For eleven years I have been a New York Jets fan. But “fan” is a loose term, isn’t it? Like so many words, its definitions span a spectrum. I like spectrums. Speaking of fandom, I am a big fan of spectrums.
But I have never made it a secret that I am a “fan” of the Jets in as fervently dedicated a manner as one can be without caring even remotely about the mechanics of the game or the players involved. Those kinds of facts are, with a few exceptions, painfully boring to me. Worse, as comprehensible as derivatives markets. Which I also wish I understood.
I like being devoted to one team. I like the feeling of belonging to one unified micro-population. I feel proud to wear the green and white and I enjoy tailgating so much, I pressured Bryan into buying season tickets when the Jets finally got a brand-new stadium and the Professional Seat Licenses were exorbitant in price. Over my dead body was he going to deny Jonah of his birthright, after three generations of ticket holders. And yet, through it all, I’ve had no comprehension of the game and the team. Sure, I retain bits here and there. I know the QB Mark Sanchez is young, in his second season, very attractive and apparently an actually good person. I know Coach Rex Ryan is the most popular in the League, a big personality (even I enjoyed HBO’s Hard Knocks this season), inspires his team and I think it’s cute that he and his wife tape foot fetish videos. I am all for activities that keep couples together and happy.
And even my family, hailing as they do from Philadelphia and Northern Virginia, love the Jets, root for the Jets, believe in the Jets (at least after the Redskins season ends prematurely). Bryan’s passion is that magnetic.
And even though the New York Jets are one of the single most important things of value coursing through my beloved’s blood, I don’t think I have ever stopped to really process it. To me, boys like sports. In a generalization-way of speaking. My brothers always have, my guy friends always have, my crushes always had. It just seemed to me to be a prerequisite. Nothing to brag about if you had it, but I would expect shame if it didn’t exist. I never needed tall or gentlemanly or rich. But the guy had to like sports. It blew my mind a little bit when I met Bryan and realized that his mother was as obsessed. It was a revelation to me that women could live, eat, sleep and breathe it the same.
All these years later, after all my years tailgating, watching them play on tv, wearing my shirts and jerseys and baseball caps, making sure my son knew the chant and waxing philosophical with Bryan about whether Fireman Ed is inherently a good person or bad – I find myself finally realizing that stripped to its purest form, the love my husband has for his team and the love a million other guys (and girls) have for their teams, is a thing of beauty. Something I can only admire from the periphery. The devotion to this one team – no matter the coaches that come and go like revolving doors, the players that are only driven by money and that devote themselves to criminal or unethical activity in their down time, the greed, the business decisions that often go counter to fairness to fans, the political maneuverings and the sheer danger and brutality of the physical game – the devotion itself is pure, is everlasting and is, despite the annual anxiety and possible disappointment, sprung from eternal hope.
I have no idea what it’s like to feel that way about anything besides personal relationships. To feel like every tackle and pass and time out is some extension of the best part of my childhood and the complexities of my relationship with my father. To feel a kinship with strangers, an admiration and trust for someone because they happen to sit near me in a stadium or a sports bar. To know that I will never, ever, run out of things to talk about with my best friends… with my brothers-in-laws, with tangential acquaintances who, for lack of the sport itself, I would have nothing at all to say to. To pass the time. To get excited. To get revved. And to hit the highest highs and lowest lows. To lose myself in the endless content the internet provides. To bond so instantaneously. To already know what I am going to be doing for the entire fall. To lose sleep, to stop eating, to lose my voice, to almost cry, to almost explode. To feel euphoric about something that isn’t even mine.
I care deeply because he does. Jets, next year please make all my baby’s dreams come true.