I was born the same year as the Jets (Titans) became a football team. Little did I know how inexorably linked this franchise would be to my life. Of course I didn't know then how strong Jet blood would course through my veins.
My first love was Lauren Cooper, I was 5; she was beautiful with dark shoulder length hair and green eyes that seemed to sparkle like the finest diamond (she was voted the nicest eyes in our senior class poll). I was infatuated, believed she was the one for me (at 5). I gave her a ring that I obtained while eating a box of "Cracker Jacks" , it had a green stone; just like he eyes. She broke off the stone and put it on her finger, she said "I want it to look like my mothers wedding ring". I was crestfallen, I had no idea what she meant; at 5 I thought the stone was the most important thing. Our romance didn't last into the first grade; she had found someone else and I had found a team.
I was born and raised 30 miles from Yankee Stadium, every man I knew was a Giant fan. Those men were all good people, with jobs and families, almost all blue collar. I was different from them; if you told me how to do something I would look for someway to do it different; better. Sometimes I succeeded, most times I failed but it didn't matter because I was doing it my way. All those men had flat noses and crew cuts that were level on the top (you could line up a par putt on their head). I respected them but at the same time knew I was different (I always grew my hair long), they would make fun of me but I didn't care, I was being me.
In the summer of 1966 my dad took me to a practice of the AFL NY JETS. The Jets had made news the year before by signing a QB by the name of Joe Namath for $427,000; my dad was a fireman and a butcher AND pumped gas, he made less than $10,000 the year before. We went to Peeskill high school where the Jets were practicing; all I remember was that the field was awful and it was hot. There was only about 20 people watching but I could see this guy with long hair throwing the football 60 yards down the field like it was nothing. I asked my dad who that was and he just said Namath. During a break my dad was talking to some player who had a weird accent, nothing I had heard before, he didn't look like an athlete and even spit while he was talking. My dad talked to him for 15 minutes and told me "you watch this guy, Don Maynard will be a great player for this team. I didn't believe him; I figured if the guy couldn't talk right and he looked old, maybe 30, he can't be any good. Meanwhile I was calling for this Namath guy to come over and give me an autograph; it never happened. Joe was talking to everyone but me, but I didn't care he was what I inspired to be, a rich guy who did things his own way.
I would watch Jet games on our TV (we only had a fuzzy black and white set) and hope for the best. I had no idea what football was about but I had hope. The Jets made it to the 3rd Super bowl against the Colts and I knew they could win but my Dad told me that they would never beat the Colts " they will lose by 30 points" he said. I was 8 and bet my dad that if the Jets lost I would I would shovel the snow from our driveway by myself (our drive way was about 200 yards long) for the entire winter but if the Jets won he would have to kiss my moms feet, ( I know sucker bet but when you're 8 that was as good as it gets). That's the day I became a true Jet fan; I was stupid and had no idea what I was betting but it was worth the risk to me. I put a picture of Joe Namath on my bedroom wall and told my dad that he was going to win the game for me (Matt Snell actually won the game for us).
After the win my dad got down on his knees and kissed my moms feet. That picture of Joe stayed on my bedroom wall until I went to college. At college I replaced it with pin up girls (I thought Joe would be proud) and have been a Jet fan ever since; 48 years and countless tears later I'm still here waiting for the next time (my mom and dad are still alive) I can make my dad kiss my mom's feet. I lost Lauren Cooper but I gained a team, I'm batting 500.