Archive for the ‘Project: JETS’ Category

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The New York Jets: Playoffs

21/01/2011

I’ll confess that my own faith was running low. Sure, the victory in Indianapolis was tremendous. Generally, Peyton Manning scowls and points and blames and tirades and the ball moves forward. This is a force rather difficult to stop. It is even harder to stop when the force gets hungry and it always gets hungry when the playoffs start. No one questioned the strength, the sheer power of the Jets defense last season. And still, the scowling Peyton tore through it with the quick attack of non-stop relentless up-to-the-line-and-snap-it passing. The man stood behind the line of scrimmage receiving that blasted shotgun snap and ejecting it right out again before anything could be done. It was a machine of ball absorption and immediate regurgitation. That was how the Jets season ended last year. We had every reason to suspect it would happen again.

So, yes, the victory over Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts in Indianapolis was tremendous. A person should have been thankful. A person should have accepted that blessing and been glad. I was glad. But then again, I wasn’t. That’s because I couldn’t stay in the moment. I knew that the victory over the Scowling One was but the prelude to a greater trial. I knew that the coldness awaited. I knew that a second trip to Foxboro stadium, to the bitter land was in the offing. I knew that Tom Brady was waiting and, even more depressingly, I knew that Bill Belichick was waiting.

Belichick is a waiter. He sits and waits in the cold and the silence. There is a Buddhist in him, maybe, a capacity for meditation that would slow the universe down to a crawl in order to watch every step that an insect makes as it crosses an empty field. Belichik would wait in silence for days, letting the insect scurry over each impediment on its way across the field. He would watch, and he would wait. Finally, when the insect reached him, he would reach out his foot in one fluid, soft movement, and crush that insect. Dead.

I feared that that is what Belichick was doing with Rex Ryan. The fat man could wheeze and gesticulate and pontificate and bounce around the press room all week. Belichick just waited in silence. Ryan could call Belichick out, as he did, proclaiming that the game was a tête-à-tête between two men, a battle of who is the better coach, as he did. Ryan, blustering and overexcited was, as usual, like a five-year-old child, eager, dumb and lovable. But Belichick never moved from his mountain of solitude. He was waiting to stomp.

The waiters and the watchers, the quiet men of doom like Bill Belichick do, though, have one weakness. They forget, in their meditations, that the world is messy and absurd and that to participate in that world one must, on occasion, enter into the silliness and become sullied just like everyone else. Sometimes, a man like Belichick forgets to love the world. Up there with the wind and the cold, in the stricken lands where the Puritan finds comfort in affliction, Belichick sits in silent judgment upon mortal things. He thinks to himself, “As the wicked are hurt by the best things, so the godly are bettered by the worst.” He wants his Patriots to mortify themselves in penance and self-abnegation. He wants to suffer the wounds of the world in the name of a greater glory.

And so, it did come to pass that one of his players, the dangerous possession receiver Wes Welker, sinned against the catechism of Belichick. Welker broke the silence. He entered into the silly games of the world. He did so in a remarkably brilliant way, made all the more brilliant by his being a player in a game not normally known for producing paragons of subtlety and wit. During an interview, Welker simply peppered his answers with an almost absurd amount of references to feet and toes. It is well known, of course, that Rex Ryan had recently been suspected of putting foot fetish videos of his wife on the internet. And so, the game was afoot. Welker’s little trick was noticed by the press and his interview became front page sport’s news. Belichick said nothing, but at the beginning of the game between The Jets and The Patriots, Wes Welker, their most reliable catching threat, was not on the field. He was being punished. Welker was quickly put back into the game and played throughout. But the point had been made.

It is my considered opinion that this is why the New England Patriots did, in fact, lose to the New York Jets. The Jets played well all game. The defense was stifling and the coverage in the secondary was extraordinary. Sanchez had a heroically solid performance all the way through. But the game was also defined by a more unusual lack of focus and intensity on the part of the Patriots. It was, I suspect, an inability to enter into the game as human beings with thoughts and feelings and emotions. Belichick in his dour sagacity had pushed the joy too far away, he had forgotten that all of God’s creation is to be loved, even the feet, even the stumpy little toes. There is a prayer by Saint Bonaventure, one of the great Franciscans, that entreats us all, in part to, “seek Thee, find Thee, run to Thee, come up to Thee, meditate on Thee, speak of Thee, and do all for the praise and glory of Thy name, with humility and discretion, with love and delight, with ease and affection, with perseverance to the end.” Run to Thee! Run to Thee indeed, and with ease and affection, with love and delight. This too, is the task, even for those who understand the bitter side of life, the necessity of mortal suffering on earth. The quiet man of doom, Bill Belichick, the harsh Puritan, forgot about the joy, he forgot to run to Thee, he forgot to come up to Thee in love and delight. He punished Wes Welker, the one man who had tried to remind the men of the North that there are delights too, on this earth. And so the Patriots fell, quietly, stoically, with neither great suffering nor great joy. They simply went away. And the little foot soldiers march on to Pittsburgh, silly in their glee, but still very much alive in their quest for the Super Bowl.

