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Thursday, May 16, 2013

NY Jets #64 - Part 3

Trevor Matich played for the Jets from 1990-91, and for almost all of that time, he wore #64. But throughout his NFL career, Matich was apparently known for his versatility, so it shouldn't come as too much of a surprise when, after wearing the number for a season and a half, he then traded it in for its inverse - #46 - and, temporarily, became a tight end, and scored on the game-winning touchdown pass from Ken O'Brien in a 28-21 victory over New England in 1991. Since we didn't mention this back when we were talking about #46, we mention it here.

Randy's Radar supplied me with this information, and he wrote about it in a discussion of past offensive linemen in Jets' history who scored touchdowns, either by stealth or luck. It came up in one of his articles immediately after the Jets' 2010 loss to the Denver Broncos because, in that game, Matt Slausen on the offensive line scored the lone Jet touchdown, the recovery of a fumble in Denver's end zone. It was the only Jets touchdown on a miserable night that ended with Denver's Tim Tebow - the quarterback whom we would later pick up the following season for absolutely no reason at all - scoring the unfathomable, winning touchdown. That was a horrible, horrible night.

It was a Thursday, and the Jets, in my mind, were at that point at least in vague contention for a Wild Card. I remember following the game online since I don't have the NFL Network, and their lifeless, unimaginative, crushingly dull performance was like Gregor Samsa's struggle to get off his own back. Even when he manages to get back on his own six feet, Samsa barely makes it out the door when his sister launches a hard apple into his gelatinous, soft underbelly, leaving him with a disabling reminder for the rest of The Metamorphosis of how grim his prospects for happiness and success in his world really are. Early Thursday evening, November 17, 2011, was the last time I felt like the Jets were playoff contenders. It was the last time I felt any level of ease.

As the Jets wheezed and groped their way to a laborious seasonal death, I uttered a moan so audible that it woke up my wife right next to me. Normally, she shares in every part of my love for the Jets; it's our love, starting out as mine alone and then one we share for better or worse. It belongs to us. But I woke her up accidentally, and she looked up, warily.

"What's going on?" she asked, annoyed and concerned.

"Jets just fucking blew it," I said. "I can't believe it. They played like shit. They're horrible." I added, "This is a total disaster."

She shook her head and rolled over. "Right," she said. " A disaster. Just like cancer."

Cancer. The potential disaster, the personal one. Your football team is personal, as personal to us as is Justin Bieber to several of my ninth grade female students. It does feel that real, close and personal, but the guys on defense who failed to tackle Tim Tebow on his way to the Broncos' game-winning touchdown that weren't thinking about me any more than Justin Bieber considers the happiness of his Bieberites, or whatever they're called. The Jets didn't care about my broken heart. Cancer, on the other hand, when and if it comes to do battle with you, is personal. It is your own special case of it. Mentioning cancer was supposed to put me back into the real world, where an adult person can distinguish between real and imagined disasters. But I would have none of it. I stood my ground.

"No," I corrected her. "This is worse than cancer."

But back to Trevor Matich, sometime commentator on ESPN's college football coverage and for the Redskins' pre- and post-game shows. Apparently while playing for the Colts in the early nineties he was named the "Hardest Working Player in the NFL," a loose epithet given to him for warming up incessantly before and during games. James Brown was and still is the Hardest Working Man in Show Business, even in death. To signify it, while singing "Please Don't Go" with him, members of his band would try to adorn the man with the cape of glory he richly deserved in a choreographed fit of exhaustion, only to have him run back to the microphone to give the people who came to see him that much more of his God-given soul. I've suggested that Curtis Martin deserves the football title of the Hardest Working, but Trevor Matich deserves some recognition here for returning to a football season as a tight end after playing on the line. And while it's one thing to be given a new number after playing in one for some time, the new number he was given was the old one in reverse. This must stand for something, or maybe for nothing. If, as Juliet suggests, we are not our names, then how could we possibly be our number, or its reverse? But we are. At least here, we are.

***

Pete Perreault's sideline parka, circa 1963-67
Pete Perreault #64 is the first Jet to wear the number, and he did this from 1963-67. He played for the expansion Cincinnati Bengals and then returned to the Jets after their Super Bowl championship, for the 1969-70 seasons. He died in 2001. A few years later a wide variety of his things began appearing online for sale - his helmet, his jersey, and his sideline parka. I'm partial to the parka, myself. Here it's not so much James Brown's cape of mournful glory, but rather one worn in the state of waiting.

When I was a kid, I used to watch Jets games late in the season, standing in front of the TV, wrapped in a blanket. I would stand by the TV set, in one of the afghans my grandmother made (the ones so many of our grandmothers made) and I'd watch the Jets usually lose, all while hopping up and down, much the way the players do on the sideline trying to keep warm. I'm not sure why I identified myself with the people on the sidelines; it seems a little too metaphorical, I'll admit. But I didn't play the games I loved; sometimes I tried to, but out of either my own timidity or fear of failure, I never tried hard enough. So I danced on the tips of my toes in front of the game and wore the paraphernalia of people paid to usually stand and watch from the sidelines. Perhaps, in this way, I was a born blogger.

Perreault played sporadically in the 60's and started more frequently later in his career, or so it would seem for what I'm able to find. That's a lot of time with the Jets, during periods where the franchise went from being fresh and new, to being the zeitgeist of sports, then quickly to becoming a bland afterthought, hardly worth all the fuss. Like Max Headroom. But as for Pete Perreault, we don't really have many others comparable to him, other than Winston Hill and Randy Rasmussen, the ones who who also blocked for Boozer, Snell, Mathis and Namath. Like many of the large men of the offensive line who make the paths for others, he recedes without fanfare into retirement and beyond. All we have left are his pieces of equipment.

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