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The New York Jets: Weeks 11 and 12

30/11/2010

The New York Jets were victorious in weeks 11 and 12 of the American football season. This was a pleasing outcome. The week 11 victory against the Houston Texans went from mundane to unexpected in the course of the fourth quarter. A comfortable lead was squandered, and The Jets found themselves down by a single point with less than a minute to go. The Little Roman, Mark Sanchez, engineered a quick touchdown drive highlighted by a long pass to Braylon Edwards that was like a study in the mathematics of the parabola. The football was tossed in such a way as to draw a perfect arc through the sky. Euclid sat up in his grave just to watch it, just to see the sullied realm of physical reality taking on the beauty of geometry in absolute space. The perfect pass. It happened.

The second victory came against the Cincinnati Bengals, a troubled team of underperformers and malcontents who are meant to be beaten on a weekly basis. The morality of football demands it. The sense of justice that every fan of the NFL hides secretly in her breast is fed and nurtured by the continuing failure of the Cincinnati Bengals. Their wide receiving duo is composed of Chad Ocho Cinco and Terrell Owens. Chad has been quoted as saying, “I am the best receiver in the NFL.” Terrell Owens once said, referring to himself, “I’m going to work with T.O. and only T.O.” How do we square these sentiments with the well-known moral teachings of the NFL, with the canon as it has been passed down? Do not the teachings of Vince Lombardi proclaim, “Football is like life – it requires perseverance, self-denial, hard work, sacrifice, dedication and respect for authority.” Where is the self-denial? Where is the respect for authority amongst these rogues of the gridiron, these revilers of tradition, these Cincinnati Bengals?

No, they must be punished. And so it happens week after week. The Bengals put on a show for a couple of quarters and then succumb to the ethical weakness, the rotten moral fiber that will forever separate them from that most beautiful of trophies, the one named after the most succinct moral epigrammist of the 20th century, the blessed Vincent Lombardi. “Individual commitment to a group effort,” the stern thinker once opined, “that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”

Of course, the moral teachings of Vince Lombardi refer primarily to the City of Man, the fallen realm in which we strive, day after day, to liken ourselves to the angles. But from the perspective of the City of God, we are simply fallen, wretched sinners. Between us and the angels stretches an infinite chasm, a vast abyss in which lurk the demons of our besmirchéd nature. It is to that wretchedness that we now turn.

Why cannot the New York Jets score any points in the first half of a football game? You suspect that there must be some hidden answer to this perplexing question but I submit to you that there is not. The weapons wielded by this offense are no less formidable than many another team. And yet, offenses around the league score away during the initial half of play while the Jets cough and sputter, tilling a field so fallow as to be barren. The 37 year-old Offensive Coordinator Brian Schottenheimer is considered, by those in a position to know, one of the best young minds in the game. He comes from a noble lineage. His father, Marty Schottenheimer, is an old warhorse of American football. Marty played linebacker for the Bills, Colts and Steelers during the 1960s and 70s, when America still made good cars. He was a head coach in the NFL for more than twenty years after that.

Is there, though, some perversion in the Schottenheimer line, some overdeveloped feeling for man’s inherent evil that, in turn, feeds a moral relativism inconsistent with the stark Manichean rigor of Lombardi’s game? Listen to this. Marty once observed, ““You’ve only got 10 fingers to stick in the dike. Is there a breaking point that pushes you over the edge? . . . Where’s the limit?” I’m not even sure what he’s talking about, but it sounds like a man who knows that even the best laid plans of mice and men go oft awry. Listen to Marty’s son pick up the thread. Just the other week, Brian was quoted as saying, “I call a lot of plays, quite honestly, that really are bad, but the players make it work. I call a lot of plays that are really good, but maybe we get the perfect defense and something bad happens.” This is, in fact, moral relativism plain and simple. The good leads to the bad, the bad leads to the good. Chaos.

And there we see it on the field of play. A perfectly designed short passing play in the first half against the Bengals falls apart completely when Sanchez stumbles, inexplicably, coming out of the snap. What the hell happened? Well, the infinite complexity of the world happened. The moral indeterminacy of man happened. Something you will never, ever, ever control happened. Where does that leave us? I don’t know. But if the Jets do not score at least one touchdown against the terrifying New England Patriots by halftime next Monday night, I will know even less. I will know next to nothing about anything.

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Morgan Meis observes the Jets for The Owls. Read his commentary on the whole season here >>

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