The Day I Got To Lead The Jets Chant
As many of you may know, the GGN community is awesome. They voted for me, as well as got other people to vote for me, to be 1 of the 8 finalsts to become the Jets Chant Leader. Each finalist gets a chance to lead a home game, with the chance of possibly becoming the permanent Jets Chant Leader. Yesterday was the game the Jets delegated for me to Lead the Chant. All day GGN was on my mind and in my heart, and I wanted so badly to make you guys proud and give you something to smile about.
I woke up on Sunday at 6:30am, the first thing I did was check GGN. I saw through David's Flight Connection that NewYorkJets.com wrote an article about me. I was so excited, read the article and loved every second of it. After reading the article, there was a comment section that I couldn't help but read. The only comment there was some guy saying "typical Jets fan, a fat slob that dropped out of school after 3rd grade." But you know what? That was literally the only negative thing that happened to me all day. So I'll take it!
On the way to the game we had to pick up my Uncle. My Uncle lived right next to the house I lived in until I was 7, so while picking him up, we got to see the house I lived in when my Jets fandom began. It made me think of the kid I once was. A kid that was always bigger than everyone else in his class. A kid that used to get made fun of constantly for his size. A kid that found out, that on the Football field, his size was an asset and not something people would poke fun at. As my understanding of Football grew, I became more aware of all the NFL teams in our area. Even though there was 3 NFL teams close by, there was only one team that mattered to me. My Dad's beloved New York Jets. I was hooked. I wanted to know about every player, past and present. I wanted to see every game, every quarter, every snap. I was obsessed. I thought about that kid I once was, and how he would never believe that he would get to Lead the Jets Chant someday. I said to myself "this one's for him".
After picking up my Uncle we headed to the Stadium. On the way there, while my Dad and Uncle were catching up with each other, I zone out and started to think about my Uncle. Over a year ago, he thought he was on his death bead. And so did Doctors. By some miracle, he held on long enough to get the transplant he needed, and he survived. He stared the Grim Reaper in the eyes and told him, "Not today!" I looked at my Uncle and in my mind I told myself "How can you be nervous about Leading the Jets Chant, when you're Uncle is just happy to be alive." Immediately any nerves or anxiety was gone. I thought to myself "this one's for him."
When we get to the Stadium, we immediately set up our tailgate. Shortly after, Jets Reps and a Camera guy meet us at our tailgate. The Rep tells me that they're going to shoot a video of my tailgate, but didn't want me in it. They wanted the crowd to first see me, while I was Leading the Chant. And I thought that was awesome. I had so much fun watching my family and friends be spotlighted and shoot a video that later played in the stadium. As I watched them shoot the video, I took pictures and shot my own video on my cell phone. With a smile, I thought "this one's for them".
Later on in the tailgate. I overheared a conversation my Dad was having with one of his friends. His friend said "how cool is this?" (In reference to me leading the Chant). My Dad responded "I know, this is one of the greatest moments of my life". I immediately thought about all the games we've been to together. I thought about how many times we've high-fived after touchdowns. Or how many spontaneous hugs we've shared, after last minute scores to win the game. Or how many pats on the back we've shared over a heartbreaking loss. Then I thought about the first year I started playing football. He was one of my coaches. After the first few practices, I saw how hard football was, and I wanted to quit. He wouldn't let me. He said "Son, if you don't want to play Football next year, that's perfectly fine, and I'll support you. But when a Caffrey commits to something, we don't quit." And I am so grateful for that advice, for Football and in Life. "This one's for him"
At 12:15 I got to my seats to meet with Scott the Jets Rep. He walked me through how everything was going to go. He gave me tips and insight on how to make the Jets Chant as great as possible. He was absolutely amazing. I found out that he had been a Jets fan all his life, and his Son was also a Jets fan. They had the same Jets bond that my Father and I have. Scott was living a dream by helping Jets fans live out their dream. I thought "this one's for him."
After meeting with him, I had some down time untill kickoff. I sat in my seat, in an almost empty stadium, listening to music on my headphones to pump myself up. After saying a quick prayer and listening to my favorite band "August Burns Red", I was good to go.
The few moments prior to kickoff, I got goosebumps as they honored our Men and Women in the Armed Forces. I thought about how these people from all different backgrounds, heritages and beliefs banded together and risked their lives, so people like myself could live in a free Country, where we could chase our dreams. As I held back tears during the National Anthem, I thought "this one's for them".
