Sunday, April 17, 2011

NY Jets #51 - Part 1

Rogers Alexander #51 was drafted in the fourth round by the Jets as a linebacker - as all #51's are - in 1986. He came from Penn State, a school that has produced linebackers the way that USC produces running backs, the way Tibet produces sherpas, Kenyans marathoners, and Romanians gymnasts. His career in the pros was a spare number of games started for the Jets and then the Patriots in 1987. Rogers Alexander and I took the same journey from New York to New England, from one stage of learning to another - me from high school, he from one professional team to another.  I discovered New England for the first time. No matter where I went, there were people who talked about Buckner's blunder, Bobby Orr, or Havlicek's steal. They asked, like half of Glasgow, if anyone could understand their struggles against a great adversary - against the Lakers, against the Canadiens, against the dread Mets and Yankees. But no one talked about the Patriots. Why would you?

The Celtics were trying to eke out one more good season from Bird, Parrish, Pudge and McHale, while Cam Neeley played for the Boston Bruins. When I moved to Rhode Island, and Alexander played for New England, the Patriots were an embarrassment, an afterthought.  The Patriots were a ruin, as we hope, God willing, they will be again someday. Alexander is still alive and well, and his Facebook page features his devotion to his alma mater, Penn State.

Tuineau Alipate #51 was not a dictator of a Francophile nation, but rather a linebacker for the Jets in 1994. This Times article from that year reveals his true lineage is as the nephew of the then Queen of Tonga. Yes. He recovered a fumble that season and, as Eskanazi writes, he rented place with his wife and children at Point Lookout, a Nassau County Long Island beach where my family would go sometimes go when we lived 15 minutes away. The tone of the article is exactly the kind you find mid-season, usually when the team isn't doing well, and the reporter has some space to fill. Nobody did that better than Eskanazi.  Alipate played another year in the NFL with the Vikings and, near as I can tell, he currently works in real estate in Minneapolis. How can a man from Tonga, located in an archipelago in the beautiful South Pacific Ocean, be happy settled in the frozen place where Roger Staubach's wild throw reached Drew Pearson on the day Fran Tarkenton's father died? I understand nothing.

(Slimbo makes reference below a link to the AFL Title Game and to the Jets' '74 season review I have moved above in #51 - Part 2)


Slimbo said...

A few observations of the '74 highlights film:
(1) Spider Lockhart thanking Boozer after the Giants win the coin toss, and
(2) Holy crap, Barkum was good.
(3) Holy crap, Shea could be a muddy mess. Even Heinz Field mid-December could never look that bad.

Martin Roche said...

All good observations.
1. There will never be another Spider. He was a gentleman. I love that the Giants gave tribute to him.
2. I would love to have a Barkum today. Big guy, good blocker. He had clutch hands and height. That's a sea of hands catching that thing.
3. I wonder if it's the Mets infield gone muddy.