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Morgan Meis has been posting notes on The New York Jets throughout the Season. Read more >>

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The New York Jets: Weeks 14, 15, and 16

06/01/2011

It is almost too much to take three games at once. And yet, the narrative problem of football comes nicely to the fore when you do. A game may be a single event, but it throws its implications both forward and backward. A gutsy win after a difficult loss makes the loss look better, promises, maybe, to redeem a whole season. A terrible loss to a below average team can, even after a great victory, sully that victory and bring a sense of preordained foreboding to the course of an entire season.

The truth is ever shifting as a football season progresses. The truth is ever mercurial, protean. You want the season to mean something, to show itself as always having been about x or y. Instead, it continues to elude the grasp as a series of wins and losses warp the fabric of your understanding. What is happening, what is going to happen? We think of the job that Socrates did on Euthyphro in the famous dialogue that bears the latter’s name. Poor Euthyphro thinks he knows something about the Gods, about what it means to be holy. Then he runs into Socrates in the market place. He tells Socrates that he has a perfect understanding of piety. Oh brother, you think, now he’s going to get it. And he does get it. Socrates runs him around in circles until poor Euthyphro couldn’t tell his ass from his mouth. Then the final insult. Socrates calls Euthyphro the protean one, the shape shifting sea God whom Menelaus once wrestled in The Odyssey. Socrates accuses Euthyphro of changing his mind and making all things relative. That is when you start to suspect that Socrates really is an asshole. Who knows, maybe Euthyphro knew a thing or two about piety after all.

But I digress. The fact is that there may simply be no “true” Jets this season. There are a number of possible Jets teams that appear and disappear upon the field of play with utter unpredictability. You might have expected a chastened but firm team to emerge after the terrible loss to The Patriots, taking out their vengeance on the Jurassic foes from Miami. Instead, the Jets stumbled over themselves in error and confusion. The offensive line had been zombified. They took no joy in the normally joyful process of hiking the ball and pushing at the meaty defenders rushing toward them. They ignored the snap count. They brooked all rules. The wide receivers ran their routes with lazy indifference. The defense played hard, admittedly, but with no desire for the football. There was no joy against Miami. It was a game in which sleepwalkers were mauled by dinosaurs in a slow-motion ballet with no music.

Then came Pittsburgh and the snow. Suddenly the Jets seemed sharp again. The bracing icy wind at Three Rivers had done something inside them. Or maybe it was simply time. Time and forgetting and the capacity for the human spirit to move forward even after so much disappointment. It is said that Rex Ryan made an impassioned speech to the team before that game. It is said that Rex Ryan knows the heart of his team. Perhaps that is true. Do you know the signal that the refs use when a team has scored a safety? They swing their hands up above their head and bring them together like the ending of some Balinese dance. Well, the Jets scored a safety in the final minutes of the game in Pittsburgh. It didn’t end the game, officially, but it ended it emotionally. Jason Taylor grabbed Pittsburgh running back Mewelde Moore by the scruff and threw him to the ground. Suddenly all the Jets erupted into Balinese dance. Rex Ryan and all the coaches were doing the moves of a Balinese dance. Everyone’s hands were held high in prayer to Rangda. Couldn’t you hear the gamelan?

