Fandom Week Column: Growing up a fan of the other New York football team

In this Oct. 15, 2017, file photo, New York Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson (96), Leonard Williams (92) and Demario Davis (56) react during the second half of an NFL football game against the New England Patriots, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun, File)

In this Oct. 15, 2017, file photo, New York Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson (96), Leonard Williams (92) and Demario Davis (56) react during the second half of an NFL football game against the New England Patriots, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun, File)

This week, Daily Campus Sports is celebrating both the highs and the lows of invested fandom with a series of personal articles telling the stories of our sports memories. This is Fandom Week.

Growing up in central Connecticut, you really only have two choices when it comes to picking your favorite football team: The New England Patriots or the New York Giants. Very few people in the region seem to even consider a third team, the New York Jets, as a viable option to cheer for.

Historically, the Jets have been the laughing stock of the AFC East, and, as a result, have been the less favored of the two New York metropolitan area teams. They’ve had some brutally embarrassing moments over the years, many of which were inflicted by the bitter rival Patriots, who have won the division all but three times since the turn of the millennium.

The worst moments always seem to happen to the Jets at the worst times. Think Mark Sanchez’s butt fumble on Thanksgiving 2012 against the Patriots to turn a close game into a blowout loss.

The Jets have also made some of the worst draft picks, especially when it comes to quarterbacks. Like Christian Hackenburg in the second round of the 2016 draft, it’s pretty clear he’s not the franchise quarterback. Linebacker Vernon Gholston was sixth overall in the 2008 draft. He recorded zero sacks in three years, before bumming out of the league.

And don’t even get me started on blowing incredible back-to-back chances at reaching the Super Bowl in 2009 and 2010. Losing the 2009 AFC Championship game 30-17 to the Indianapolis Colts was one thing. Losing the 2010 AFC Championship to the Pittsburgh Steelers by a mere five points, 24-19, was another. That was the beginning of the Jets’ steep decline back to mediocrity over the next five years.

But, here’s the thing. Despite all the horrendous moments, horrible draft picks and crushing defeats, I am still a Jets fan. The Jets will always be my favorite football team because for as many bad memories, there are some pretty damn good memories too.

Bart Scott’s legendary interview with Sal Paolantonio after the Jets defeated the Patriots 28-21 in Foxborough in the AFC Divisional Playoff will forever be etched in my mind as a highlight in Jets’ history.

Scott’s scream of “Can’t wait!” punctuated an emotionally-charged response filled with self-belief. It is pretty symbolic of how it feels to be a Jets fan. The all-around disrespect the Jets have gotten over the years, while the Giants and Pats have excelled, just makes winning that much sweeter.

Scott preached that the Jets had been disrespected in the build-up to the game and said that they were a far better team than the one that lost to the Patriots 45-3 just a few weeks prior. He called out all the analysts that said the Pats’ No. 25 ranked defense was better than the Jets No. 3 ranked defense.

“[Their defense] can’t stop a nosebleed, 25th in the league,” Scott said.

I still get fired up watching that interview to this day.

But that’s not the only perk of being a Jets fan. Recent draft picks Leonard Williams and Jamal Adams look like superstars in the making. This 2017 Jets team was expected to be garbage and a tank for a franchise quarterback like Sam Darnold, but instead it is outperforming all analysts’ predictions with a 3-3 record after Week 6. Some might say they could even be 4-2 after a bad fumble call by a ref may have led to the 24-17 loss to the Patriots just last week.

Management appears to be doing all the right things and the team’s youth is looking promising. I won’t make any guarantees like Broadway Joe Namath, but I’m really liking where this team is heading. A few more good draft picks and the aging Tom Brady may be the turn in the green half of New York’s fortunes.

Growing up a Jets fan hasn’t been the easiest road compared to my Giants’ and Pats’ fan friends, but I wouldn’t trade in my Jets’ fandom for anything. The day they win the Super Bowl in my lifetime will be well worth the struggle and the wait.


Chris Hanna is the associate sports editor  for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at christopher.hanna@uconn.edu. He tweets @realchrishanna.