24 January 2011
It pains me to write this. I truly, from the bottom of my heart, believed this was it. I did not see how the Jets could lose Sunday in Pittsburgh. I thought they were the better team and had the championship mojo on their side. Then, when the crucible was at its hottest, the pressure at its highest, and the lights at their brightest, the Jets melted on the frozen tundra of Heinz Field.
The first half was one of the most shocking, surreal experiences of my life. When the Steelers took a 24-0 lead on Sanchez's psuedo-fumble, all I felt in my body was numbness. Yes, the subarctic temperatures played a role in that, but it was the Jets complete disappearing act that left me with an empty feeling. The only remotely accurate comparison to what happened would be the Mets falling behind 7-0 in the first inning of the final game of the '07 Collapse Season. It was a terribly helpless feeling. There was an ear-drum-shattering level of noise around me---I could not hear a thing.
The Jets made a valiant comeback attempt. They did not quit. There were even a few moments in the second half when I thought they might win. I tried to convince myself that this was the Jets' Red Sox moment, trailing in the ninth inning of Game Four, the best closer in MLB history on the mound, down 3-0 in the series, that with all hope lost this would be the night the Jets flipped the script on 42 years of terrible luck and finally returned to the Super Bowl.
Well, that didn't happen. In my mind, the game ended when the Jets, down 24-10, failed to score on three plays from the one-inch line early in the fourth quarter. How they did not let Shonn Greene touch the ball on second, third and fourth-and-goal boggles my mind. Ground and Pound is a dirty myth. There's no truth to it. What frustrated me even more about that sequence was the now infamous "headset malfunction." I love Sanchez to death and believe he will win the Jets a Super Bowl, but why couldn't he call the plays himself there? You need one inch. Hand the ball off to your bowling ball of a running back. There's no imagination needed there. Would Roethlisberger have been jumping up and down in panic because his headset was broken? Of course not. He would have called his own number or given the ball to Mendenhall. Sanchez's inexperience greatly showed there.
As you know I promised a Minutes of my experience at the game, but having to re-live that experience right now would be much worse than getting kicked in the groin by thirty times by Nick Folk. So, here's a brief summary: (Deep breath) Fun car ride, lots of loud music, mooched free food from Jets team-sponsored tailgate, dad told me during pre-game call that he booked rent-a-car and hotel for Dallas, game starts, our section filled with Jets fans, hell begins, Steelers fans yell, "Super Bowl XLV? Can't Wait!", Jets string together a few big plays, forced to stand up because metal bleachers have robbed me of feeling in legs, fan behind me threatens Schottenheimer's life if he runs LT up the middle on a fake reverse again, beg defense for one more stop, Steelers get first down, taunted and jeered as we leave stadium. (Exhale).
Ugh. That was terrible. I want to forget it happened so badly. I wanted someone to bang on my door and wake me up from a terrible dream at 24-0. It never happened. In some ways it wasn't surprising. Other than last week's Patriots game, the match that drained the Jets of their energy and emotion, the team failed to play a complete game all season. That is why each of their 13 wins, the two Bills games aside, was decided in the fourth quarter. They had been good enough to fight back from adversity, to overcome a turnover here and there, to rebound from a sluggish start against lesser teams, but yesterday's mountain was too tall to climb. To come back from 24 points down, on the road, in Pittsburgh, in the AFC Championship Game, with an incompetent offensive coordinator is not a feasible task. As Rex so Rexly said, in honor of Things We Never Knew About the 2010 Jets, "We played a good half...We just never played a good game."
It was never their year.
So now we move on. But how? The Likely Lad has taken an interesting approach. He has been super optimistic. Here are my texts/e-mails/tweets from him. "We'll suck it up and start again next summer. RS forever!" "Talking about next Jets season already? hmmmm... CAAAAAN'T WAIT!!!" "That's the thing. The Jets are Rex and Sanchez and Mangold and Revis and Brick and Harris. The core is strong and very young. Even if you lose one receiver and one CB, the most important thing is to beef up D and O line. If they could ever get pressure on a qb, they'd go 19-0." Needless to say he is taking his queue from Rex, who said today, "We got to find a way to win the division. It isn't about just beating New England. Quite honestly, we did pretty good job at it...Our best is yet to come."
Myself on the other hand, I can't do that yet. It hurts too much right now. I'm fully aware it's only a football game, but it still stings. To lose something you care about and dedicate emotional, physical and monetary energy to, no matter how trivial it is, hurts. There will be a time in the near future when this all too familiar feeling passes. Pitchers and catchers report to Florida and Arizona in a few weeks. Jose Reyes will tell us how this is the best he's ever felt. I'll believe him. The never-ending NHL and NBA seasons will reach their postseasons. I'll hopefully get lucky enough to stand on a warm Hicksville train platform waiting for a chain of silver cars to take me to an ice hockey game. The NFL Draft will (hopefully) happen. The Mets will give us some false hope in early June and have it peter out by mid-July. And that's when NFL training camps will (hopefully) open. I'll eat up every Rex soundbite and the whole process will begin again.
As for Rex Sanchez, we'll beat on, boats against the current, of course. Our posts may subside over the upcoming months, but the quality will remain. As many of you know, I will need to find a job in the near future, as my 21-year party comes to an end in late May. If I don't, well, I'll be writing this blog forever, which is a paradox of sorts, I suppose. Pumping out 1,000 word articles every night at 4 a.m. is an arduous task, but one I could not love any more. Hearing feedback from all of you, whether it be through comments or e-mails or Facebook messages is tremendous. I cannot possibly describe how good it makes The Likely Lad and I feel when you tell us we made you smile, laugh, or gave you an emotional Jets boost on a given day. That's why we love this blog. It's a communal experience.
And that's why we love sports. It creates an incredible bond among people who would never even make eye contact walking down the street. Leaving Heinz Field yesterday, my friends and I talked and listened to other Jets fans as we rode the escalators down to the parking lot. We took comfort in each other's disappointment. Not because misery loves company, but rather that we all knew how much the other person cared. None of us would have stood outside for four hours in single-degree temperatures if we didn't. I'll probably never see those people again, but that's OK.
New people come into your life every day. Whether it is a new baby cousin on the way, a loving girlfriend, or a fan you meet at a game, there's always someone new. And there's always people and things that you will lose. The 2010 Jets are gone, but the Jets organization will carry on. As a teary-eyed Rex said late Sunday night, "We're going to keep chasing that Super Bowl. We're gonna chase it until we get there." The dream of winning a championship in two weeks may be dead, but the dream of winning a Super Bowl will never die.
I love you all. Thank you for a great season.
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