Super Bowl XLVI: A Jets Fan’s Guide To Survival
After reaching the 2010-11 AFC Championship Game against all odds, the Jets were finally ready to make it back to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1969. But their dreams were quickly dismantled by Rashard Mendenhall and the Steelers’ D, who led Pittsburgh to a 24-3 halftime lead, one they would not relinquish.
A turbulent offseason soon followed. Only one month after the humiliating loss to the Steelers, Rex Ryan guaranteed a Super Bowl win. Soon after, the Jets released two key team leaders in Damien Woody and Kris Jenkins. Following the long NFL lockout, they let three of their wide receivers go, including team veteran Jerricho Cotchery and the versatile Brad Smith, to make way for the 34-year old prison-free Plaxico Burress.
The season was, by the numbers, average – the Jets went 8-8 – but two losses to the archrival Patriots and one humiliating home loss to the in-town rival Giants made the 2011 season one of, if not the most disappointing in Jets history.
Now, while the Jets are sitting at home in frigid New Jersey, bickering about each other through the media, they must also watch their two biggest rivals face off in the Super Bowl in Indianapolis – for the second time in five years!
It was bad enough the first time around. In Super Bowl XLII, the Pats were going for a perfect season and the Giants had made it to their first Super Bowl since the 2000 season, while the Jets were sulking after going 4-and-12. The Giants’ fantastic upset made it even worse on Gang Green fans because of the intense press coverage that the G-Men received, reinforcing the Jets' status in the Big Apple as second-class citizens.
Recently, many people from the Left Coast have said to me (a native New Yorker and proud Jets fan), “So I guess you’ll be rooting for the Giants then,” as if I’m a fan of all New York teams. My response to that is always and assuredly a loud and aggressive “NO.”
What many people outside of the Tri-State area do not realize is that the variety of teams in New York creates more diversity and tension among true fans than unity and harmony. If the Jets win and the Giants lose on a Sunday, Giants fans will definitely hear it from Jets fans in the office or at school on Monday; and vice versa. The abuse taken on both sides is enough to drive a New York football fan to despise that “other team.”
In the sad case of the Jets fan, this presents an interesting and terrifying dilemma for next Sunday’s big game. Once again the Giants are in the Super Bowl to take on the hated division-rival Patriots. Unlike the rivalry with the G-Men, the Jets-Pats rivalry is played out on the field, twice a year. And ever since the Patriots stole Bill Belichick away from the Jets’ head coaching job in 2000, it’s been rather lopsided (see: nine division titles in last eleven years).
The Jets’ relationship with the New England Patriots through the past twelve years can best be described as a class conflict. The Pats are royalty to the Jets’ urban middle class. The Pats are the haves to the Jets’ have-nots. To put it in 21st-century terms, the Jets are the 99%.
Of course, no one hates this Super Bowl matchup more than the big, bold, and blundering Jets head coach Rex Ryan, who has proclaimed on many occasions that he would love to dethrone both the Giants and Patriots of their respective claims to New York and to the AFC East, sometimes more than he claims he wants a Super Bowl.
In his first season as Jets head coach, Ryan famously declared, “I never came here to kiss Bill Belichick’s rings. I came here to win, let’s put it that way. I’m certainly not intimidated by New England or anybody else.” Despite last season’s surprising and impressive victory over the Pats in the playoffs, the Jets lost to New England twice this year by a combined score of 67-37.
Before the big Jets-Giants game last December, a game that would, inevitably, decide who went to the playoffs, Ryan declared war on the G-Men: “I want to be the best team in football, not just the best team in this city. But we'll start by being the best team in this city.” The Giants would embarrass the Jets that week, who were technically the home team, by the score of 29-14, pretty much knocking the Jets out of playoffs.
Who the hell am I supposed to root for?
Well, Jets fans, you have four options.
The first – bury your head in the sand and don’t watch the Super Bowl. If you take the literal approach, your health may be in danger. But if you prefer to simply watch reruns of Bob’s Burgers on FOX or High School Musical 2 on Disney Channel, go ahead. But beware, you may become a social outcast and many of your friends will judge you.
The second option is to root for no one and gamble your money away on Super Bowl boxes while drinking yourself into oblivion, loudly proclaiming that you’d rather have the stadium implode than have either team win. The consequences of this option will likely resemble those of the first with the addition of an empty wallet and a horrible hangover.
Of course, the third and fourth options are to root for the Giants or for the Patriots. Just like the last time these two met on the big stage, there is no right team to root for. Both clubs represent all that you are not. Since your only Super Bowl appearance and win in 1969, the Giants and Patriots have combined for twelve Super Bowl appearances and six victories. Both teams are hated, and deservedly so, for the pain they have brought you over 40 years of suffering.
But only one can win. And you should hope it’s the Patriots.
However, if the Giants win this Super Bowl, Jets fans may need to go into hibernation until the dawn of training camp, so to eliminate the certainty of Giants taunting that would perpetuate the arrogance equal to that of the Yankees of the early fifties. Under those circumstances, Giants fans would reinforce their two Super Bowl victories in five years – both over the dominant and unbeatable Patriots – their dominance of the Jets in their most recent meeting which propelled them to a Super Bowl title and the fact that Rex Ryan, despite his bombastic claims, has still not won a Super Bowl. The Giants will crown themselves Kings of New York, and the Jets will again become second-class citizens for at least five more years.
But don’t worry, Jets fans – think about this. It can’t really get worse any this than it’s about to get this week.