I had every intention of watching the Super Bowl this past Sunday but life got in the way.
Being a New York Jets fan, I have no real reason to watch the N.F.L., but believe it is a major current event that bears witnessing to be properly informed, not that one needs much of an excuse to sit and eat and watch TV. Also, in keeping with a tradition I had with my mother (RIP), my brother and I have decided to make a bet on the Super Bowl every year. My brother is a die-hard Patriots fan, so the bet was easy to make. I bet on the Philadelphia Eagles to win; the loser buys the other lunch.
As a New Yorker, I should despise both teams. The Patriots are cheating panty waists. They even cheated against my Jets, which is like cheating against people from the Special Olympics. Nonetheless, like the arrogant Dallas Cowboys of decades past, they have become the dominating franchise with numerous Super Bowl victories. The Philadelphia Eagles have been the hated rivals of New York football fans for decades. There’s something about Philadelphia fans absolute violent savagery and dedication that is endearing. They went into the game as underdogs.
Until I went to college, I could not see the use or interest in football. It is a slow game with rules that are not easy to comprehend (wait, they have to kick it again already, what happened?). Sports in general failed to arouse my interest as a kid. Why invest so much into a game when you could be out shooting bad guys or doing karate on people. I prowled around with toy guns, back when you were allowed to have realistic-looking toy guns, and pretended to hunt Russians or terrorists. I would rather practice being a bounty hunter or future warlord than try to remember a bunch of rules that made no sense. Sports seemed a poor substitute for real adventure in the world.
In college, sports made more sense. The athletes represented our school in the most primal, tribal way, and supporting the team was something that could bring even the most politically fractured college campus together.
So this Sunday came and I figured I would turn on the Super Bowl and it would be in the background while I had a regular Sunday with the family. The game was supposed to start at 6:30 p.m. Eastern time, and we knew that Pink was going to be singing the national anthem.
At the appointed time, we told our children that “Pirate Pink” would be singing on television soon. Our children know the singer as “Pirate Pink” from her appearance as a pirate on “Sponge Bob Square Pants.” But something went wrong. We turned in to the Super Bowl when it was supposed to start and they were actually starting to play football? What happened to the 45 minutes of bullshit before the actual game? The coin toss, the national anthem, the endless displays of hype and patriotism? We only have one TV in our home and I was banking on Pink’s appearance to make the transition from “Doc McStuffins” to football; no easy task.
As the actual Super Bowl got under way, my older children began to cry over missing “Pirate Pink” sing on television. I was the worst Dad ever. I made my chicken dip and enjoyed dinner with the family while watching “The Simpsons,” which is the only TV show we allow to run during meal times regularly.
I was glad to miss the game because I tend to jinx many teams that I watch on television. When the New York Yankees were in the World Series against the Atlanta Braves in 1996, I watched the first two games and the Yankees were crushed. I quit watching entirely and the Yankees won the next four games and reclaimed the crown as world champions once again.
Since then my not watching sports has helped my preferred teams. This year was a year I missed more Georgia Bulldogs games on TV than in recent memory, and they had their best year since 1980, making it all the way to the national championship game. Go Dawgs!
It was social media that informed me that my not-watching mojo had helped the Eagles win their first Super Bowl.
Congratulations Philadelphia. Please don’t burn your city to the ground.
New York Jets starting quarterback Geno Smith will miss as many as 10 games because another Jets player punched him in the face. Think about that for a minute and how stupid that is to happen on a professional football team.
They wouldn’t be the New York Jets if something completely stupid didn’t happen every year. They wouldn’t be the Jets if they didn’t let a promising young quarterback get injured in some freak sideshow-type incident.
Idemefuna Enemkpali is the linebacker who punched Smith and was immediately cut from the team. Not to fear though, ex-Jets head coach Rex Ryan picked him up for his Buffalo Bills.
The New York Times ran a story saying that Enemkpali had transformed himself into a “figure of infamy” for the New York Jets. Taking out the starting quarterback with a sucker punch certainly runs you afoul of the team and its fans, but you have to do better in the N.F.L. if you want to achieve infamy.
The idea that Idemefuna Enemkpali could achieve some kind of “infamy” is ludicrous in a league rife with serial sex offenders, wife beaters and celebrated cheaters. Enemkpali may have “sucker punched” Geno Smith, but he punched an adult male and apologized for it. If serial sex offenders like Ben Roethlisberger can have a career in the N.F.L., sucker punchers shouldn’t have any barriers to a life in professional football.
