Tuesday, January 11, 2011

For the Jets this showdown may be "business", but for me it's personal

As anyone who knows anything about me is well aware of, I'm a diehard football fan. Most of all, I'm a diehard Jets fan. I'm not going to sit here and act like I've been a fan of the Jets since football was invented. I'm a young guy, 'only' 23 years old. That doesn't change the fact that I absolutely love this team, and the fact that I cannot possibly be more emotionally invested in this team. The Jets are my favorite professional sports franchise, and I ride with them to the very end. I watch every second of Jets football I can watch, no matter what. 1-15 Jets? I'll watch. Kliff Kingsbury is starting because 4 QBs on your team are hurt? I'll watch. Chad Pennington's shoulder is spaghetti? I'll watch. My passion for this team is simply off the charts. Through everything, I stick with the team I grew up loving.

The last two seasons for the team have been among the best Jet memories I've had. I am fully aware that I'm not saying much with that statement given what the Jets have done for the last 15 years. Since the hire of head coach Rex Ryan, the culture of the team has changed. The team is far more physical than it was under the previous regime. The team in its entirety is more about physicality and beating you straight forward as opposed to the finesse, the smoke and mirrors that marred the Eric Mangini era.

Ryan definitely has his flaws, both on the field and off it. On the field, sometimes his clock management can be spotty. Sometimes, I think Rex's bravado and general overconfidence can have an adverse affect on a game (see: fake punt in Week 16 for prime example). And sometimes all the talking he does gets absolutely old, but overall the Jets are 23-13 as the Jets coach with two straight playoff appearances and three road playoff wins. I'm extremely appreciative of Rex Ryan and what he has done for my team, as far as the culture and obviously the record. I'm encouraged with the direction the team is headed. Now there are quite a few tough decisions for the offseason but this isn't the time for that. Once the season is over, I can talk about the offseason.

The Jets defeated the Colts last week on a "walk off" field goal, setting up Round Three of New England Patriots vs New York Jets. Round One was a decisive Jets victory backed by an impressive performance from QB Mark Sanchez and saw the defense pitch a second half shutout. Game Two, which pretty much decided the division, saw the Patriots take the Jets behind the woodshed behind Woodhead.

Now it's time for Round Three between the rivals. Ryan has talked all year about what he believes his team is capable of, and how anything short of a Superbowl is a failure. He's mentioned how he isn't here to kiss Belichick's rings and his particular distaste for the Patriots. Well it's safe to say that he certainly isn't alone with that particular sentiment. I'm sure many of the other Jets players, coaches, and staff members feel that way too.

More than anyone though, I feel the Jets fanbase HATES the New England Patriots and everything about them. I'm not going to speak for them, as I can only speak for myself. And on my end, I absolutely despise the Patriots. Obviously the fact that they are winning is a small part of the hatred, but everything about that team rubs me the wrong way. From the smug arrogant owner to the QB who whines whenever he gets touched, down to the coach who left us at the 12th hour to go to New England and has won three championships since then (while we've been through four head coaches), everything about them rubs me the wrong way. The fact that this incredible run they have been on for the last 10 years basically started with a fateful hit by Jets MLB Mo Lewis makes it all the more nauseating. Lewis took out then Patriot QB Drew Bledsoe, and Tom Brady took over. And from there, the story tells itself.

I can respect those guys because of how they seemingly ease into any and everything seamlessly. They are a winning franchise, with a winning coach and a winning QB. So while I do hate them with a passion, I'm not a blind fan. I recognize what they have done and why they are a model franchise. And as a result, the exposure they get makes my stomach turn. I'm not trying to say they don’t deserve the admiration and respect they get, far from it. They've been the model of consistency for years now, but the weasel head coach, and the whiny QB, along with the fact that all of this is taking place for a bitter rival in Massachusetts make it difficult to stomach.

Honestly, it hurts. And over the ten year period of dominance all they have done is beat the Jets like they stole something repeatedly. They have owned us for the better part of this decade, and I'm tired of it. The Jets have been a fairly successful franchise over the past ten years, as they have appeared in the playoffs six times. The Jets also have had one home playoff game in that time span, mostly because the Patriots have dominated the AFC East.

Rock bottom for me as a football came during week 13 of this NFL season, as I watched the Patriots run roughshod all over the Jets to the tune of 45-3. I have never been so embarrassed as a Jets fan. As well documented at the top, I’ve seen quite a bit of negative as a Jet fan. There is practically nothing negative as a football fan that I've never experienced. When they say that being a Jets fan "builds character", it's the truth. I can attest to that one.

Honestly that game was the most painful to endure as a Jets fan. I was in a bar full of Jets fans, and midway through the second quarter the game was all but decided, and everyone was dejected. The Jets were tied for the division lead going into the game, and it was probably the biggest regular season game the Jets have ever played in since I became a fan back in 1996. The fact that they lost wasn't the hard part because the Patriots are a damn good team. The fact that they embarrassed themselves, and basically no showed on National television cut deep. It stung like no other loss I've ever experienced, with the possible exception of the 1998 AFC Title Game.

Bottom line, I give the Patriots respect because for all they have represented over the last ten years (even with the cheating scandal and the weasel head coach), as they are epitome of winning. Even with the respect, comes a hatred not matched by any other sports franchises.

All the talk all year from everyone within the team was how the goal was Superbowl or Bust. Go out there and take it. The second step is walking out of Foxboro victorious. Go out there and do the "impossible". Do it for yourselves, do it for the man next to you and do it for me. I'm ready for Sunday, and at 4:30 Sunday we'll see if the Jets are too.

So to the New York Jets players, coaching staff, and everyone who is involved with the team---have the game of your lives. Make yourselves, your fellow employees, the millions of Jets fans in the world and the city proud. Go out there and shock the world. Beat the New England Patriots, and knock the smirk off Tom Brady's face. Make sure he'll hate us even more than he already does. Make sure the fourth quarter of this game won't be a Patriot trash talking fest like it probably was during the week 13 massacre.

For the Jet players, coaches and the like, this may be more business and football than anything else. For me, and a legion of other Jets fans, it's personal. Let's get it. Go Jets.