Wednesday, January 26, 2011

NY Jets #48 - Part 1

In 1976, a year for the Jets when everything seemed to end before it began, Clifford Brooks #48 finished his career with us, at defensive back. Clifford Brooks was at least partially like Roscoe Word in that both he and Word played for the Bills and the Jets in 1976. It may even have been they were traded for one another. As usual, I have no idea.

Brooks' rookie season in the NFL was 1972 - his only playoff season - with the Cleveland Browns. Very few people, other than Browns fans (and probably few Browns fans at that) might recall that the 1972 Browns lead the unbeaten Dolphins by a score of 14-13 late in the fourth quarter of their Christmas Eve playoff. I mention this only because the man who who caught the go-ahead TD pass from Browns QB Mike Phipps, the man who briefly put the Dolphins' Perfection in jeopardy was a wide receiver named Fair Hooker. Yes. The man who might have been the impediment standing between the Dolphins and history (other than the 1972 Jets, as I have mentioned before) is a man whose name is synonymous with "Reasonable Prostitute."

As for Clifford Brooks, all I can say is that his Wikipedia entry is short on football and long on business achievements, which doesn't help us. It says things like, "In 2000 became part owner of an ambulance company. Assumed 100% ownership in 2002. Sold the company in 2007." I try to be curious about things like that, but then I'm not. Why an ambulance company? Did he make a profit?

Ah well. The reason why I am where I am, doing what I'm doing at this very moment - sitting up in bed, not sleeping, writing a blog no one will read just hours after watching a Mike Leigh film in a theater where my wife and I were basically the youngest people in the audience (I'm 41) - is because I'm not like Clifford Brooks. I have never taken an interest in running a company that specializes in inspecting hydraulic apparatus for oil and gas drilling. Metaphorically speaking, I am a Fair Hooker, a brief bubble of unexpected circumstance only to be popped again and put back into place by the forces of Perfection.


Cornell Gordon #48 played defensive back for the Jets from 1965-69. We presume that he still owns the Super Bowl ring he earned. His middle name is Kermit. He had to play at a variety of different secondary positions for the 1968 squad to compensate for team injuries. I believe he was one of several team members ordered by AFL President Milt Woodard to shave off his moustache that year. Like a number of players from the '68 squad, Gordon left the Jets after the 1969 season. As I recall from his book Gang Green, Gerald Eskanazi suggested that the rotting of the Jets in the 1970's germinated in the exodus of good players from that year on. Eskanazi suggests that Weeb Ewbank's miserly ways as General Manager were largely to blame. Whether Gordon was a part of this or not, I cannot say. He went on to play three seasons with the Denver Broncos.

On a whim, I decided to look him up on Facebook, and I think I may have actually found him. Maybe. Or maybe not. I found a man named Cornell Gordon. Do I friend him? I mean, what if it isn't the Cornell Gordon I'm looking for, and he agrees to it, and I am simply friends with a man for no reason other than the fact that he is named Cornell Gordon? Are the conditions of that friendship any different than they would be if he actually were the former Jet?

Does it matter?

Gus Holloman
The Internet changes our understanding of what it means to know someone. This also holds true for former Jets defensive back, the man who replaced Gordon at number - and possibly at position - Gus Holloman. At defensive back from 1970-72, Hollomon came from Denver to Flushing just as Cornell Gordon was going to Denver. Was that a trade, like Brooks for Word, or vice versa (if that was a trade, too)? His statistics reveal very little, other than the fact that he blocked a put for the Broncos in 1969 - obviously not the one Steve O'Neal sent deep into the thin air of Mile High for the NFL record that year.