From Pittsburgh to Chicago the Jets moved even further into the winter embrace of the Midwest. Somehow, an offense that could barely move the ball forward half the field around Thanksgiving was in full motor. LT would scoot forward for five yards. A quick out to one of the wide receivers would net another seven. Perhaps a seam route to Dustin for a bigger gain here and there. This is offense, offense. We remember it. And then the defense collapses. Fie! Fie on’t! The defense was finally to have its wretched day. The secondary was finally to be exposed as unable to handle that extra crossing route through the middle of the field. Some say they expected it. But how could they? How could anyone know that Jay Cutler would outperform our sainted Revis? Jay Cutler was born to throw interceptions, and Darrell Revis was born to be the smiling recipient of the interceptions that Cutler was born to throw. And still none of this borning and fatedness ever came to pass. No one is born for anything. Take your piety to the law courts all you like, Euthyphro, there is no justice, no rewards to be found in heaven or on earth.

This brings us to the final subject that must be addressed. Our coach, our Assisi, our Rex Ryan has a foot fetish. Or his wife has a foot fetish and Rex merely does the necessary camera work. The two seem to have posted videos of their fetish on the internet, which is where fetish videos are, after all, supposed to go. Rex refuses to either confirm or deny the story, which the world has taken more or less as a confirmation, a position with which I am entirely comfortable. It is appropriate for a Franciscan like Ryan to be a fetishist. Assisi was given to high highs and low lows, a manic depressive saint, I suppose. But his love, when he felt it, was extraordinary and knew no bounds. I mean no base puns here, but to worship the foot, as a football coach, strikes me as a brilliant bit of literalism. It is all about the feet, after all. That Rex should find such joy, even erotic outlet, in the feet of his own wife, is an inspiration really. It is a story that people should tell their children, that should be narrated on the stained glass windows of the churches of the future. The holy, blessed feet of Mrs. Ryan. She’s not an unattractive woman. She has, in fact, beautiful feet.

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Morgan Meis has been observing the NY Jets the whole season through. Read his previous game reports here >>

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The New York Jets: Week 13

14/12/2010

What does it mean to be defeated? What does it mean to be beaten, truly beaten? It all depends on the nature of the beating, I suppose. I, for one, when I am beaten, want to be beaten utterly and completely. I want to be pounded into the dust. I want to have everything taken from me. I want to lie on the ground staring up at the vast and indifferent sky with the knowledge that my defeat has reached into the core of me. For in that absolute defeat is a release. It is to have passed through the valley of fear and to have emerged on the other side of that valley into a strange freedom. That’s the theory, at least.

The valley of fear has another name, in our world. They call it Foxboro Stadium. In this era of corporate naming rights, we are urged to call it Gillette Stadium. But I will always think of it as Foxboro Stadium as, I’m sure, will the New York Jets. Foxboro sounds like a real place. And it is. There is a town Foxborough, Massachusetts (sometimes called Foxboro), about twenty miles or so from Boston. It was settled back in 1704 and named after Charles James Fox, a Whig politician in England who had supported the American colonies. In his dislike for King George III, Fox would sometimes dress up like a soldier in George Washington’s army and prance about parliament. The point here is that Foxboro is not a place to be trifled with. If there is something hard and thorough in the New England mentality (and there is) then the legacy of that specific hardness can be found in places like Foxboro. You can imagine a man from a Nathaniel Hawthorne story in a place like Foxborough. He meets the devil on a street corner and it shakes him to his core. There is no safe haven, he realizes, from the doom of the world, from the flaws at the heart of creation.

These days, in our era, if you happen to dabble at the game of American football and you want to learn to something about the true nature of defeat, there is only one place to go. It is the aforementioned Foxboro Stadium. The New England Patriots play there. Bill Belichik coaches there. Tom Brady takes snaps from his center there. But the New England Patriots are not really the New England Patriots. They are actually the angel that Rainer Maria Rilke once warned us about in a poem. This angel is an Old Testament angel, a not-messing-around angel. This angel appears to men who wrestle, he’s a wrestling angel and a fighting angel. He is a beat-down angel and he only ever does one of two things. He either declines to fight you at all, or he beats you so utterly and completely that you forget there ever was such a thing as victory.

The New York Jets traveled up to Foxboro Stadium last Monday night to meet that angel in the form of a football club. The beating that they received was of the Old Testament variety. Mark Sanchez called it a “good old fashioned butt-kicking.” But it was more than that, I like to think. The Jets defense, so often described with adjectives like “fearsome” was unable to counter anything, anything, that the Patriots were doing. A little dump off screen to the apostate running back Danny Woodhead (who the Jets let go during the summer and who was picked up by the Patriots at the beginning of the season) would turn into a forty-yard ramble. Offensively, the Jets made a shaky Patriots secondary look like the Iron Curtain. A greater thing was happening here than simple winning and losing. It was the biblical angel in the form of New England football men delivering a lesson about the nature of the cosmos.

