who was quarterback for the University of Nebraska, graduating in 1998. When I first saw the Jets play in their new-old uniforms in preseason against Philadelphia that year, the first player I saw on the field was Scott Frost, and because I was about as unsure of Glenn Foley as everybody else (miss ya, Glenn!), I figured that since they had drafted him, then perhaps Frost was a QB in the making. No dice. He was #47. Bill Parcells had made him a free safety. His best season was with us in 2000, with 19 tackles.

After the pros he then gradually became an assistant and is most recently the wide receivers coach for the University of Oregon. No small thing. Frost is now heavily desired among Cornhusker fans who want to see him as their offensive coordinator. They want him to "come home," as they say. College football is religion in the sense that people witness something they construe as pure and true, untainted by earthly needs and all their empty promises. But we know religion is never so pure, and neither is the college game. That discussion is not even worth having. I know I would like to go back in time to my college days in order to experience one night I passed up with a young woman with fascinatingly long hair, and I would also like to drop that useless journalism class in favor of one in the classics. Scott Frost went back to school in his own time, perhaps because it's where his best memories of the past come from. Like this one: The Flea Kicker. I kid you not.

And few people know that it was Frost who managed to pull the now-Buccaneer, then-Duck LaGarrette Blount off of the opposing fans who had just seen Blount punch Byron Hount of Boise State as they were all leaving the field. Wikirama says:

"As he was escorted to the locker room, Blount confronted Boise State fans who were jeering at him after seeing the video replay.[36] Blount says that one Boise State fan brandished a chair at him and another punched him.[37] Two police officers and Oregon assistant coach Scott Frost[36] restrained Blount and escorted him into the locker room. Video of the incident spread rapidly on the Internet.

Here is that video. I see no chair, but stick around until about :32, when you will see a still-boyish, red-haired Scott Frost, escorting his insane player off the field. Frost is doing what every good former athlete, Flea Kicker-turned-administrator-coach invariably must. There is room to roam on the sidelines, but he must still vainly compel young men to behave themselves. They forget; that's the hard part.


Slimbo said...

I love that picture of Brannan because Shea is in the background. I've been trying to roust up any and all baseball cards that are set in Shea. Pretty easy as I think before the age of digital photography, the Topps guys used to just camp out at Shea (or The Place of The Others) and wait for teams to come through NYC.

Martin Roche said...

Don't forget how many Topps cards in 1975 featured Shea in the background because it was where both the Yanks and Mets played while old Yankee got its redo. Sparky Lyle spoke ill of the Shea bullpens. Said the pen's hard plastic partitions were scratched up, probably from all the dingers hit off of Mets pitching in the 60's.