By Eddie Mayrose
I sat down the other night to watch Namath, the HBO special about my all-time favorite athlete. It was a terrific documentary, filled with footage I’d never seen and interviews about the Jets’ Super Bowl victory that made Joe Namath a superstar and prompted the merger of the AFL and NFL.
Of course, my favorite segment had to do with how he came to guarantee the victory over the heavily favored Colts. It was during this piece, however, that I realized just how much pain I would have escaped over the course of my life as a football fan had Broadway Joe been wrong.
The first football game I ever attended was at Yankee Stadium. Sunday, Nov. 19, 1967. The Giants, an awful team at the time, beat the Steelers, 28-20. I don’t remember many other details of that game, except that, for most of the game, I had to sit with my frozen feet inside my father’s coat. But, my father was a Giants’ fan. The path was there for me to follow suit. I knew the history; I watched every game with him. It was a natural fit. If only!
My dad, and most of his Giants-fan friends, hated Joe Namath. He was brash, he made too much money, he wore those crazy white shoes and he was a hippie. Given those feelings, how could he not become the favorite player of any rebellious kid? The Giants had nothing but a scrambling Fran Tarkenton that was of any interest. The Jets were in the cool AFL, where they wore crazy uniforms and threw the ball all over the place. They were just more fun to watch. The next year, when Namath led the Jets to the Super Bowl and had the gall to tell the crew-cut Colts he would beat them, my loyalty was cemented. If only he’d been wrong.
Since that glorious day, the Jets have broken my heart too many times to count, while my father has enjoyed five trips to the Super Bowl. The best we could muster was four trips to the AFC Championship game; all losses. Worse, I passed this legacy of pain to my sons, each of whom have become as jaded and cynical as I, expecting disaster where none is imminent because, as Jets’ fans, they know it’s there.
So, on Sunday, we’ll head to my dad’s to watch the Giants play for a fourth Lombardi trophy. I’ll be rooting for Big Blue, but it’s not the same. Kinda like hanging out with your buddy and his hot girlfriend. She’s beautiful, but she’s not yours.
My youngest, Tim, is only 10. He roots for the Jets, essentially because his dad and his brothers do. As young as he is, though, he’s not as emotionally vested. There’s still time. I’ve encouraged him to go blue, even bought him a few T-shirts. We’ll see how that goes. But I’d like to spare him the agony that accompanies the curse of Gang Green. We all would. If only we could go back in time. If only Joe Namath had been wrong!
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As I Sit and Think … Giants 37 Patriots 27. Eli is playing too well, Pats’ D won’t be able to handle Jints’ receivers and Brady will struggle if Gronkowski is slowed by injury … It might be time for Mike D’Antoni to start updating the old resume. The Knicks look as bad and indifferent as you’d expect a cellar dweller to be. Hell, for all of their difficulty, the Nets have the same record … Come Monday, I wonder who the Giants will be looking to hire as their new head coach. What? Tom Coughlin isn’t going to be fired at season’s end anymore? ... Just a few weeks until pitchers and catchers report to spring training. At this stage of the game, the Mets’ catchers might get a little lonely down there … Happy first anniversary in heaven to my good friend, Tommy Kane. Hard to believe it’s been a year, Large. I reach for that phone every day.