It was September 8, and the day of the Jets home opener was here. It still amazes me that my merry group of stoner friends managed to not only meet up at 7am Sunday morning, but we also successfully planned something which didn’t involve smoking on the block. I would say we’ve matured, but that should only be met with “C’mon son” by Ed Lover. Sundays are reserved for football, and we normally watch every game together, so our planning capabilities haven’t evolved as much as we just decided to watch the game from the stadium instead of at home.
I’m sure my six friends all had their gripes about waking up early, but our reasons for being excited for the Jets home opener tossed us from bed. My friends Matt, AJ, and his girlfriend were Tampa Bay Buccaneer fans (well, AJ was more the Buccaneer fan and he just threw a jersey on his girl). This was one of those rare times AJ could see his team play in person. I would imagine a long distance fandom is tough when your favorite team is from a state which puts out yearly court cases we all know and love such as the Casey Anthony and George Zimmerman trials.
Scott, Bobby, and Mariusz, wore Jets green for the game. Out of the three, Scott is by far the biggest fan. His fandom is a birthright. His mom and the rest of her family were Jets fans so it was only natural they pass the curse down to him. There have been many days when I laughed at Scott’s football misfortunes because, let’s be honest, what are friends for?
I don’t know how he does it. After watching the Jets hurt him time after time, I’ve noticed the relationship take a Henry Hill and Karen-ish type turn. All Jets fans want to do is love their team and the Jets repay them with emotional torture. You can argue the same analogy can be used by any bad team, but New York fans have an added edge of misfortune. Sure Cleveland Brown fans have to deal with a struggling Lebron-less economy, but most of them don’t live minutes away from suits on Wall Street who become millionaires by hitting spacebar and enter. Jets fans attempt to use their team as an escape from the insurmountable difference between rich and poor smacking them in the face every day. What usually happens though is the team adds more depression to their lives.
One of the most heartbreaking things Scott ever felt didn’t come from a woman. The culprit was the 2010 Jets. Fans will mark this year as the last time they saw the number six and thought Mark Sanchez’s jersey number and not the number that comes after “pick” on the box score. Back then he was the Sanchize. The year before he took the Jets to the AFC championship in his rookie season and did it again in 2010 after beating not only Peyton Manning, but also his arch-nemesis, Tom Brady. Not since Chris Jericho beat Stone Cold Steve Austin and the Rock in the same night to become undisputed champion has there been more impressive back-to-back victories.
At that point it seemed like Mark Sanchez was something special. That was until he ran into Big Ben and the Steelers and the Jets lost the game after beating two of the very best in the history of the NFL. I’m not taking anything away from Roethlisberger. He’s a champion in his own right. But the Jets should never have lost the game. That’s like Jericho losing the title to Booker T on Smackdown. Sure Booker T is a legend, but he’s no Austin or Rock.
On the day of the Jets/Steelers game Scott felt all the emotion Ms. Charles Manson felt for her son throughout her entire life, but in less than 24 hours. The day started with his baby(s) making him so proud and ended with an utter disgust which stems from wondering how something he loved so much could hurt him so bad.
Still, as bad as the loss was, he still had hope. His team looked like it was going to have a solid leader in Sanchez. In Sanchez’s first two years as Jets QB he took them to the NFC championship two years in a row and he tied with legends like Len Dawson and Roger Staubach for most road playoff victories.
Sadly for Scott there was no glimmer of hope in his future. Scott’s depression turned into a stale disdain when he just got used to the Jets shortcomings the last two years. They hurt him so bad, it has been two years since he uttered the word hope. If someone were to tell Scott in December 2010 all the Jets would be famous for in the future something called the “buttfumble” -a bumble so foul it has a 2,000-word Wikipedia entry- he probably would have been surprised at first and then realized, oh yeah, it’s the Jets. Vintage Jets.
While my merry six stoner friends have had their favorite teams since birth, I never found myself having one team I lived and died for. The last team I ever loved was the Mets and I gave up on them when they shut down Shea’s doors and moved into a stadium named after a bank. The lovable losers became another cog in the banking machine. (I’m sure they were before then too, but at least they hid it better.)
My reason for being excited today was that I got to be around a stadium of people. This is one of those few times I can play the heel. I threw on the Bucs red and black knowing full well my friends and I were the degenerate minority to the Jets fans we would be around.
As a professional wrestling fan I always loved the bad guys. The wrestlers who pissed off the crowd were always more appealing to me than the baby faces who saved the day. Call me sadistic but I see a beautiful art in moments like CM Punk dumping the Undertaker’s on-screen father’s urn on him. Sadly at 24-years old, with a lung capacity sapped by joints, blunts, and second hand smoke, my time to start planning a life of dropping elbows, carrying women on my shoulder, and deflating joy by crushing Hulkamania has long since passed. So I walked into September 8 with a plan. I had zero intentions to pass through the gates of MetLife Stadium to chant J-E-T-S JETS JETS JETS. (This special ed chant led by Firemen Ed is completely lost on me. All they’re doing is spelling loudly.) I was there to antagonize Jet fans on a larger scale than what I’m used to with Scott.
I don’t hate the Jets. They’re funny to me, but in the ironic way that Reefer Madness is funny. Their ability to lose consistently for 40 years almost seems supernatural. America wasn’t even 10 years removed from the Kennedy Administration the last time the Jets won the Super Bowl. My only theory is that the Jets are from a bizarro dimension transported here in 1969. What probably happened was Joe Namath drunkenly crashed the team plane into Rosswell, New Mexico. Since the world couldn’t deal with losing champions so soon after being crowned, these Jets were plucked from the bizarro dimension they came from. These bizzaro Jets award starting jobs to the worst quarterbacks in pre-season, lose as consistently as Brady wins, and write romantic comedies named the Buttfumble.
