"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

A Tumbleweed on a Bandwagon

I’m very much looking forward to the Jets game this weekend. New Yorkers under 40 have never seen this team achieve any greater success. But despite growing up in Northern New Jersey, I’m not a Jets fan (though I prefer them to the Giants if pressed). In fact, thinking back to my high school class of 1994, I can easily recall fans of the Cowboys, Redskins, Niners, Bears, and Dolphins, but no Jets fans. And I can’t seem to find any real enthusiasm for Sunday’s game in my contact list either. There are no group emails flying around, no shared experience of a weeklong buzz like there was in October. The only collective sense of excitement is centered around a handful of guys at my office who are all over 55.

Maybe it was just dumb luck that my high school friends had no particular allegiance to the local teams, but I wonder if the New York area fans that came to sports in the early ’80s formed their attachments based on a very unique set of circumstances: the advent of free agency and the relative vacuum of local championships. My teams as a young child of 5 or so were the Yankees, the Steelers, the Sixers, and the Islanders (surprisingly, this quartet remains intact 30 years later). But much more accurately, my loyalty was to Reggie, Mean Joe, Dr. J and Mike Bossy. I wasn’t old enough to be ashamed of picking the most successful teams over the local ones and my fandom centered on a dominant personality of performer. And, other than Bossy, these were the guys featured in national ad campaigns.

Though I wasn’t drinking Coke yet, I’m pretty sure the classic Mean Joe jersey commercial was a foundational plank in my relationship with the Steelers. Dr. J’s awesome Spalding cartoons were on the back of every Marvel comic my brother brought home and the Reggie bar was the greatest frigging piece of candy ever made (at least to that 5 year old). And when push came to shove and Reggie left the Yankees, so did I.

Is that a part of why I can’t find many Jets fans under 40? Or is it all about the trophy case? What are your teams? And how did you pick them? And will you be watching the Jets on Sunday?

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1 Alex Belth   ~  Jan 23, 2010 2:55 pm

I'm a few years older but I too remember kids picking the Steelers or Cowboys when I was in grade school--this was just before the 49ners started getting good. I chose Dallas cause I liked the stars on their helmets but my local team was always the Jets. And I shed many tears when they lost in the championship game to the Dolphins in 81, never mind Gaustinau's mind-boggling roughing the passer penalty on 4th and 15 vs Bernie Kosar and the Browns six years later in the playoffs.

I had a few friends that were die-hard Jets fans and still are--from Richard Todd through Al Toon and beyond. That said, I always knew more Giants fans.

2 ms october   ~  Jan 23, 2010 7:01 pm

cool post jon.

before i moved to ny i never knew there were so many cowboys or steelers fans here. my friend who is probably right at 40 years old and grew up in bk told me they didn't show giants or jets games on tv when he was growing up. i have never validated this and am a bit skeptical of it, but i have accepted it as the reason for a lot of cowboys/steelers fans of a certain age in ny.

growing up in alabama i kind of got to chose my own team. my dad is from detroit and is nominally a fan of their teams but not so much that he passed fandom on to me. my mom is from india so there wasn't anything to pass on.
anyway - how i got my teams:
yankees - watching a replay when i was probably 5 or so of reggie's 3hr ws performance - i was mesmerized by the hits and probably reggie for that matter
cowboys - my aunt moved to dallas from london and wanted to be "americanized" so she got into the cowboys and sent my brother and me tony dorsett jereseys
knicks- started with bernard king but really escalated when they got ewing because i was really into big east basketball

3 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Jan 23, 2010 7:13 pm

That Spalding cartoon is awesome!

Do the Jets have a chance tomorrow? Not an NFL guy but man, I know a LOT of Jets fans back home who would weep and dance in the streets if they made the Soup.

4 Alex Belth   ~  Jan 23, 2010 7:40 pm

From what little I know, the Jets DO have a chance tomorrow. They need to play flawlessly to do it but it can be done. They beat the Colts late in the year but the Colts regulars only played half of the game. Still, the Jets have a wonderful defensive team and they've shut down some outstanding offensive teams. The Jets run the ball very well and their qb is decent even though he's a rookie. He threw a ton of picks this year but seems to have calmed down some. In their first two games he hasn't been a liability.

