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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

NY Jets #24 - Revis Revised

"Who? I don't know who that it is. Once I step on the field it doesn't matter who's out there. I don't pay attention to numbers or names. I go out there and I focus on what I'm supposed to do. That's not a slight on him, or whoever he is. I just go out there and play football."

- Terrell Owens, quoted in Newsday, November 21, 2007

"Who?"
"We are accustomed to Bill Romanowski speaking ill of us and then pounding us in the divisional round. Revis' interceptions are like works of leaping, pirouetting choreography. He is a star. We have so few in the history of these numbers and names. This is what one looks like. This is no Albert Haynesworth. This is Darrelle Revis. That's who, Terrell. That's who...

"For so long, on any given Sunday, 11 men seemed to make absolutely no difference whatsoever. So why would one? This isn't a logical thing...So I wish they had signed him back sooner than Labor Day 2010. The club that keeps track of its conscession (sic) stats even in preseason should have been able to dig very, very deep much earlier and given one of its best investments exactly what he richly deserves. Yes, a contract is a contract, but as the white collar parasite CEO's of America will tell you (between taking sips of infant blood in diamond-studded carafes) there are always exceptions for people who are deemed indispensable."

- Me, September 5, 2010

Back then, another AFC Championship appearance was still on the horizon. Giving the very best what he richly deserved seemed like the right thing to do. Revis is to the cornerback position what Lawrence Taylor was to the position of linebacker - a player so gifted that entire offenses needed to shift their strategy in order to manage him. No person in any field can ordinarily expect himself to fit that kind of criteria. At best, most of us are just good at what we do. More often than not, we simply strive for adequacy. Darrelle Revis is the exception to most things.

At some level, he must have known it would come to this, that he would be gone; in fact, he probably wanted it this way. It was time to get off the clown car. As for the metaphor of The Revis Island, it remains an ironic state of affairs. For every pass Darrelle Revis has broken up, there have been twenty more that never even took him onto the equation. More than once has a writer decided to make the literary allusion to John Donne's warning in Meditation XVII that "No man is an island entire of itself..." Indeed, the complete resignation that offenses have shown to Revis' side has also changed the nature of his efficacy. Warren Miller's New Yorker cartoon is applicable to Revis Island:
A version of something that Jon Gruden could have said about Darrelle Revis, but probably didn't.
Darrelle Revis remains unique. Modern baseball is a sport that rewards individual expression and performance on the field yet stresses uniformity of mind in the locker room and on the street. It's rare to find a true individualist in style and manner in baseball the way there was once a Bill Lee or a Dock Ellis. On the other hand, football's sense of team identity on the field encourages the self-expression of an Ochocinco or a Polamolu on the sidelines. But it's rare to find an athlete whose actual performance is so very unique as to make him beyond category, and that's what Darrelle Revis is.

But this distinction is now a disservice. Now, for his exceptional play and even greater reputation, no one throws at him, and he has, one could argue, become irrelevant. I suppose his season-ending injury last year means that offenses will be tempted to throw in his direction again, but if he is able to do this kind of thing again, they won't for long. So I'm ready to let him go, knowing that we're not better off without him, yet probably (and I mean this with all the respect he deserves) no better off with him either.

***

I have a particularly sleepy-eyed student in one of my classes whose first words to me as we gathered yesterday were, "Hey, Mr. Roche. Are you aware that your team was completely destroyed today?"

"Come again?" I asked, noticing that he was relishing this a little.

"That Darrelle Revis signed with the Bucs?" he said.

I knew it already, but if I hadn't heard the news, I would already have known it in my heart and soul - the way I always knew it would happen over the past few months. The ridiculously vapid way the Jets have handled his status with the team - similar to the red-light, empty streetwalker glances they gave John Riggins before letting him go in 1975 - the general atmosphere on the club about the future built into what we all know is a ragtag effort at free agency acquisition - all of these things spelled his end with us months ago.

"You just let your best player go," he said. At least he used the you to represent me and my team, as if I had done it. "Your season is completely ruined."

I looked at him. "Oh, I wouldn't worry," I said. "I'm a Jets fan. It's much worse than that. The season was ruined already." I smiled and narrowed my eyes to make my point. "I'm in the for the long haul. I've been doing this for a long time."

"How long is a long time?" he asked.

I shrugged. "Maybe someday you'll find out."

"Probably not," he said, honestly.

"No," I said, looking away, half in envy. "Probably not."

****




During Darrelle Revis' 2010 holdout, I suggested that I was so desperate to bring him back to the team that I was willing to offer up my 1995 Toyota Corolla (still my only existing source of transportation) as a gesture of loyalty. He could bring it to his estate, gather his friends and entourage around for an expensive celebration, and light it on fire as a sacrificial sign of his power and glory.

When I mentioned this idea to my friends at work back then, a colleague of mine photoshopped the little piece of glorious creation you see above. Today, you can read into the image of the car whichever metaphor you like - the lost years we spend rooting for our teams, the money, the energy, the love, the blind desire we possess for someone else's victory at the expense of our own. "I can get up an hour early each day and take two trains to work," I said. "I just need the Jets to have a shot at the division before the 2011 lockout. As I travel on my morning commute and watch each station pass on the sunrise elevated subway blue line and stare out of its yellow windows, I will think to myself, "No, no. This is right.  He can have my car. This is good. This is as it should be."

And now, he's just another Infinite Jet who wore #24. Contrary to what I once thought, he will certainly not be the last #24 in our club's history. We'll just wait and see who'll be the next one to wear it, even as Darrelle moves out of the picture, leaving forever the now charred remains of the clown car in his wake.

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