Now it's time. It's time to live out a dream that so many Jets fans have dreamt about since they were kids. A chance to lead my fellow Jets fans into battle against one of the hottest teams and strongest fan bases in all of sports. I was ready. No... WE WERE READY. Surrounded by my Family and Friends, I led the Jets Chant for the opening kick off. It was exhilarating. Even though, half the Stadium were Pittsburgh fans, Jets fans overpowered them and brought the noise. After that first Chant and the way Jets fans were engaged, I knew it was going to be a great game. Although I was on cloud 9, I knew the chant itself was a little sloppy, on my end. The nerves got the best of me, and I felt my timing was slightly off. But I had this strange peace, knowing I was going to get another shot at it, even though some other contestants only had the opening kick off as their lone chance to lead the Chant.
My second chance came pretty quick. Mike Vick hit TJ Graham on a bomb for a Touchdown! After they kicked the extra point and came back from commercial break, I got another shot. This time, the crowd was even more voiceterous. After doing the second chant, and the way the crowd was buzzing, I knew we were going to win this game. Even though there was so much time left, the way the Jets fans were rocking, I knew we were going to be tough to beat. I've seen it before. When JetLife Stadium is rocking, we're almost unbeatable, regardless of how many away fans there are. Even though I did a better job with the second chant, I knew I could still do better.
Later in the game, after a Michael Vick Touchdown pass to Jace Amaro. I got my third and final chance to lead the chant. This time, it felt perfect. The build up, the timing, the intensity all felt great. It went so well, even some Steelers fans were clapping for it. One even gave me a salute lol. Though that final chant only lasted a few minutes, it felt like hours. I was trapped in that moment as if time had somehow slowed down for me. In that moment, I looked around at all the Jets fans cheering their heart out. I thought about how much time, money and effort they put forth, cheering on a team that had just lost 8 games in a row. I thought about how much ridicule they've received for the their Jets fandom, by the media, co-workers, friends, and rival fan bases. And yet they still brought the noise like we were in the Playoff hunt.. I thought, in awe of their loyal fandom, "this one's for them".
Throughout the game, there was a young kid (maybe 8 years old) sitting next to me. He was at the game with his Dad and Uncle, just as I was. It appeared to be his first Jets game, and his excitement was contagious. Due to how short he was, he was out of my sight line most of the time, and because of it, i bumped into him a few times. Not hard enough to hurt him, but I still felt bad. Each time, I apologized to him. Each time with a smile on his face, he said "it's okay". Right before half time, I told his Father about it and apologized to him as well. His Dad said "he's fine don't worry about it". But I wanted to make it right. I told his Dad that I wanted to buy the kid a hat at halftime to make up for it. His Father said "you don't have to, it's ok." But I insisted. So at halftime, with his Father's blessing, I took the kid to the Jets Shop right next to our section, and told him "Pick out a hat, whichever one you want, it's on me". With an ear to ear grin, he tried on a few different hats. He then found a Neon Jets hat that matched his Neon sweatshirt. I could tell he found the one he wanted. I asked him "is that the hat you want?". With a big smile he shook his head yes. I couldn't help but mirror his smile. After I paid for the hat, he thanked me, we high fived and I brought him back to his Dad. With his new hat, he cheered for the Jets even harder in the second half. I could tell this kid was going to be a Jets fan for life. With such joy, I thought "this one's for him".
As the second half wore on, we managed to hold the lead. When it became obvious we were going to win the game, I lead my section in the Jets Chant a few times. No cameras, no big screens, just an organic Jets chant in Section 103. And that Chant felt just as good as the Chants that played on the big screen, for the whole stadium to see. "This one's for them."
When the clock struck zero, and the win was in the books, I hugged my Dad and said "we did it!." He replied "you did it.". At that moment I could feel how proud my Dad was. And as a single tear escaped from my eye that I tried to hold back, I said "No Dad, WE did it!"
You see, all this was never about me, it was about US. It was never about the attention I got for leading the chant, it was about all of US lifting up OUR team, in such tough circumstances. Whether you were cheering for the Jets at JetLife Stadium, or the bar, or at home on your couch, stateside or abroad, "this one was for you."