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Green And White: A Love Story

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NFL: Super Bowl 50-Carolina Panthers vs Denver Broncos Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

If you’re reading this chances are you’re like me: hopelessly devoted in unrequited love with a team that teases with occasional moments of brilliance only to betray you in the end. Maybe you’ve been in love for decades. Maybe you go all the way back to the beginning when the team wasn’t the Jets, the colors weren’t green and white, and the league wasn’t the NFL. Maybe you first fell head over heels in 1965 when the Jets scored a coup over the staid NFL and signed renegade quarterback Joe Namath out of the University of Alabama to a then unheard of $427,000 deal. Maybe you first caught the fever in the Miracle Year of 1969, when the Jets led off in January with the most stunning upset in Super Bowl history, beginning an amazing New York trifecta of Jets, Mets and Knicks titles. Maybe you fell hard for Joe Klecko and the New York Sack Exchange. Maybe you can trace your hopeless devotion to the dark days of Rich Kotite, when everyone’s favorite undrafted free agent, Wayne Chrebet came to training camp 13th on a depth chart of 12 and finished his rookie season the undisputed best receiver on the team, beginning a legendary Jets career. Maybe your heart melted for Vinny and the Jets in 1998, or maybe it was the bombastic Rex Ryan and the best defense in the NFL, led by a newly discovered New York island named Revis, that made you swoon.

Whether you were there at the beginning and remember a linebacker known as Chief Wahoo, a man who once accepted a bet to drink a quart of motor oil, and followed up his football career with a successful career playing a stereotypical Native American chief in full feathered headdress in professional wrestling, or you just recently came aboard the ship that perpetually threatens to capsize, perhaps you will find something here to spark old memories and rekindle the flame, or learn something new about the love you can’t shake even when it hurts, and it hurts nearly all the time.

Speaking of learning something new, perhaps some of you are unaware of just how connected the Jets are to many of the most important developments in football history. For example, did you know that Harry Wismer, the original owner of the Titans (the franchise’s original name) was a pioneer in prime time football decades before Monday Night Football found its way into American homes? Did you know Wismer, before he became one of the original owners in the fledgling AFL, was part owner of the Washington Redskins, who parted ways with Redskins owner George Preston Marshall in part because Wismer was on the right side of history, firmly opposed to Marshall’s refusal to sign African Americans? Did you know Wismer was the original architect of the innovative idea that has formed the backbone of NFL financing to this day, the then unheard of concept of television revenue sharing? Did you know the Jets played in the first ever Monday Night Football game in 1970, the first ever NFL regular season overtime game, and the last ever NFL game in the Meadowlands?

Whether you already know the history like the back of your hand or are hearing it for the first time, I hope you’ll join us in a new series looking back over the years at some of the stories that made the team you love what they are today. We’ll begin next time at the very beginning, with the one of a kind huckster, self promoter, and perhaps the first soul ever to fall in love with this crazy franchise, the one and only original owner of the Titans, Harry Wismer.