The Jets are the only team my dad and I both root for. I root for the Yankees in baseball. My dad hates them. I root for the Penguins in hockey (big Lemieux as a kid). My dad doesn't care about the sport, although I think he liked the Chicago Blackhawks when he was younger. I'm a Jets fan because of my dad, though.
Or maybe it's more accurate to say I'm a Jets fan in spite of my dad. My first memories of the Jets weren't great ones. I grew up watching the Coslet, Carroll, and Kotite disasters. There were many points during those years my dad emphatically told me that I needed to start rooting for the Giants so I wouldn't suffer the same way he did. Sometimes we look back at a draft mistake with hindsight and get critical, but at the time many people liked the pick. Not with those Jets teams. When the Jets took Kyle Brady over Warren Sapp it's probably in the top ten of most upset I've ever seen my dad. So it sounds funny to hear him beg his kid to pick a different team, but as I get older I've come to realize this actually was an act of love. He really was trying to spare me the pain he endured.
It goes back to the Playoff game in Cleveland in 1987. In case you aren't aware of what happened, the Jets led by 10 with 2:00 left in the fourth quarter and lost the game helped by a Mark Gastineau roughing the passer penalty. Even to this day I hear pain in his voice when he talks about this game. He has told me ever since then he hasn't had the same passion. He still roots for the Jets, but he can't bring himself to get as emotionally invested because he couldn't take that kind of pain again.
He has been a Jets fan for a long time. He had season tickets back when they played in Shea Stadium, and has shared some great stories about the cast of characters who sat near him. He also has filled in the blanks with me through the years about important Jets moments to give me a better sense of history. On this site probably the thing that amazes me is the number of people who have rooted for the Jets for decades and that they'd actually listen to anything I'd have to say. I'm sure I'm leaving people out, but guys like Broadway Jose, michael224a, Traveling Man, and Smackdad are some of my favorite GGN members because of the way they share the history of the team. It reminds me of my dad. I always love it when one of these long-time Jets fans says something about the team's past that is identical to what my dad taught me, for example why Steve Serby is awful.
I think if we're lucky we grow up thinking our dad is perfect. If we're really lucky we get fairly deep into life thinking this. I have been really, really lucky by this measure. Eventually, though, we realize it isn't so. We see that our hero makes mistakes, sometimes fails, and has regrets about the past. I have with my dad.
It's not that my dad is a failure. Far from it. By almost any measure he has been so successful that it will be very difficult to live up to how successful he has been. He worked in education for over three decades. He was a teacher and then founded a school as a principal. I've had more of his former students come up to me and tell me what a difference he made in their lives than I can count. He has served his community elected to the town council and as a member of organizations like the Knights of Columbus.
So know that when I talk about how I've learned my dad isn't perfect I'm not saying anything bad. I'm saying that he's human like everybody else, and when you learn that your relationship with your dad starts to grow in new ways and can become better.
Our shared love of the Jets is one aspect of our relationship, but we have much more in common. I think one recent episode, though, reminds me of how our relationship is evolving.
You have to understand something. In sports once my dad makes up his mind about you, it never changes. If he decides you are a bum, you are always a bum. I'm the opposite. I can change my mind on you like ten times in the span of one game. Not dad, though.
My dad despised Bill Parcells in the 1980's. He was the coach of the Giants. When he became coach of the Jets it didn't matter that Parcells was relatively successful. My dad had trouble stomaching the thought of rooting for the guy, and it took away a ton of his passion rooting for the Jets. To this day he still argues that Parcells was a shaky Hall of Fame selection. He even doesn't like Tom Coughlin I think because Coughlin was a Parcells protege.
So dad never changes his mind about anybody no matter what. Dad was no fan of Rex Ryan in his early years, even though the Jets were successful. Why is this?
He is Buddy Ryan's son. Strike 1
He talked more smack than anybody in the league even though he hadn't won anything. Strike 2
He then failed to back up that talk by not delivering the promised Super Bowl. Strike 3
This led to many heated arguments between the two of us. For years I tried to convince him that Rex had done a good job overall and had a lot of strengths. For his part, Rex made this job especially challenging in 2011 and 2012.
Then in December something incredible happened. My dad said to me that he was coming around. He thought Rex did a really good job and deserved another year as head coach. He thought Rex was a bum even when he was taking the Jets to the cusp of the Super Bowl, but now he was coming around.
As my relationship with my dad grows and evolves as I get older, I like to think I had something to do with that. At the very least if I have kids in the future, I hope they think of me the way I think of my dad.