I hope the New York Jets are able to absorb this defeat as the total annihilation that it actually was. For only if the defeat is total can the kernel of freedom be extracted from the experience. To be made small is to be made giant in that smallness. Here is Rilke in his poem “The Man Watching”:

What we choose to fight is so tiny!
What fights us is so great!
If only we would let ourselves be dominated
as things do by some immense storm,
we would become strong too, and not need names.

The New York Jets should strip the names from their uniform and go amongst the people as beggars. No names. They should crawl back to The Meadowlands on their knees like the medieval pilgrims. They should rend their clothing and mortify their own flesh, appearing next Sunday in scraps of uniform, bleeding and in tears. They have been given the gift of utter humility. Would that they embrace it like the suffering of Job. Would that they beg for it to happen to them again and again. Only then will the New York Jets have a chance against the Miami Dolphins this Sunday, let alone thoughts about still winning the division.

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Morgan Meis has been observing the Jets’ season at The Owls site, read more >>

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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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The New York Jets: Week 10

19/11/2010

My favorite thing about overtime games in the NFL is that you get to hear the words “sudden death.” A “sudden death” overtime is one where the first score ends the game. The overtime period is thus marked by a heightened state of fear.

I suspect that most fans would be loath to admit how deeply their chosen passion is one stamped and fashioned by fear. In fear are the bold predictions made. In quaking solitude is met the dawn of a weekly match, usually on a Sunday. The players, at least, can concentrate on the physical feats to be performed and the punishment to be suffered on the tufty pitch. Not so the tormented fan, the enthusiast who has begun to identify with her chosen team, to have wrapped up her own worldly expectations in the distant actions of a group of fallible young men and the uncertain meanderings of an oblong shaped loaf of pig’s skin.

I think sometimes of Kierkegaard when he wondered, piteously, “if there were no sacred bond which united mankind, if one generation arose after another like the leafage in the forest, if the one generation replaced the other like the song of birds in the forest, if the human race passed through the world as the ship goes through the sea, like the wind through the desert, a thoughtless and fruitless activity, if an eternal oblivion was always lurking hungrily for its prey and there was no power strong enough to wrest it from its maw, how empty then and comfortless life would be!”

Indeed, how empty and comfortless. Scoff, if you will gentle reader, at the pathetic hopes and fears of a fan looking on at the thoughtless and fruitless activity on the field of play and wondering if there will be some sign, if something will come to pass upon that ground. Scoff, but know that it is a human being you are scoffing at, alone and tiny in the face of vast uncertainties.

The overtime session in Cleveland started with another drive by the little Roman. Sanchez is beginning to have a presence now, to look like he believes that when he touches the ball something special will happen. This is an absurd belief, and all the more powerful, all the more practical for being so absurd. A man with that kind of absurdity in his heart and mind is a fearsome force. I believe, he bellows with a nod to Tertullian, I believe BECAUSE it is absurd. The drive, however, petered out. The game was testing our young Roman, plumbing the depths to which his absurdity will go. It will go deep.

The Browns fumble on their ensuing drive. The little Roman can believe again. He puts together an attack that goes all the way down to the Cleveland 29 yard line. It looks like Folk will kick another game-winning field goal in overtime. As it goes in Detroit, so it goes in Cleveland. But Folk misses. He misses. Wide right. And Cleveland gets the ball again. The time is ticking now. It doesn’t seem possible that the Jets will get another chance. But they do. And Sanchez the little Roman can drive once more, and he does drive once more, and his pass is intercepted. Catastrophe. There is no way to win this game. There is a minute and a half left in the game and Cleveland has the ball. There is NO TIME. And yet, there is time. Where time is needed, there is time. Cleveland punts the ball and the Roman gets one more chance with 24 seconds left on the clock. Nothing. There is no time. He throws the ball to Santonio Holmes on a simple slant route and after the dust clears and the fallen Browns pick themselves up again, Holmes is in the endzone. The game is over. Absurdity has ruled the day once more. Fear has been conquered by the impossible. The little Roman marches on, back to the Meadowlands for a brief rest before welcoming the men from Texas.

