The New York Jets are perennially the first act of a sports movie, all chaos and no redemption. They are your drunk uncle Joe out to dinner, who starts so promisingly before devolving into grimace-worthy political rants and passes at the waitress. This team is the NFL's most inventive comedic entity, pioneering new and uncharted methods to torture and malign their fan base. I've loved them since birth.
Life as a Jets fan goes one of two ways. For your combative types, you can weaponize your decision to ritualistically ruin your fall and winter in punch-first, think-second mode. You haven't lived until you've heard a large man in a tight Testaverde jersey explain that we're one deep threat away from contention, willing himself into a delusion that will strangle his dreams. For others, you adopt a well-worn fatalism that never, ever allows you to draw pride from the multi-billion dollar business so dear to your heart. It's a conscious masochism. The two most common words uttered after admitting I root for the Jets are: "I know."
Ignore passing on Marino, or the Kotite era, or the Belichick resignation via napkin; we can limit the scope of brutality to the last 10 years and get a complete picture of Jets fandom. Because, unlike traditionally inept NFL teams, they sprinkle in moments of beautiful competence in between unbelievable idiocy. Since 2005, the Jets have made the playoffs three times and went the AFC Championship game in back-to-back seasons. They submitted one of the finest defensive seasons in recent history in 2009, buoyed by the breakout season of Darrelle Revis. While not transcendent by any means, their on-field record over the last decade places them thoroughly in the mediocre category.
Yet, no one -- outside of that man in the sweaty Testaverde jersey -- will remember these accolades without first recalling the endless public screw-ups along the way. During the "good" times, a win was overshadowed by their rookie quarterback sneakily eating a hot dog on the sidelines. They played two halves of perfect football in conference championship games ... spread out over the two games. Their bombastic coach loved his wife a little too publicly, while their rented legend quarterback was a bit too friendly with his camera phone.
After getting trucked by Tebowmania, the Jets literally tried to buy the magic, signing the quarterback/punt protector/back page savior. Tebow's tenure in New York could be perfectly summed up with Mark Sanchez drilling him in the back of the helmet on a crossing route.
Even in the proudest moment of the last two years -- Darrelle Revis returning home -- we've all decided to ignore that gaudy Patriots ring on his hand and remember the good old days. Their young star lineman followed up a press conference where he swore he'd never be a distraction again by having his newest arrest reported.
And, perhaps best of all, on my 22nd birthday Mark Sanchez decided to give me the best present possible by face-planting violently into Brandon Moore's ass.
So, once again, my dear old Jets have returned to the spotlight with a seemingly fictional case of ineptitude. Poor Geno Smith got sucker punched and shattered his jaw, the shoddiest metaphor possible for rooting for this team. We'll now watch Ryan Fitzpatrick, the career backup -- with a Harvard degree, mind you -- try to salvage what looks a lot like a 5-11 season. Yet, I will watch every game. I'll convince myself that Chan Gailey can coax that Fitzmagic back, that the defense will be elite, and that this is finally the year the Evil Cheating Empire takes a step back.
And that ginned up belief will make the inevitable Bearded Buttfumble Remix all the more painful. I know.