Wednesday, November 28, 2012

An Open Letter to My Fellow Jets Fans

Gang Green,

It has taken me a few day to really recuperate to a level where I feel I am ready and willing to address you about the events that occurred on November 22, 2012, a day that will forever live in infamy for the New York Jets. This past Thursday, our men were massacred to a point of no return. The slight glimmer of hope we once held despite pain and ridicule was stomped out, spit on, set on fire, and sent out to sea. Vegas dropped our odds of winning the Super Bowl to 300 to 1. Boston celebrated. And most crushing of all, Fireman Ed quit.

I, along with 79,087 others, spent my Thanksgiving night in exotic East Rutherford, New Jersey. Rather than stay warm, eating until combustion, and drinking myself to oblivion with the rest of my family, my brothers and I bundled up and headed to the Meadowlands. The night started off festive as ever. We joined family friends in an extensive tailgate complete with tents, tarp, a generator, (us Tri-Staters have become experts on these post-Sandy,) a space heater, toasters, microwaves, a multi-course Thanksgiving feast, and of course, enough alcohol so that we could forget the inevitable loss ahead.

At this point, we still had hope. We had just watched the Jets beat the Rams (and more importantly, beat Brian Schottenheimer and Wayne Hunter, aka the scapegoats in all of our problems prior to this season.) We had hoped that win would fuel the fire and propel the Jets as they returned to home turf to face their archenemies. Could there be a Thanksgiving Day miracle better than Tim Tebow, the prodigal son, taking down the spawn of Satan himself, Tom Brady? I think not.

As we made our way through the parking lot, there seemed to be far more Massholes than I expected. Had I somehow driven to Foxborough and ended up at Gillette? The stadium in front of me was green, I had only driven a half hour, so why on Earth was I surrounded by so much more red, white, and blue than green and white? We made our way to our seats where we thankfully settled in with the usual crowd of season ticket holders alongside whom we normally hang our heads and beg the question, "Why were we born Jets fans?" Somehow, a group of delinquent Pats fans had acquired tickets in our section. The hazing began immediately. Following matching 3 and outs, the Jets' D stopped Brady's drive, forced them to kick for three, and we all watched in awe as Gostkowski's kick sailed wide left. NO GOOD! 
We cheered, we screamed, we chanted louder than ever as we followed our faithful leader, Fireman Ed, in the J! E! T! S! chant as the ball was kicked into the Jets' possession. A decent rushing drive was capped off by a Sanchez interception, but miraculously, the quarter ended without any score on either end.

And then it happened. Faster than you could even start a Tebow chant, the Jets fumbled three times, and just like that the score was 27-0. Within 52 seconds, the Patriots put up 21 points. I'm not sure if that's even possible, but somehow it happened. That's not all, by the time there were less than four minutes remaining in the first half, the score had progressed to 35-0. I have never left a Jets game early, (with the exception of when I was two years old at a Jets 49ers game, my parents forgot my pacifier in the car. I cried and made them leave. They will never let me live that down,) however, we were fed up.

Our season tickets are in the section directly above those of Fireman Ed's. Before we left, I made a point to glance down, curious as to whether or not our beloved mascot was keeping the faith that the rest of us had lost. That's when I saw it: Fireman Ed packed up and leaving Metlife stadium. I have seen this before. I've seen him leave early. I heard that he had bailed on the Dolphins game before the bye week. But this was Thanksgiving, nationally televised, and against the Patriots. This week was different. This game was different. Of course we were all fed up, but you're Fireman Ed. You make your poor brother hoist you up on his shoulder ten times a game as you lead 82,000 lunatics in the greatest chant in sports. Hell, I have a t-shirt with your damn face on it. You left? How dare you.
Completely defeated, there was nothing to do but laugh and ask god, "Why, oh why, was I not born a Giants fan?" As I reached the parking lot and fireworks went off behind me, we recognized that poor Lenny Kravitz would be playing a practically private concert for the 12 fans who had stayed behind. We couldn't take anymore. We deserve better than that. As I got in the car, I began to catch up on my Twitter feed. Fans and journalists from far and wide were bashing the Jets and their dreadful performance. I saw USA Today NFL columnist, Mike Garafolo, point out that Fireman Ed was no longer in seat and decided that I was as reliable a source as any to report my findings. From there the media storm took off:
I confirmed: Fireman Ed left. I saw it with my own eyes. I knew I was right, so why did I have this feeling in the pit of my stomach? I thought it was just the nausea setting in from the combination of the 35 point second quarter and the ungodly amount of liquors mixed throughout the day, but it wasn't. It was worse.
I'm breaking news. I'm literally, single handedly, outing the one person who has always believed in the Jets. The man who still dressed up even in the dark ages of Chad Pennington and even worse, Brett Favre.
After that, Fireman Ed deleted his Twitter account. My Twitter mentions kept flowing in. People both thanking and cursing me. People damning Fireman Ed to all hell. People questioning if, in fact, I was a reliable source. I hoped what I saw was wrong. I hoped he was headed to the bathroom or perhaps was running to his car and had some special privilege to leave and reenter the stadium. I didn't want to be right, but I was. The media storm surrounding Fireman Ed continued until days later, he quit. Fireman Ed quit. He walked out on us, the fans, the players, the coaches. He walked out on Sanchez, who he believed in perhaps more than anyone.

I know that I am not the reason that Fireman Ed abandoned us. I know that he has been taking heat from fans for every reason under the sun for years. I know that he is not as beloved to the masses as he was to me growing up. But I feel a sense of responsibility. When his letter came out to Jets fans explaining his decision to 'retire,' I died a little inside. Of course, I was relieved that he acknowledged that he had, in fact, left when I had reported. I was glad to have put my journalist hat on as the priority above my fan hat in that situation. I remain thankful for the credit I received from Garafolo, Conor Orr, Mike Vorkunov, and many others; men whose beats and Twitter feeds I read religiously and hope to one day call my colleagues as I advance in my career as a sports journalist. I have seen news spread like wildfire through social media, but I have never been the one to light the match before.

So, my friends, what have I taken from all of this? I have decided that Fireman Ed, for all the good he brought for so many years, deserves our thanks. He united us. He inspired us. At the same time, his abandonment in our lowest times shows that he is anything but 'diehard.' We are diehard. Any one of you whom I see this coming Sunday at Metlife Stadium still wearing green and white is diehard. Every one of you who joins in on chanting J! E! T! S! this Sunday is diehard. No, I do not believe the team or front office personnel we have right now are the answers. I do not see a Super Bowl Championship coming home with us in February. But I stand by my team. I bleed green and white. I may get frustrated, but I would never take an entire fandom on my back and simply quit when the going got rough. Some say that the chant dies with Fireman Ed. But the chant is way bigger than Fireman Ed ever was. 82,000 voices are far bigger than one could ever be.

Stand up, Gang Green. 

J!     E!     T!     S!

My love, respect, gratitude, and eternal dedication to the New York Jets,

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