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Thursday, August 1, 2013

NY Jets #66 - Part 1

While looking for information on Dave Cadigan #66, I thought about a variety of things. These are, in no particular order, the following:

1) When I was in college, I remember how steroids were discussed with such a lack of knowledge that everyone assumed that if they didn't find a manageable way of incorporating them into competition, then they would certainly be extinct by the 21st century. In 1988, Ben Johnson ran an enhanced 9.79 at the Seoul Olympics. Sports Illustrated ran a feature on a football player for the University of South Carolina that made the use of steroids seem so nightmarish that even the athletes in my dorm seemed thoughtful enough to wonder if they were worth it. Things had to change; surely they would. 

Earlier in that same year, Dave Cadigan admitted to using steroids just before the NFL tests in advance of a draft where he was selected by the Jets in the first round. According the link above, "...Cadigan, a 6-foot-5-inch, 285-pounder, outlifted every other offensive lineman. He also performed the most repetitions in lifting." Cadigan came out of USC, and more than one loyal Jets fan over the years has suggested we were hoodwinked as a result of his little pre-draft experiment. Still, the casual way in which it is brought up in the article testifies to the naivete of the Times (and the times) about steroids. "Steroids," the article says, "are believed to have potentially serious side effects, and their use is banned by U.S.C., the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the N.F.L." Indeed they are.

"Cadigan," it continues, "said he took steroids only after he and his father, Pat, had researched the subject, then went to a private physician for 'low-level doses.'" Cadigan seemed to suggest - and possibly believed back then - that there is such a thing as a "manageable dose" that might not be harmful or, probably, detectable. If he thought it wouldn't be effective, then he wouldn't have tried it. He says as much in the article. 

He also insists that he wasn't going to lose his chance at being drafted high up when he seemed to believe that others were using it, too (according to the report, 10 people were caught with steroids in that combine). I suppose the fear and lack of knowledge about its widespread use in professional sports made all such assumptions conceivable. If you researched it, learned about it, you would learn to control it. What stays with me, though, is the dismissive input from Mike Hickey, who ran the Jets' draft back then, who is quoted as saying, "Sometimes there's a look to a guy who's on steroids, and (Cadigan) didn't have it." I wouldn't fret, he seems to say. I know guys on steroids. I've seen guys on steroids. He didn't have it. Nah. 

2) If a Shakespeare character could come to represent a franchise, then maybe Henry V represents the New York Giants - even against the odds presented by his poor choices in life and by his grim prospects in a world where no one believes in him, he still vanquishes a powerful enemy (France, or the New England Patriots). The Jets are represented by Nick Bottom, from Midsummer Night's Dream, the simpleton who prepares for a great performance onstage while unwittingly wearing the head of an ass. 

3) Cadigan's career brings out mordant humor in the Jets fan. I look through discussions of Dave Cadigan, and his name comes to represent the bloated ambitions and limited output of a franchise known for making terrible decisions. At the periodically updated JetWiki, the entry on Dave Cadigan mentions the following:

"Cadigan was the Jets first pick of the 1988 NFL Draft. (sic) going eighth overall. Though, as it turned out, the Jets were suckered, as Cadigan had been chemically enhanced. Cadigan played 69 games in 6 seasons, and didn't do too much, to say the least."

Then, "After the Jets," we see:

"Cadigan then spent a year at Cincinnati, and vanished into the mists of time, probably angry at the fact Bill Romanowski got away with it. Rumors persist that he has however, invented a record player that plays at 330rpm, he's reportedly calling it an anabolic stereo."

We could probably do an entire study of the tone of JetWiki, and in it find the voice that gave life to Bottom. We are the team that makes dumb mistakes, that plays week after week to the mockeries of others. Consequently, it's possible we Jets fans have (maybe not a better) a wider capacity for humor. Suffering breeds many terrible things in human life; it's why Buddha insists it's not compulsory. But if you are going to suffer, you might as well make jokes about it while it's going on, even if they are terrible. A terrible team deserves terrible jokes.
Starting Lineup's Dave Cadigan #66

4) At a forum on the Landing Strip for a discussion of Cadigan's career, somebody mentions Cadigan's Starting Lineup figure. Johnny Johnson's (#39) Starting Lineup action figure was given to me as a somewhat ironic gift toward the end of the 1994 season (I say somewhat because I was in grad school, and the person who gave it to me for my birthday thought it would be funny for a grown man to have a miniature version of a football player but he also knew that I would also be quietly and privately psyched about it, too.). While I know the figures were created as collector items, I sincerely never thought they would be of any value. The participants on the forum during the mid-2000's mention that Cadigan's figure was now running at $69 online, in no small measure because the combination of Cadigan's high promise in the early 90's and the general washout of his actual performance means that his Starting Lineup figure is rare and, therefore, valuable. Mediocrity has its merits. It's a strange world.

One visitor mentions owning Cadigan's Starting Lineup figure, and another asks, "When you took Cadigan out, did he immediately hurt his ankle?" Several of them were upset that someone took it out of the package to begin with. Several argue about the merits of Cadigan's play alongside Jeff Criswell. The discussions reads on the screen like bits of poetry, filled with the rueful tone of suffering Jets fans, an interior monologue tinged with perpetual regret. Of the entire Starting Lineup collection, papichango writes:

Damn I had all of the 89 collection. Even Alex Gordon.
$69.00
I should have kept them in their box.
Instead I took them out and they all became yellow.

***

Alan Faneca #66
If Dave Cadigan was the man with the suspiciously growing figure, then Alan Faneca #66 is the incredible shrinking man, and as such, is perhaps the best example of how a football lineman might actually save his own life after retirement. As several stories have shared, Faneca, one of the better offensive linemen of the last fifteen years, lost 100 lbs after he left football. Friends were worried he was gravely ill. He wasn't. He just lost a lot of weight. 

The photo above is of Faneca when he was with the Jets, looking like a beer-drinking roadie for the Allman Brothers. He was a crucial member of the 2008 team that went to the AFC Championship. Shonn Greene still has recurring dreams that he is running behind Alan Faneca and finding an absurd amount of daylight. Then Shonn awakens to find himself in his house, or maybe in a hotel, with an empty sensation that comes to all of us when we realize that the past is a cruel, irretrievable, glittering mirage of our old joys and regrets. 


A retired Faneca and his daughter
Faneca's contract was extraordinary, apparently the biggest for a lineman ever at the time, so when the Jets drafted Vladimir Ducasse, he was let go. He played the rest of his career with the Cardinals. Now here is Alan Faneca (right) after retirement, no longer a large man. The difference is amazing. He now weighs just about 20 lbs more than I do, which is a testimony to how much work he's done to make himself healthy and what more I need to do in order to get in shape. He's 6'5" and I'm 6'0", which means he's a lot healthier than I am. In all of the tales I encounter among the Infinites, there is so much suffering and misery, so many lost souls  who never quite find their place in the world after committing their bodies to a punishing game that takes up such a small place in the time of their lives. Seeing Alan Faneca like this is like seeing a superhero permanently shedding his or her secret identity and accepting life as a normal person. Even Superman wanted to just live as Clark Kent; it may have endangered Earth as it was thrown into the evil grip of General Zod, but luckily for Alan Faneca, real life doesn't require that you vanquish evil. After football, life simply asks you to be yourself. Underneath all the hair and muscle of his football life, Faneca was someone who didn't need to do battle anymore. He's just himself now.  

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