Naturally this caused some consternation until I realized that what I was looking at was not Hollomon's NFL page but his HFL page. Sadly, I don't understand physics in the way that Hugh Everett III did, but I do love the concept of parallel universes, especially when they apply to football. The Historic Football League (HFL) would seem to be an alternate historian's dream come true. Imagine for a moment that your team - let's say the New York Jets - actually made all the right draft choices year in and out; yes, yes, I know, but let's just admit that it was at one time it was statistically possible that this could have happened. Let's imagine that you travel back in time and, in the 1976 NFL Draft, instead of choosing Richard Todd, Shafer Suggs and Greg Buttle (and who could have blamed anyone for choosing Todd and Buttle?) your hindsight enables you to choose instead, say, Jackie Slater. Now imagine such a transaction occurring without you, in a parallel universe. In our universe, Jackie Slater was picked by the LA Rams in the third round that year and played 20 Hall of Fame seasons in the NFL.

But in a parallel universe of the HFL, he plays his second season in 1977 for the New York Jets, alongside Dan Dierdorf; he blocks for OJ Simpson, who is a Jets running back (apparently Juice was traded for someone in this bizarro universe). His quarterback on the Jets is Bert Jones, who throws to Cliff Branch. Just like I remember it. Only not.

Some things don't change in any universe, though. The HFL Yearbook for 1978 suggests this about the Jets' performance during their 1977 HFL season:

The Jets continued to confound the experts, limping to a 3-7 start. The club won five of their last six but it wasn't enough to overtake the Patriots, meaning another year out of disappointment and another year of watching the playoffs on TV.

How about that? I feel like I lived in that parallel universe as a child, though I actually didn't. What's the point of wanting to be a different version of yourself somewhere else, in a parallel universe, when really the results seem to be the same? Maybe in that parallel universe I never became a Jets fan. There, in the third grade, I'm interested only in studying math and science so that someday I will be buying and selling ambulance companies, or becoming an inspector of hydraulic equipment.

But the business of who Gus Hollomon is doesn't quite end there. Google anybody, of course, and you get someone's known business there in the foreground, but you also get the bits and pieces of a person's past, perhaps a part of someone's life you were never intended to know. One of my students looked me up on the Google and found me in a 1990 YouTube clip in a college play. If you don't mind, I won't link to it.

Gus Hollomon's name comes up briefly in the comments under a two year-old blog entry for what appears to be a Princeton, NJ-based blog called TigerHawk with lots of conservatism laced throughout. This entry, dated from September 2008, which was a very different time and place for the hopes and ambitions of conservatives, includes a commenter named dawnfire82 who talks about living in Beaumont, TX and experiencing racism against white people. He writes, "It was accepted as a fact of life that you couldn't stand up to this like your daddy always told you to because if you popped one obnoxious black kid in the mouth, all of his co-ethnics would show up and beat the hell out of you if not then, then later." He refers to African-Americans as "co-ethnics." He's an angry white man, a person who is mostly a dime a dozen in the United States.

But then someone else in the comments named DEC asks dawnfire82 if, having grown up in Beaumont, was dawnfire's high school principal a man named Gus Hollomon. If so, DEC says, "he's a friend of mine."

dawnfire82 (who also has a blog disturbingly called "Black Faced Sinner") replies that he remembers he had a Principal who had a Super Bowl ring. He then provides the URL to Gus Hollomon's HFL page, the same one I provided above, thinking that this was the real Gus Hollomon of the NFL. Why would Hollomon, living we presume in our reality, have had a Super Bowl ring when he never even saw the postseason once? Did Gus Hollomon have a Super Bowl ring from an alternate universe? Was it Cornell Gordon's?

Then dawnfire also provides the URL for the link here, to show a Gus Hollomon retiring from the position as Beaumont's Superintendent.

DEC says that the Gus Hollomon he remembers "played for the New York Jets (with Namath) and the Denver Broncos. That was the one who became superintendent." Which is more correct.

I don't blame these fellows for not communicating clearly. They probably both have the same man. Recall what I said in only recently in a prior entry about athletes and school administration. dawnfire82 doesn't quite have it right about the ring (looking at his blog, I'm not surprised he's incorrect about a lot of things. Yeesh.) but then it is becoming increasingly difficult to tell the imaginary worlds we create (and those created for us) from the real ones we live in, especially if they coexist online.

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