To me it seems that the if the Jets can win the turnover battle they really have a shot. I suspect Sanchez will throw two or three interceptions and that will help sink the Jets, but the fun will be watching how the Jets defense goes at Peyton. If they force him into two or three picks himself, shit is on. The beauty part is that Peyton is not only the best player in the game--he won his NFL record 4th MVP this year--he's one of the two or three best QBs of all time and I've heard some argue that he is in fact the best.

He's had his share of stinker playoff games though...

Should be fun.

5 Just Fair   ~  Jan 23, 2010 8:18 pm

[0] My neighbor as a kid moved from Pittsburgh. He had his bedroom decked out in Steelers garb. Including an autographed football by a bunch of the Steel Curtain dudes. Somehow as a 6 year old I thought that was the best thing I'd ever seen. I've been hooked since. Going to college in Pittsburgh was a treat.
[4] I'll check out the other Dexter books soon. Thanks for the input.

6 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Jan 23, 2010 8:25 pm

Is Peyton better than Joe Cool Montana? Brady? My Pop always says Joe Montana was the best of all time..but then again he had Jerry Rice to throw to!

7 Alex Belth   ~  Jan 23, 2010 8:58 pm

Montana was the consumate winner as QB. Was on a great team, great offensive system, had good running backs, especially Roger Craig, and great receivers, including Rice who was the best ever.

But yeah, I'd say Peyton is better. Better than Brady too.

8 ms october   ~  Jan 23, 2010 9:11 pm

peyton is very good - one of the all time best - and this is not meant to diminish him - but he has largely played in an era in which the rules really benefited offense and in particular qbs and receivers.
same is true of pgs like nash and chris paul - both great, great players but ones that have benefited from lax hand check rules.

9 Jon DeRosa   ~  Jan 23, 2010 9:12 pm

Montana was the guy I wanted watch lead a drive down the field and Marino was the guy I wanted watch gun a pass. Manning definitely has both of that.

I think the Jets have a chance because I've seen the Colts play a lot of close games this year - they seemed to let the other guys hang around until the end.

Would Manning vs Favre be the greatest Super Bowl QB matchup ever? Bradshaw vs Staubach, Elway vs Favre, can't think of much else...

10 Just Fair   ~  Jan 23, 2010 9:19 pm

I saw this the other day and thought, Holy Shit. Jamarcus Russell is nationally known as maybe the biggest bust of a #1 pick ever and Sanchez is one win away from the SB.

11 Shaun P.   ~  Jan 23, 2010 10:05 pm

[9] Montana vs Elway is probably the closest, not that Elway had a game anyone wants to remember.

Sticking just to football - as a kid, I was a Giants fan because everyone in my family was. But with my last name - Montana - well, it was silly not to be a 49ers fan too; though of course the Giants always took precedence. Until Joe Cool retired, I was frequently asked, "Is Joe your uncle?", sometimes jokingly sometimes not. (Now, thanks to Miley Cyrus and the Disney Channel, I get asked instead, "Is Hannah is your daughter/niece?" Sigh.)

As amazing as Peyton is - let's not forget he's the only QB in the current NFL who calls his own plays - I don't think my heart will ever allow me to say he's better than Montana. Nobody could pull a win out of thin air like Joe Cool.

12 williamnyy23   ~  Jan 23, 2010 10:17 pm

Football comparisons are a lot more subjective than baseball ones, but I do think that Peyton Manning is the greatest QB of all time. He has the stats, the 4 MVPs, the Super Bowl championship, all the regular season wins, etc. What really sets him apart to me, however, is the fact that he runs the Colts offense. As [11] mentions, Indianapolis doesn't really need an offensive coordinator...Manning performs that role.

