Last year the New York Jets were one win away from going to the Super Bowl and on the eve of that game I broke down and cried. Three months earlier my father had died unexpectedly, I took it very hard but I didn’t cry. I was deeply saddened and angry through the travel, the wake, the funeral and the handling of my father’s estate but I could not bring myself to shed a tear even though I wanted to.
When I got home I tried to return back to my normal life but I felt like there was a tremendous hole in the middle of me that couldn’t be filled. The closest I felt to normal came on the Sundays the Jets played. My father was a Jets fan, which means I am a Jets fan. My father and I had our difficulties and were often at odds with one another but when we had cause to not speak to each other we still had the Jets to talk about. Eventually football talk would give way to other discussions. When I was a child we sat over chocolate milk, cookies and the preview of the weekend’s game in the paper. We talked about match ups and betting and then finally the reasons my parents divorced. Years later, over drinks we talked about games and made peace with one another over slights both real and imagined. The day after I got married in Las Vegas, my father and I stood in the Sports Book discussing possible wagers on the upcoming Jets season and he told me he thought that my new bride and her family, who he had met 48 hours earlier were: “The Goods” and that I did pretty well for myself.
The last time my father and I spoke was after a Jets game, in September 2009, a few weeks before he died. After he was gone I’d watch the games on Sundays and everything would feel normal until I’d reach for my phone to call someone who wasn’t there. Over the course of the rest of the season I attached a great significance to the Jets playoff hopes. Since the Jets were the last thing my father and I spoke about I felt like the season represented the last tangible connection I had to him and that connection would be severed when the season ended. When the Jets managed to get into the last playoff spot I felt like I had been granted one more week to feel connected to my father. After they pulled off two straight upset wins I began to think that maybe something magical was going on and maybe the connection I had created in my head would last all the way through the Super Bowl. However, the night before the AFC Championship game against the heavily favored Colts I knew that the odds were against the Jets and I would likely have to let go sooner or later, so I cried. I cried for the loss of my father and I cried over the memories of Sunday afternoons spent watching football with him. Then, when I had gotten it all out, I got ready to watch the game. When the Jets lost I was sad but I was okay, I had gotten everything I needed from the season including some closure.
This Sunday, the Jets are once again underdogs who are one game away from going to the Super Bowl and I have some perspective. I want the Jets to win it all but as time goes on I’ve realized that my love of the Jets has always been and always will be a stand in for the love I have for my father. Sometimes my father and I needed the Jets to help us communicate but I never doubted that he loved me and I’m sure he always knew I felt the same. No matter what happens this weekend, nothing can take that away. No matter what happens on Sunday, I have won.
That said: J-E-T-S! JETS!, JETS!, JETS!