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Morgan Meis has been observing the Jets, read more of his posts on the season here >>

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The New York Jets: Week Nine

12/11/2010

The whole thing was improbable from the start. Maybe it was fated to be that way. The game happened in Motor City, after all. Good things aren’t meant to happen in Detroit anymore. The place used up its cosmic chits during the fat days, the salad days, the days when money rained down from the skies. Marvin Gaye put it like this, “Detroit turned out to be heaven, but it also turned out to be hell.” The Jets were beaten, and yet they won. The Detroit Lions collapsed in the final minutes. Unsure about exactly what it means to win, they stumbled over themselves in the ever-deepening knowledge of what is defeat.

When the New York Jets came into Detroit, they were reeling from a loss to the Green Bay Packers the previous week in which they scored zero points. That bothered me, the scoring of no points, none, zilch. It is difficult to make the argument that you are a great team when you have a game in which a decent, though by no means extraordinary defense shuts you out completely. A certain dream collapsed and died that day at the Meadowlands. The final rites were administered as the last drive by the Jets fizzled into naught and the final seconds on the terrible game clock ticked away into oblivion.

The dream was a dream of ease, of Halcyon days in which a dominant team would rip its way through one opponent after another. Rarely does such a dream come to pass. That’s the thing about Halcyon days, they are always something remembered, they are never something happening right now. They are days of retrospect, and even in retrospect we recognize the degree to which we pretty up the past, glossing over its painful bits.

We can now accept the idea that there will be no Halcyon days. This Jets season will be endured in the same way in which most seasons are endured. It will be experienced in pain and frustration, in fear punctuated by moments of profound relief, like when Nick Folk kicked it through the uprights to win the Detroit game in overtime. A moment of heavenly, seemingly bottomless relief.

Kickers, for all the abuse they endure in not being “real” football players, are the administrators of great moments of relief and agony. A field goal is, after all, the very epitome of relief. Your offense has failed in some fundamental way when the kicking team comes out. The great goal of football, the touchdown, has eluded your grasp. So, we settle for a field goal. And that is where the relief comes. At least we were able to salvage those three points. An honest man would, in all likelihood, take his field goals with more gratitude. The provisional victory of the field goal is like most of life’s triumphs, it is bittersweet and inextricable from a host of simmering regrets.

I’ve seen Rex Ryan on the sidelines cheering for a field goal like he was watching his own son at a track meet. I like Rex when he does those kinds of things, bringing joy to the mundane. Rex Ryan’s motto, in this as in many things, is cribbed from the playbook of Saint Teresa of Avila. “Accustom yourself continually to make many acts of love, for they enkindle and melt the soul.” For hidden in the pedestrian relief of the field goal is the possibility of true ecstasy, utter agony. The field goal that ends the game, the field goal as the final seconds tick off the clock, is a brutal exclamation mark on a kind of finality normal life rarely provides. Just ask Scott Norwood and the Buffalo Bills about that.

Do we really know anything about football? Seeking patterns, tendencies, and rules, the human brain is hard-wired to understand. But what if it is all a lie? What if we constantly misapply this talent for patterns, what if we throw regularity and predictability over all the events of our lives even when, as in most cases, the application is less than warranted? I’m reminded of David Hume and his depressing musings over billiard balls. We never actually get to see the causality within the attendant motions following the impact of billiard balls. We know what will happen only because of past experience and the assumption that past experience governs future events. We formulate laws. We settle into a predictable world. But we can never get to the causality as such. We can never really know.

There was one play at the end of the Detroit game that may have been decisive. Jets running back LaDainian Tomlinson ran for a first down and then went out of bounds to stop the clock. Lions linebacker Julian Peterson hit him after the fact. It’s a fifteen yard penalty. That put the Jets within field goal range. The play had nothing to do with anything else that happened in the game. It was simply a mistake by one man during one particular play. Because of it, though, the Jets won and the Lions lost.

This utterly changed the narrative of the game and the Jets’ season so far. The Jets are 6-2 now. They are a team that knows how to win tough games, to pull out the win no matter what. But the decisive moment in that win may have been a play that had nothing to do with the Jets, with anything that a player or a coach did or didn’t do. An episode of complete randomness has crept in to play a decisive role. It is terrifying, mystifying. It shakes me to the core.