Another factor to consider in favor of Manning is that while the current rules do favor the passing game, the economic structure tries to mandate mediocrity. The only thing that seems able to overcome the NFL's engineered blandess is an all-time great QB (see Manning and Brady). Montana has his the rings, but he also had Hall of Famers galore on the field with him, not to mention one of the best coaches in NFL history.

13 Just Fair   ~  Jan 23, 2010 10:20 pm
14 Bama Yankee   ~  Jan 23, 2010 10:29 pm

Man, I loved that Spalding ad when I was a kid... Anytime I'd ever sink a long shot I would imagine some kid nearby saying "A 30-footer!!"

I'm kinda like Ms. October, since i grew up in Alabama I just picked teams that I got to see on TV a lot: Yankees, Cowboys, Sixers (I was a big Dr. J fan). I guess I should have pulled for the Jets more than I did, since they had several former Bama players: Namath, Todd, Marty Lyons. I guess I was too young to remember Namath and they weren't very good with Todd at QB (seems like they did have that one good year). Maybe I'll pull for them tomorrow. How does that chant go? J -E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets...Is that it?

15 Chyll Will   ~  Jan 23, 2010 11:53 pm


16 Jon DeRosa   ~  Jan 24, 2010 6:55 am

Oh yeah, XIX featured Marino AND Montana. But the game fizzled famously , maybe that's why it didn't jump out..

17 RIYank   ~  Jan 24, 2010 8:01 am

Montana is the best of all time.

Yes, Manning has great regular season numbers, but it's the post-season that built and cemented Montana's legend. Nobody else is close to him. In his four Superbowls, he had a combined QB rating of 127.8. He threw 11 touchdowns and no interceptions. The 1981 comeback against the Cowboys, or the 1989 Superbowl, when he began the game-winning comeback drive from his own 8, by pointing out John Candy in the crowd to one of his linemen... those are iconic, historic, almost mythical moments.

Manning and Dan Marino, both better passers, a lot better. Brady looked like he might be in Montana's class, and with a few more great post-seasons, he might be. But Montana is the greatest quarterback of all time.

18 Horace Clarke Era   ~  Jan 24, 2010 12:21 pm

I'm with my pal william here ... Manning beats Motana because playoff stats can be so strange. They are not 'clutchitude' (as we baseball dudes know). Fran Tarkenton (another fav) is not a weaker QB because his Vikes collided with better teams in the Super Bowl (or because Drew F-ing Pearson did a push off and caught a ball with his elbow. Jeez!)

I adored Montana, loved his exploits. But if that famous pass is dropped is he a better or worse player? Manning is savvy beyond belief (and going up against a QB where a teammate is assigned EVERY huddle to remind him of down, yardage, time on clock!), and his release timing dazzles me every game. Can he err - you betcha, and two bad ICs last week show that - but I think he's flat-out top of the sport. To say 'great receivers' is to forget that every great quarterback had (and made) great receivers, from Unitas and Ray Berry, Y.A. Tittle and Del Shofner (dating myself, again!) and before them.

On baseball, quick topic shift, it is a harsh game: the Yankee weekend ultimatum to Damon feels painful to me. Yes, they judged the market right, refused to bid against themselves past 14 for 2 years, and moved on when he wouldn't do it. But Damon off a vg season (yes, stadium influenced) and with 2-3 years of possibly productive batting left may be pushed into retirement ... Kepner's analogy is Lofton's last year. If they are offering 5 plus incentives, it isn't far off the 7 a year they started with, maybe he can live with it, given no other landing spots. But it'll be hard to look at Jeter's 20 million...

19 Hugh Mulcahy   ~  Jan 24, 2010 12:42 pm

[5] You can go into any town in this country on Sunday in the Fall and find a bar that is packed with Steeler fans watching the game. I always attribute this spread of hte black and gold to the diaspora of Pittsburghers but, now I also know it is a contagious disease to which the young are especially vulnerable.

