Living in the shadow of champions: The tale of the typical Jets fan

Michael Rosengart | Sports Columnist
New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez looks for a penalty flag after getting hit late on a play against the Indianapolis Colts in the third quarter of the AFC Championship. The Colts defeated the New York Jets, 30-17, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana, Sunday, January 24, 2010. (Mark Cornelison/Lexington Herald-Leader/MCT)

New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez looks for a penalty flag after getting hit late on a play against the Indianapolis Colts in the third quarter of the AFC Championship. The Colts defeated the New York Jets, 30-17, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana, Sunday, January 24, 2010. (Mark Cornelison/Lexington Herald-Leader/MCT)

One of the best parts about being a sports fan in New York is that in addition to the cross-town foes, you’re embedded in bitter rivalries with nearby Boston and Philadelphia.

One of the worst parts about being a sports fan in New York is that in addition to the cross-town foes, you’re embedded in bitter rivalries with nearby BAHSTAN and Philly.

This second part can be especially painful when you’re a Mets and Jets fan, as I am, because while the Mets have reached one World Series in the past decade (only to lose to the “damn Yankees”) and the Jets haven’t seen the promised land in the new millennium, teams that I love to hate have won 10 times.

And it gets worse. My Jets have also dubiously earned the title S.O.J. (“Same Old Jets”) by our own fans from heartbreak after heartbreak, choke after choke and collapse after collapse. They’re not bad; they just can’t win the big game, and for a fan, it is agonizing.

By all means, I am a glutton for punishment by sticking with the S.O.J through thick and…err…more thick. I’ve always enjoyed Ralph Waldo Emerson’s comment from “Self-Reliance” that “a foolish consistency is a hobgoblin of little minds,” and I’m perfectly well aware that I’m exemplary of what could be considered a little mind. Nevertheless, I don’t pay heed to his warning.

For those of you who have read up to this point and are now expecting a triumphant explanation of why I will continue to pull for my Jets in light of falling just 30 minutes short of reaching the Super Bowl, I’m sorry to disappoint. It’s not coming. The Jets franchise seems to be on the rise, but until they actually come through, they’ll continue to be the “Same Old Jets” and I’ll continue to be the S.O.S. (Same Old Sucker). A team can’t shake a notion until it actually does so.

The Red Sox, for instance, were a very formidable franchise despite their “cursed” championship draught. Four pennants and five American League East titles didn’t change the fact that no one believed they could ever win a World Series. They were competitive for many years, but almost winning the title doesn’t make up for winning it—not even close, to be honest.

Having said that, I believe I’ve learned what all Jets fans should learn, that there is something special about being the underdog. It’s tough never to get the respect or always be the little brother to the Giants, but when you’re reaching heights you’re “not supposed to be” reaching, there’s a certain thrill that you ride until the clock strikes midnight that’s only there when you have nothing to lose.

Going against what Rex Ryan said a few weeks ago, the Jets won’t be favorites until they’ve performed up to that standard like the Red Sox finally did in 2004. But there definitely seems to be something special brewing in these perpetual underdogs. Who knows? Maybe just once, my dog will have its day.