MetLife stadium might have the worst parking system. You have to travel past the stadium and get onto the highway for about 20 minutes before you get to a parking lot behind a printing company. There they provide you a school bus to get to the stadium.
A few cars away from us was the family of Bucs back-up quarterback Mike Glennon. I guess the bizarro football dimension the Jets come from also practices bizzaro courtesy, too. They made his family travel what feels like 10,000 miles away from the stadium so they can park next to a bunch of stoners who can’t afford parking passes. Maybe one day he’ll get a snap and the Jets will offer the Glennon family a one-day yellow pass they have to renew every year for the discount price of $22,456. People who are the fathers and mothers of players that have the potential to win a game should not have to take a school bus to see their son play. That doesn’t even happen in high school football. Vintage Jets.
The parking sucked but it was nice to be around all my friends. Its rare getting all of us together with everyone’s work and school schedules. We took the awful parking and made it a memorable time. We drank beers, ate sandwiches, and laughed at my friend Richie while we reminisced about that time he got arrested when people thought he was going to shoot up our high school with a screwdriver they mistook for a gun.
I felt embarrassed to wear the Buccaneers jersey not even ten minutes into sitting in our seats. On the first drive, Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman, the southern Mark Sanchez, had three straight penalties and attempted to call timeout twice in a row. When your job is to toss a football around, hulking referee Ed Hochuli shouldn’t be instructing you of timeout rules.
On the next Bucs drive Josh Freeman was forced to kick the ball out of bounds in the endzone for a safety just so the Jets couldn’t score on the bumbled snap. Jets fans were ecstatic and they took their happiness out on us by high-fiving over our heads and laughing at us. To be fair, I would have done the same thing. It’s why I went to the game. I just didn’t think my heel turn would be on the level of the Brooklyn Brawler becoming a Red Sox fan.
At the half the Buccaneers were up 14-12. I wasn’t so embarrassed anymore by the jersey. The Bucs improved from those first two drives with touchdowns from Doug Martin and Mike Williams. Every time the Bucs scored I made sure to do the awful J-E-T-S JETS JETS JETS chant. That was countered by a guy wearing a “Revis sucks” shirt who just yelled, “Shut up, faggot.” AJ found himself in similar tiffs, getting into drunken “fuck you”-offs with fans who had higher seats than we did.
The trend I noticed was the higher up the seats, the meaner the fans. While AJ and I held our own, our Matt wasn’t so lucky. One Jets fan noticed he was wearing a Bucs jersey with Jets sunglasses as he got up to get food. Earlier that morning Scott noticed the same thing so he threw a piece of ice at him. He got off lucky there. This time around his luck ran out. Once word spread at the stadium, and oh did it spread, Matt was met with a chorus of “asshole” chants upon returning. Close to 300 people joined in. When he tried to fight back with circling middle fingers, he tripped and fell into a woman next to him. He had that breakdown Charlie Sheen’s character in Platoon had, where Sheen cried after shooting at the handicapped Viet Cong’s legs to make him dance. This prompted 300 people to laugh at him and yell “asshole” even louder. At that point he would have been in better shape with Sergeant Barnes watching his back in Vietnam.
As the game went on, the Jets fans became restless and the “asshole” chants and “fuck you” cries became more malicious. I understood why. With neither team scoring, they were bored. The game had no action from the end of the second to the last two minutes. They had to do something – and I completely milked it. This was the closest I’d get to being Randy Savage against Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania.
After being one with the living dead, the game finally revived itself with six minutes left when Nick Folk gave the Jets the lead. The stadium erupted. Bobby said we were going to see “vintage Jets” soon. This is how jaded the typical Jets fan is.
Five minutes later, with a 1:40 left on the clock, the Bucs took the lead with Ryan Lindell kicking a 37-yard field goal. This time there were no chants and the insults died. Earlier in the game someone yelled, “Yo faggot with the chin strap,” to AJ, and even that guy slumped over in his chair. This was vintage Jets.
The following drive Geno Smith did something a Jets quarterback hasn’t done in two years. With less than a minute left, he marched down the field and ran for a first down. This first down was followed by a 15-yard penalty essentially awarded to the Jets by the refs.
The first time the Jets came out in front in the fourth, the stadium exploded. I didn’t think a group of people could be louder until the second and final time Nick Folk gave the Jets the lead for good. For years I laughed at the Jets, and here I was standing in awe of their celebration. That goofy Matrix 3 party had nothing on Jets fans. I don’t know if my brain was able to process all the noise so everything became a shade whiter to me.
I came in wanting to be the bad guy, and now I wanted nothing more than to feel the kind of excitement surrounding me. That sort of happiness is rare. This country is poisoned by invisible political lines which divide us in a way that makes someone exactly like you seem like the enemy. The Jets win was transcendent, where all political bullshit dissolved and the only thing that mattered was standing together with your fellow Jets fan and creating an electric vibe at MetLife stadium powered by the love of their team. They got me. I understood why Scott loves the Jets. Even though they’ll rip your heart out sometimes, moments like these more than make up for it.
Walking down the stairs to the parking lot I saw an old man standing by himself with a smile on his face. He stared at the sea of green that was happier than they may ever be again. I was jealous. I have no favorite team, and I’d like to one day be that old man smiling at the next generation of fans.
The Buccaneers jersey blanketing my body became an uncomfortable wart that needed to be frozen off before it turned into cancer. I discarded it, and realized my heel turn became a surprising face turn.I don’t know if things were meant to be. For all I know I could have felt this same awakening at a Giants game. I’ll never be sure, though. What I do know is now I have the chance to be that doofy smiling old man watching a bunch of youngins’ chant the worst chant in football history: J-E-T-S JETS JETS JETS.
I guess it’s a guilty pleasure.