I take back what I said about #31. Nothing in our history will ever compare with Antonio Cromartie #31. Let us count his legendary ways:
1) For being a prodigious parent. He will always be a living legend for having difficulty in naming all of his children. Several were conceived the same year. Obviously this is not an acceptable circumstance (nine children with eight women in six states) for anyone who is not a monarch of the Mongol Empire, but I think the hype around Cromartie's on-camera struggle with his children's names was overstated. He names them all in due time, you will notice, though with effort. He knows their birthdays.
2) Cromartie stated something that all of us have known about Tom Brady. Maybe Brady deserves his accolades and his status as one of the greatest ever. Granted he has not fathered children with as many different women as Cromartie, but he will be in the Hall when Cromartie, likely, will not. But Tom Brady is a punk.
I am not alone in thinking this, no less so than I am certain there are people out there who also think that Forrest Gump is, in fact, the worst movie ever made. There aren't many of us, but you cannot deny our existence. We don't necessarily deserve to be heard, but we are strong. Heartache to heartache, we stand. Leading up to vanquishing the Pats in the playoffs, he was asked about Brady as a competitor. He said he didn't care about him, the way that so many athletes who face Brady are compelled to say: it doesn't matter, we are going to play him tough. But Cromartie fearlessly added what all of America - outside of you Pahhts fans and wannabees - instinctively feel, though you may not say it. Take away the hair, the twinkle in his eye, the coach, and his beautiful women, and Tom Brady is what everybody now knows Cromartie believes he is: "an asshole." And for no reason at all, for good measure, I suppose, he added (either previous to that statement or after), "Fuck him." I print these words here because it is worthless to try and feel the effect of their basic truth unless they are spelled out plain as day. What's especially wonderful about the Daily News' cover story at right on the matter is that on game day, two punks were put in their place - Tom Brady and Mike Lupica. Thank you, thank you.
3) Antonio Cromartie made himself an accidental stooge for ownership when he tweeted his wish for the NFLPA to get back to the table and make a deal before the Lockout time. Naturally he was told to keep quiet, remarks about Tom Brady notwithstanding, and he subsequently has. One thing we know about Antonio Cromartie is that he obviously acts in every sense of the word without thinking, and thus he works in the manner of his loud, ribald and frankly peculiar coach. This Jets team as of this writing (3/27/11) with its vaguely interesting controversies is honestly mild by comparison to the cocaine-addled Cowboys of the 90's or the Bengals of any given era after Forrest Gregg, but they are lovably strange, and Cromartie is just another cast member in Ryan's carnie.
Obviously his tweet was foolish, but I genuinely choose to believe that he was saying what I feel purely as a fan as well. The Jets could (here I pause and roll my head around in a sign of self-conscious unease) go the Super Bowl next year. Let's not waste time. Let's get a deal done. Let's make my dream come true. The fan cannot help but feel otherwise; the union man in me knows better and will suffer the consequences as I have, as a Jets fan year after year. I know my place in the universe.
Ray Green #31? Anybody? How many Ray Greens are there in America right now? How many are born Queens? Probably not as many as there used to be. The Ray Green we are thinking of played one season with us - 2005 - and not even a full one. Interestingly, it was also his best season as a pro, with 11 tackles registered in eight games. Then he vanishes and reappears in the Meadowlands in a Giants uniform. He registers a few more tackles in 2003 for Big Blue, then vanishes altogether. Sounds like a strange dream.
Aaron Glenn #31 is and always will be one of my favorite players in a Jets uniform. I suppose it was because like all of us, he had good days and bad. He went to the Pro Bowl twice as a Jet, which is impressive considering our sometimes problematic history with the concept of a secondary. No player that I can recall had such a visible range of good and bad, but with all of the shifting of philosophy that goes on in secondaries - from man-to-man to two-deep and three-deep zones, playing back, playing forward, playing for other guys who are injured in positions who are expected to fill and know completely - it was hard to blame him entirely for the worst it. He has also been a journeyman since leaving us and is still apparently playing, although on injured reserve for the Saints. And - always my favorite detail - Aaron Glenn comes originally from Humble, Texas.
I'm not sure how many games in 2005 Jeremy LeSueur played for us while wearing #31 and playing cornerback. I know that he had quite a bright career at Michigan, though. What amazed me, was the remarkable discussion forum on the web one finds immediately while searching his name. For Paddy Chayefsky, television was democracy at its ugliest, but I argue that this was only because internet discussion boards about women dating professional athletes weren't available yet. This discussion, entitled, "Does Jeremy LeSueur have a girlfriend? Is he dating someone? Is he married? Would you date him? Did you date him?" proves there are worse things than the redundancies of TV. Ladies, as one anonymous person apparently puts it, "I know everyone is laid off but damm (sic), it has to be something we can do besides this lol!!" Girl, you know it's true. Remember what people say about Antonio.
Finally, there's #31, Bill Mathis, one of four original New York Titans to play in Super Bowl III. It must have been a complicated business for a pioneer AFL player like Mathis - who had been the team's best runner in 1961 - to discover himself playing as a supporting player for a more profitable AFL later in the decade. But Bill Mathis did play regularly and effectively behind Emerson Boozer and Matt Snell in 1968. Mathis was known for a toughness made obvious when he broke his collarbone in 1961 with the Titans, for he played on with a broken collarbone regardless. (I love how Wikipedia puts it: "He played in the next game, and in fact in all the remaining games of the season." That quote had to have been written by a storyteller.) When a player's livelihood - even in the form of Harry Wismer's bouncing checks - depended on his playing, he played with a broken collarbone. Can you imagine such a player today?