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Hurts So Good

The world titles won by the Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies this decade really put the hurt on New York fans. Aside from seeing the biggest rivals of the New York Yankees and New York Mets claim championships, New York Jets fans won the dubious honor of becoming sports’ most masochistic fan base. We don’t just expect the pain of defeat, we’ve learned to love it. During games, we look for every way the game can be lost. We ponder the conceivable outcomes of the defeat; who can be vilified, who can we bring in to do a better job, how will the good teams beat us, how pathetic are the Same-Old-Jets? You’ll be hard to find a Jets fan now who hasn’t turned his back on 2008 entering the final week and expects Chad Pennington to get his revenge as he leads his Miami Dolphins into Jersey to take on the Jets, with the AFC East title in the balance.
It seems like years ago, but it was only September 7th when Brett Favre made his Jets debut against Chad and the Dolphins in Miami, a 20-14 Jets victory that included a circus-touchdown-catch by Chansi Stuckey and a near Dolphins comeback in the closing minutes. Since 1998, the Jets are 17-4 against the Dolphins, their best stretch against the Dolphins since the 1960’s back in the AFL, when the Fins were just an expansion team. And one of those 17 wins was the Monday Night Miracle comeback. The Jets seem to find ways to beat the Dolphins.
You would think that would give the Jets fans hope entering Sunday. But the thought of a Jets victory sends a shiver down the spine of Gang Green faithful, because that would likely send the New England Patriots, sans Tom Brady, to the playoffs as AFC East champs if the Pats take care of the Buffalo Bills. Yes, the Bills gave the Jets life two weeks ago and showed some fight themselves with Trent Edwards back behind center in the Bills win at Denver last Sunday, but the Pats are not the Broncos. They are better. It will be hard to imagine the Pats losing to the Bills with the playoffs at stake, but stranger things have happened on the gridiron.
Remember 2002? The 9-6 Dolphins were playing the 8-7 Patriots at 1 pm while the Pennington led, 8-7 Jets hosted Favre’s Packers at 4 pm. Needing a Pats win to stay alive for the division, the Patriots won a thriller, 27-24 in overtime, coming back from a 24-13 hole in the final five minutes. The Jets then throttled the Packers 42-17 in front of a delirious Meadowlands crowd. The cast of characters is strikingly similar in 2008, but the roles have changed. Victories by the Bills and Jets will give Favre’s crew a home playoff game, something not seen since 2002. Maybe if the Bills, fighting for some pride and to save Dick Jaroun’s job, can pull off the upset, the Jets fans will regain some of their optimism, feeding into the Jets players to rally for a victory. Somewhere on those sidelines is the Jets team that went on a five game winning streak, knocking off the Pats and Tennessee Titans, dominated the run on both sides of the ball, and features a league-high seven Pro Bowlers. It could be like 2002 all over again.
But that’s not what Jets fans expect, and some may even admit it’s not what they want. Those openly masochistic Jets fans want the Same-Old-Jets to crumble against the Dolphins, see Chad get his sweet revenge, keep Bill Belichick out of the postseason, and to see Eric Mangini get fired, along with most of his coaching staff. The Meadowlands crowds can get really ugly when the Jets fall apart, and many will head to the stadium looking for an excuse to let off some steam to end a disappointing 2008.
Can the Jets fans live without the disappointment? Can the Jets earn the sympathy of the football gods and win the division? Would they be the Same-Old-Jetss if they beat the Dolphins and send the Pats to the playoffs? What do Jets fans want for their belated Christmas gift? Most people don’t ask for Santa to put coal in their stocking. But those people aren’t Jets fans. Win or lose, the Jets fans could find something to be angry about on Sunday, even if it’s the thought of Mangini coaching another year after securing the division title. Who am I rooting for? I'll know Sunday a shortly after 4 pm.

Jason Levy
NY Jets Blog Writer

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