Still, I’m feeling better about next week’s game against the Cleveland Browns. Technically speaking, we’re at the top of the AFC East again, and this team really knows how to win now…

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Morgan Meis is following the Jets’ season. Read his previous posts here >>

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The New York Jets: Week Five

14/10/2010

By Morgan Meis

There was lightning and there was rain. The sky above the meadowlands was on fire. What does it all mean, I wonder? Who was mad at whom? Was it a matter of old gods railing against new gods? Another Gigantomachia? Why did so much water fall that night? Why did the heavens pour down their rage as the little Roman, Mark Sanchez, was mounting a triumphant drive toward the end zone just before the half? Something great, some massive force objected to the possibility of The Jets scoring a touchdown just at that point. Some Titan, some Olympian, some Norse spirit of old had put his or her foot down. A field goal we can deal with, said the force, but a touchdown is absolutely unacceptable. And so the heavens were opened and the floods fell from the sky, and the light streaked across the horizon, and the thunder shook the earth. And Mark Sanchez did throw an incomplete pass.

We cannot rule out the possibility that the Old Man is in league with forces beyond our ken. Brett Favre turned forty-one the day before the game. In football years he may as well be Methuselah. He may as well be seven hundred and eighty and two years. Who begat this old man, anyway? And who begat the man who begat him? Old people from the South. Old souls from a town called Kiln, which sounds like a place that was founded before the Bronze Age. Not surprising at all when you watch the Old Man play. Brett Favre hurls the football like it is a prehistoric lump of dirt in a game whose rules were forgotten with the drying up of the last tar pit. Here’s another thing about Brett Favre. He’s got Choctaw blood flowing through his veins. The Choctaws ran and played along the riverbanks in the area we now call Mississippi.

As the Choctaws tell it, their people climbed up out of a cave near the sacred mound of Nanih Waiya. The Choctaws think that they came out of the earth last, after the Natchez, after the Cherokee, after everybody. They were the last peoples to emerge from the insides of the earth, to emerge forth and to see the sun. The Choctaws, though, were an agricultural folk not taken much to fighting.

Old Brett, by contrast, has a fire in his belly and an instinct for battle. He’s a son-of-a-bitch sometimes. Childish and willful, he flashes his charming grin and does what he likes. Even from underneath that football helmet his smile has always struck me as that of a naughty little boy caught with his hand in the cookie jar. He expects to be spanked, wants it even, and then is always surprised when he gets the cookie anyway.

Old Brett joined the Minnesota Vikings last season and that was fitting enough. Watching Brett Favre play football is like reading the old epics. And then Brett didst fumble the ball and then he didst hurl the ball in the next play one thousand miles into the claws of the Mossy one and all rejoiced. And then Brett did grumble and grouse and lay the ball in the hands of the enemy, and he did walk away in shame.

The New York Jets dominated every facet of the football game for almost three quarters. And yet, they could not put the game away, could not end it. Something kept the score close, kept Old Brett within range so that the drama could play itself out into the final moments. Old Brett has won a million games in the final seconds and he has lost a million too. It is almost as if it is beyond the final score with him, beyond the facts, statistics, or amount of games won and lost. When Old Brett played with the New York Jets two seasons ago, after one thousand and one years with The Packers, he played like a genius for ten games and then like a crook for the final six. It turns out he was injured. But he didn’t care. Old Brett has racked up 289 consecutive starts as a player in the National Football League. It is an absurd record because it is impossible. He should have taken himself out at the end of the season. But he didn’t want to. He would rather be out there on the field, losing terribly and letting everyone down. He would rather be out there in ignominy and defeat than to sit down in silence.

Every game with Old Brett is a tale filled with moments as high and as low as can be imagined on a hundred yard pitch. He is out there simply so that ever single thing can happen and the story be exhausted by the time sixty minutes have ticked off the game clock. He wants to win like any Viking. But like a Choctaw from the ancient founding story, he wants even more just to be there, basking in the sun and the open air, the last man out of the cave.

If the rain and lightning conspired to keep the story going it was understandable. The grinning bastard has earned every second. We will never see another like him. And when the skies cleared The New York Jets were victorious once again anyway, and Old Brett had lost another game in failure that he’d almost won in glory. The Jets now stand alone, the kings of the AFC East. What will they make of this kingdom? We cannot know this. We can only know that they climb the mountains, upward a mile high into the craggy peaks where the wild horses run. Denver.

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Morgan Meis has been covering the Jets for The Owls. Read his posts on Weeks 1-4 here >>