The New York Jets: Week One17/09/2010
By Morgan Meis
The season begins in frustration and despair. A 10 to 9 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. What else? What else do we expect? That’s nothing against the Jets in particular. It is just the structure of sport. At its root, sport is nothing but the formal arrangement of arbitrary rules for the creation of surprise and disappointment. What about the moments of triumph, you ask. What about them? Fuck you.
Sometimes I see Rex Ryan as a medieval man. I see the Assisi in him. That’s because of the exuberance. He runs around the sidelines like a foul-mouthed saint, praising the game and all who play it. Grant me, he cries into his headset between plays, that I might not so much seek to be loved as to love. His team will always be the best team possible. His players will always be the greatest talents of all time. He believes, truly believes. Then he goes home and late at night, I am sure, the bottom drops out. He stares out the window into the darkness and knows that everything is desolation, that every play is a hopeless stab in the dark, that everything can always go wrong. He gets down on his knees and cries out a forsaken lament. He strikes his own corpulent flesh with his hands and grinds sand into his palms. He grovels on the floor and weeps. Then he calls a press conference the next morning. We will go to the Super Bowl, he proclaims. The Jets are the team to beat.
There is an actual saint playing for the Jets, which makes all of this so much more troubling and wipes the smile off of my face. His name is Darrelle Revis and he has the sweetest eyes. It is his fate to be the greatest cornerback, the greatest. He is so good that he erases himself. Did you see him during that first game, on Monday Night Football even as the fog lifted? No, you didn’t see him. That’s because his defensive genius negates whatever player he defends. The opposing team simply ignores that side of the field. And so he disappears, pulling all the stars around him down, down, into the quiet place where the opposing passing game goes to die. To Revis Island, where nothing happens. If Rex Ryan is Assisi, then Revis is Saint Bernard of Clairvaux. Nasci miserum, vivere poena, angustia mori. As a defender, though, it is only very rarely that Revis can score any points. That fluke bounce off Steve Smith of The Panthers foot last year that Revis ran back for a score. That was in the realm of the miraculous. Points do not fall down like manna from the heavens, most of the time.
It is a serious question, whether a man who believes in defense can ever build a competent offense. Rex Ryan sees his defense as a handful of mad dogs to be unleashed upon the poor souls arrayed there, across the line of scrimmage, the opposing offense. This is the Ryan way, of course. His father Buddy sculpted the demon dogs that became the Chicago Bears defense of the 1980s. The dreaded 46. The 46 defense proposed a new idea, chaos. Unleash chaos upon the field and all offenses will collapse. Disdain the offense, expose the offense. Wreak havoc and spread fear. But doesn’t that fear and disdain creep over into everything? Doesn’t it affect your own offense? Doesn’t it rip the football team asunder, one side as devouring beasts, the other side merely victims to be offered up in sacrifice?
I felt fear emanating from the person of Mark Sanchez, the young Jets quarterback, during that final drive against Baltimore. This is a bad sign. A quarterback must believe in the drive, must envision the glorious drive that is to come. It is the one and only thing you must believe in as a quarterback. Your mind must be obsessed with The Drive. Sanchez looked confounded, ashamed even, ashamed that the offense was being asked to perform beyond its capabilities. Mark Sanchez is, naturally, a confident, perhaps sometimes even overconfident young man. Is the legacy of the dreaded 46 creeping into his soul?
This uncanny, bifurcated structure of extreme enthusiasm and crushing despair that comes from the heart of Rex Ryan has infected the entire team. Where will it lead us, Oh Lord? Where will it take this group of men, these New York Jets? No one knows, no one can foretell, except that it brings New England to us next week. It brings the dark and foreboding figure of Bill Belichick, whose soul was long ago replaced with a sturdier and more impenetrable thing. I shudder for Sunday, even as my hopes still flutter in the early autumn breeze. Can the flawed humanity of the New York Jets stand a chance against the cold inhuman efficiency of the New England Patriots? Can it ever?