The New York Jets have employed worse people. The Jets starting quarterback for many years was Mark Sanchez, who raped a woman in college.
So unless Enemkpali ripped off Geno Smith’s arm and then knocked him out with his own fist, a simple punch isn’t going to make you infamous. I guess there is a dry spell of crimes from N.F.L. players lately and the media needs to make the most of ones that it gets.
And, this happened to The Jets, which makes the story of misfortune that much better. Ridiculous misfortune business-as-usual for Gang Green. And being a Jets fan hasn’t been easy for four decades.
I’m a Jets fan, and I must admit that the Jets misfortunes are somewhat of a badge of honor at this point. I have stayed loyal to sports teams through thick and thin even when others became fair weather fans and attached themselves to more popular, winning teams at the time. I remember when the New York Yankees had the worst record in baseball in the early 1990s. Living in Connecticut, many of my friends supported the Boston Red Sox and made fun of me for my team loyalty. I vowed to them that I would see the Yankees as world champions again (vowing to be kept on life support until this happened if need be). I only had to wait six years.
And so it is with the Jets. Most New Yorkers are New York Giants fans because the Giants have won more Super Bowls within recent memory. The Jets last won the Super Bowl in 1969, three years before I was born. That’s OK. I’ll wait a little longer.
Some of us in New York have the unfortunate burden of being Jets fans. The New York Jets were a great team sometime more than 40 years ago. Like the Knicks and Mets, they have made it their modus operandi to find new ways to break their fans’ hearts. They have been described as more of a media circus than a football team. It is often remarked that J.E.T.S. means “Just End The Season.”
The news this past weekend that the New York Jets have given up quarterback Mark Sanchez for Michael Vick will be sure to continue the Jets’ reputation for making foolish moves. This is the same team and coaching staff that paid handsomely for Tim Tebow, who became the NFL’s most expensive bench warmer.
The Vick hire has already brought shrieks of horror from animal rights activists, moralistic sports haters and even decent human beings. The Jets made the announcement on a Friday night, when news is likely to get the least amount of attention. Since returning to football, Vick has been the subject of the most invective aimed at a sports figure since O.J. Simpson got away with murder. And Vick didn’t get away with his crimes.
That’s not to say that the continued campaign against Vick is without merit. Michael Vick is every bit as bad as his harshest detractors say. He heartlessly tortured and murdered defenseless animals and his dumbly parroted apologies in the intervening years convince me that he’s only sorry he got caught. If there’s an afterlife, Vick will spend eternity being torturously gnawed at by Rottweilers with AIDS.
But there are a few things that stand out in the endless Vick hatred that the Jets have stirred up again. One is that there are much worse people still playing professional sports today that do not create half the controversy that rightfully follows Vick. The NFL employs rapists and murderers and thugs of every stripe.
One of the rapists that had a home in the NFL until just now was Mark Sanchez, the Jets quarterback that Michael Vick is replacing. It escaped the ire of football moralists that Sanchez was arrested for raping a woman at the University of Southern California while he was a student there, though charges were never brought. There has been no exodus of people from Pittsburgh Steelers fandom on account of their quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, being a serial rapist. Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens is a murderer of people and went on to become a Super Bowl MVP.
The second thing to take note is that the era of the celebrity hero is over. It is hard to face the reality that people we admire for their skills or accomplishments can be bad people. The sports world brings this into focus for us many times over, but the same is true for any celebrated line of work. It’s unfortunate that Lord Byron likely knocked up his own sister and that William S. Burroughs shot his wife to death, but that doesn’t make their writing any less influential.
So I won’t stop being a Jets fan. When you’re a Jet, you’re a Jet all the way, from your first scoreless half to your last fumbled play. I’m used to rooting for a losing NFL team and over needing to like professional athletes. Being a New York Yankees fan, I have read some of the horror stories of how Joe DiMaggio would treat fans. Was Billy Martin a homophobe or a racist? Who cares? No one hired him to sing “Kumbaya” to crack babies; they hired him to play and coach baseball. Baseball’s current home run record holder, Barry Bonds, is such a despised human being that his own teammates could barely bring themselves to congratulate the slugger on his accomplishments.
We can rightfully revile sports figures all we want, but ultimately they will be judged by what they do on the field of play. The New York Jets long ago gave up trying to recreate the magic of being heroes to anyone. Now they just need to win football games.