The New York Jets: Week Three30/09/2010
I’ve been in Miami on nights like that. I’ve felt the steamy dampness in my soul. I always think of Miami as a prehistoric place. That’s because of the way the swampy atmosphere gets in to your bones. It pulls you back into the primordial soup, the biological stew from which emerged all manner of strange creature and oversized plant. Was that a giant dragonfly, bigger than a house, that flew over the Miami Dolphins’ stadium just before kickoff?
For all the ground and pound, for all the down-in-the-trenches dirtiness of the New York Jets, they are essentially a northern team. They like to swarm in the clear, crisp air of an autumn night, like bats feasting on the insects at twilight. Rex Ryan loves nothing more than the quick brutality of a single blitzer, unimpeded on the way to the quarterback, ending a play before it ever started. In short, the New York Jets are not a swamp team. The difficulty in going to Miami is thus a difficulty of geologic eras. It is a Cenozoic Era team (The Jets) traveling back in space and time in order to do battle with a Mesozoic Era team (The Dolphins). Or it is air (Jets) versus water (Dolphins)? Or it is man versus dinosaur? Sometimes, when the Miami Dolphins go in to their wildcat offense and all hell breaks loose as a pocket of running-backs-cum-quarterbacks dash madly into the scrum I am sure that I’m watching the dinosaurs play.
Somehow, the New York Jets rose above the ferns and the algae-clogged water and the reptilian scales. Perhaps it was because they had one of the dinosaurs on their own team, Jason Taylor, a man who, after twelve long seasons in Miami’s Mesozoic lost world, had become a Jet in the off-season. Who knows what kind of strange physiological changes had to occur for this transformation to become reality? Probably, he went through a summer’s agony, writhing and squirming in a football-shaped egg with all the other new Jets while the necessary changes were wrought upon them. Did he need to shed his Mesozoic coaching, or, to shift the analogy, was it more a matter of exchanging the outlaw seas of Dolphin intelligence for the impossible miracles of levitation made by Jets in their lumbering flights?
Like any convert to a new system, Taylor needed to remake himself in the image of a God, in this case probably not an intermediary vicar, not even a saint like Herman Edwards or Rex Ryan, but a higher power, The Jet of Jets, Joe Namath. “First, I prepare,” Joe Namath once said, “Then I have faith.” What tortures did Jason Taylor endure in his impossible conversion? Wherefore also Thou didst break my bones with the staff of Thy correction?
He had a great game, anyway. Taylor did massive battle with that brontosaurus at left tackle, Jake Long. And Taylor was not the lesser man, not the lesser man at all.
Asked about the emotions involved with playing against his former team, Taylor said he wasn’t sure how it would feel. But the Jets wanted me to be here with their organization, Taylor said, smiling. They wanted me.
After the second touchdown, 14 to 0 in the favor of The Jets, it seemed like the game might break wide open, that it wouldn’t be a struggle at all. Somewhere in our hearts, though, we knew better. These Miami dinosaurs would claw back through the muck and the grime. This sweaty night would not end easily. Soon enough it was 17 to 14, advantage Miami. Centuries, millennia, geologic eras had been pulled away. The Jets were being pulled back, back, into the nameless, fathomless past.
And then it happened. A simple out pattern to Braylon Edwards on the left side. An easy throw, an easy catch, a routine first down. But it was to be more. It was to be a gift. Miami corner Jason Allen slips and falls on the tackle. There is no one between Edwards and the end zone. He scampers along with alacrity. It is a gift. Why do you give these gifts, Lord, to the least worthy among us? Edwards had been arrested and charged with a DUI earlier in the week. He was held out of the game for the first quarter as punishment. He showed minimal contrition for his errors. But who can say what is in a man’s heart? Edwards shaved his notorious, vaguely imam-like beard just before the game. Perhaps he was humbling himself, perhaps it was simply too itchy. We will never know for sure. The mystery of this act of grace is beyond us. Edwards was given the gift of six points directly, plus the extra point if you choose to include that strange rugby left-over as part of the dispensation. Seven points graced to a man in his shame. He didn’t even have to earn them. Like Bernadette Soubirous, the saint of Lourdes. A simple peasant girl, perhaps a simpleton, she came face to face with the holy mother in a city dump. We will never understand it. Why her, why him? Why?
The game, a tense one to the end, went down to the penultimate play. But I never doubted, not after the gift to Edwards. The least among us had been raised up like a king. First I prepare, then I have faith.