Sunday, October 30, 2011

NY Jets #58 - Part 2

  End of last year's Title Game. This feels like a "leftwich."

James Farrior #58 was once seen as just another draft bust in Jet history, at least until he spent the first decade of the next century earning two spots in the Pro Bowl and 2004 Team MVP for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Then he didn't seem like much of a bust. Nope. Not really. The Jets may have made some progress as an organization, but in the last ten years, they let go of linebackers John Abrahams, Jonathan Vilma and James Farrior, actions that constitute impressively bad judgment. Yes, we are in a different time and a different place, where defense has become the focus of the team, but the latter of those two have been in four Super Bowls total. Living in Philadelphia, you can be guaranteed that the local CBS affiliate will show a Ravens game, a Steelers game, or a Jets game. Farrior has had a good career with the Steelers, at times offering people opportunities to recall days of the Steel Curtain, though that's still a stretch, and everybody knows it. But the number of times I've had to see his name flash before the screen in Steeler yellow on the back of his jersey, or the number of times I've had to hear Greg Gumbel say, "James Farrior in on the stop" are directly proportional to the number of times I've left my lunch sitting on the counter and only to realize it when I open the refrigerator in the teacher's lounge and see nothing there with my name on it (my wife calls this a "leftwich"). That is, equal and often. 


Jason Glenn #58
Bill Ferguson #58 played linebacker two seasons for the Jets, 1973-74, though very few statistics are available on him. Jason Glenn #58 played longer, from 2001-04, when the team went through its swoons under Herman Edwards. He played special teams for the first two seasons and then went on to play more full time linebacking in 2003 and might have continued to do so had he not broken his arm the following year. The rest of his career he spent on special teams with the Dolphins and then the Vikings. Today he is a high school football coach in Texas, which is a lot like being a Sherpa in the Himalayas or a soothsayer on the streets of Mumbai. Outside of his region his skills bring him little of the honor he gets at home. His Wikipedia page is acutely itemized, year by year, almost like a resume. If most of us are not important enough to receive the kind of entry one used to find in a volume of the now defunct encyclopedia or the Who's Who, then we can write our own story, with the idea of being in control of our own past, if not our own destinies.

The page for Joe Kelly #58 features very little, except a link to his NFL statistics. He played for the Jets from 1990-92 - when I knew and kept track of very little of what the team did. I was too busy studying Jacobean Drama or something like that. He must have made some impact on Bruce Coslet, who probably brought Kelly over from the Bengals, for whom he played previously. Otherwise all that's there is a dead link to an article from the Cincinnati Enquirer entitled "NFL Was Easy By Comparison," which made me wonder if he had suffered medical issues post-career. But when I found the link republished on a blog, I saw that the opposite was true. Instead, as of the writing of the article, Kelly was operating several homes for juveniles whose "families are entangled in abuse, drugs, mental illness or behavioral problems." This is no small feat, and had I not just looked a little further, I might have just written off Joe Kelly as another retiree whose life was marred by football. Instead, he is, it would seem, a hero. There are no pictures available for Joe Kelly, except a hint in the article of a man with a shaved head and a ring in his ear.

The link is worth looking at because "by comparison" the NFL did not require the emotional work that Kelly's efforts include. It's one thing to create foundations to help at-risk youth, as James Farrior has, but it is another to be the person to care for them, day by day. As a teacher, I enjoy having six hours with kids from the lower income community where I teach, but I don't go home with them, and home for many of them is the most turbulent place imaginable. And the angry, wounded adolescent is about the most unappealing human on Earth. Of the kids he helps, Kelly gets "walls patched that they've kicked in, and wait(s) with them at hospitals for treatments and emergency evaluations." Here's hoping that amid all of the deterioration of services for the neediest persons in this country, that Joe Kelly's work in Cincinnati still survives. What little I've read of him makes him one of the noblest ex-Jets I've encountered.

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