Speaking of sports infections, I grew up a 3d generation notre dame subway alumnus so Montana is a sentimental favorite. I think lots of quarterbacks had and have better skills but, he would be the guy you want in a big game. The 1979 Cotton Bowl is the one I remember, even though I was young. Came off the bench halfway through the 4th quarter down 34-12 and led ND to 23 unanswered points to win it with a TD pass as the clock hit :00.

20 Horace Clarke Era   ~  Jan 24, 2010 1:02 pm

[19] Doug Flutie. Big games. Including in Canada.

21 RIYank   ~  Jan 24, 2010 1:16 pm

[18] Totally disagree about the clutch factor. If you honestly think Montana didn't have a +++ clutch factor, that can only be because you weren't watching those games. No interceptions with eleven Superbowl touchdowns! Drive after game-winning drive in critical games. If we were talking about one play, then sure, you can chalk that up to a great catch ("The Catch"), but Montana had a passer rating of 127.8 in his four Superbowls, against the best competition in football.

And yeah [19], I thought about mentioning the Cotton Bowl but decided I'd stick with his pro career.

Down by five points with 2:14 left, Niners on their own 18 yard line, San Francisco fans were all thinking, "Got 'em right where we want 'em." The opposing coach was thinking, "Oh fuck."

22 Hugh Mulcahy   ~  Jan 24, 2010 1:17 pm

[20] I'll give you Flutie and I'll take Montana. That pass to Gerry Phelan against Miami may be one of the greatest plays ever made in college football. Like the band on teh field in the big game. But, apropos of your comment at [18], it was a flukey play. Run it another 50 times and they may hook up once.

Speaking of [18], who the hell is Del Shofner? If you poll old farts in Pittsburgh about hte greatest quarterback from western PA, they'll usually tell you Unitas was the best. Depending on whom you talk to, Montana might be anywhere in the top 5 with Marino, Kelly and Namath.

23 Hugh Mulcahy   ~  Jan 24, 2010 1:19 pm

[21} "Down by five points with 2:14 left, Niners on their own 18 yard line, San Francisco fans were all thinking, “Got ‘em right where we want ‘em.” The opposing coach was thinking, “Oh fuck.”"

Agreed. Of course, Manning had the same effect on that guy in New England this year. Went for it on 4th down in his own territory out of fear of giving Manning the ball with 2 minutes left.

24 Horace Clarke Era   ~  Jan 24, 2010 1:59 pm

Remember - I started by saying I LOVED Montana. He was my favorite player in that era (Tarkenton before that, I'm a quarterback guy). Hmm, Super Bowl clutch. Fine, makes Kurt Warner's stat pack pretty dazzling.

RI, I thought we disproved clutch to a large degree here in the baseball world. You want to say no in baseball, yes in football? Is Eli clutch now because someone caught a ball on his helmet? Warner isn't because Steelers drive back? Elway was a choke until ... he got a running back and a D and suddenly he wasn't?

Bottom line. I love Montana. He was a better QB than Flutie (though hard not to have a soft spot for Little Doug) by a mile. I still think Peyton's better. Agree that for an earlier age Unitas was The Man. The sport has changed so much...

Hugh, in the age of google and wikipedia you dare to not know Tittle to Shofner on the 60s Giants? For shame. Not Jerry Rice, nope, but ... "Shofner was a five-time consensus All-Pro and Pro Bowler in 1958, 1959, and from 1961 to 1963. He led the NFL in receiving yards in 1958 with a total of 1,097 and finished second in that category in both 1959 and 1961 with totals of 936 and 1,125." I was a wee kid then, and he was my first fav receiver.

Tittle was a lot of fun, and also the subject of what may be the most powerful, moving NFL photo ever taken of a single player. Google that one, too.

25 RIYank   ~  Jan 24, 2010 3:29 pm

Hoss, absolutely, yes. One of the many ways football is different from baseball! (Anyway, QB is much more like P than like H, so Clutch QB is like Big Game Pitcher or Ice Closer, not like Clutch Hitter. If you follow me.)

I'll pop over to the new "game thread" now. Good game so far!

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver