Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Stream of Consciousness No. 8: Sunday Sunday Sunday!

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. - I probably should actually be using this block of time before my Inside Beat meeting to get started on serious thesis research. Instead I'm updating this blog---because I feel like it, I guess.

I wanted to pick up from where I left off in my previous entry, a slightly perfunctory yet certainly felt shout-out to the Rutgers Scarlet Knights football team and its newfound resurgence into the AP Top 25 this past weekend. I especially wanted to elaborate a bit more on the entry's short final paragraph and encompass the whole of my typically complex attitude toward sports in general.

This Sunday---when I wasn't sitting in front of my laptop computer editing submissions for the upcoming issue of Inside Beat---I did something I hadn't done in a while: I tuned into pro football on TV. It was actually a rather pleasurable experience: it brought back a little of the old excitement I used to feel come Sundays when I could hopefully look forward to the latest football game.

But this summer, I pretty much lost touch with sports in general. Usually I'm mildly into baseball in the summer, but this particular summer I was racked with other concerns (readers, of course, will understand what concerns I'm talking about pretty easily) to give the team I usually root for, the New York Mets, even a passing nod. And guess what? The year I pretty much tune out on them in the summer---again, shows how much of a fan I am---the Mets decide to have a great year and do so well as to not merely clinch a spot in the playoffs, but win the N.L. East division as well! This was the year that the Mets cut the usually dominant Atlanta Braves down to size (are they in the running for a wild card spot? If a serious baseball enthusiast reads this blog, let me know, because that's how out of it I am as far as what's going on in pro baseball goes), and I pretty much missed it all in favor of worrying like hell about my future and irritating the hell out of my mother (and vice versa). I guess spectator sports inevitably will take a backseat when it's my future I'm dealing with here, but still...

...I remember when I actually used to give a bit of a damn about watching sports on TV. No, I never played on any team in high school or anything, but I got into the New York Mets---when Mike Piazza was around and making waves with the team---mostly to counteract my brother Masao's love of the New York Yankees. Hey, I like rooting for underdogs. You can bet I was rooting like hell when the Mets went all the way into the World Series in 2000: Benny Agbayani's walk-off home run against the Giants in the penultimate game of the Division Series, Robin Ventura's "grand slam single" to end an epic 15-inning monster against the Braves---I could drool over those memorable moments like Homer Simpson drools about donuts. (And of course I felt a 50-lb. weight of disappointment when the Mets faced off against the Yankees in the first game of the World Series and let that first game get away.)

Obviously, the Mets got progressively worse afterwards, and the season before this current one I didn't even bother to tune in all that much: it seemed obvious that the team was in some kind rebuilding process, and so I figured there wasn't much excitement to be had that year. Guess I must have carried a similar attitude to the beginning of this year---and look what happened.

Yeah, excitement. I'm no diehard sports nut or anything; I don't have a vast knowledge of stats and history like, say, WFAN's Mike Francessa does. Really, I'm just looking for entertainment---but I'm principled enough to have some, er, "morals" when it comes to team loyalty. With one exception---I'll get to that in a moment---I don't plan on bailing on the Mets just because they start to win or lose on a more consistent basis. I have my sense of honor!

I don't plan on bailing on the New York Jets either. But tell that to the New England Patriots!

Remember that "game in the snow" a few years ago when the New England Patriots were playing the Pittsburgh Steelers in a playoff game? I certainly do; it's probably one of the most vivid sports memories I'll ever have. So, towards the end of the fourth quarter it looks as if the Steelers had picked off a pass by Tom Brady...and then what's this "tuck rule" shit? I remember my bros and I were playing a game of Monopoly that night while we were watching this game, and I was laughing my head off in disbelief at this turn of events, but I was probably also getting high off the monstrous roar of approval coming from that Gillette Stadium crowd when that interception call was overturned. And when the Pats went on to win that game, I pretty much started to follow them for the rest of their miraculous postseason up to their Superbowl victory. The way I reacted to their Superbowl win---when they came from behind once again to take it away from St. Louis Rams---you could mistake me for being a fan.

The next year, I felt compelled to continue to root for them just to prove that their previous postseason run wasn't a stroke of luck. They didn't make it to the playoffs that year, but they hardly disgraced themselves either...and then they came back the next year and pretty much asserted a dominance that would continue for the 2004-5 season.

But then came Superbowl XXXIX facing the Philadelphia Eagles: for me, though, it was the moment when I realized that my love affair with the New England Patriots had died out. It wasn't that it was boring to see the Pats win all the time; it was that they simply had become so dull to watch. I think this Slate article sums it up nicely: the Pats, I realized, had become a well-oiled machine. And there's nothing less dramatic and less exciting, to my mind, than a well-oiled machine.

So---responding to a bit of pressure from friends who questioned why I would even bother to root for the Pats, because I wasn't born or raised anywhere near Boston---I decided to circle back to my New York roots and place my loyalties in the New York Jets. Why the Jets? I don't know; maybe it's just because the other big NY football team calls itself the "Giants," ooh the giants. Whatever. Again, it's not like I'm a diehard sports nut who lives and dies with a team. It's all about entertainment for me, and the Jets have certainly provided me with plenty over the years: plenty of triumphs, and plenty of disappointments (remember Doug Brien's crucial missed field goals in a playoff game against the Steelers in early 2005? And then the disastrous 2005 season, with Chad Pennington's and Curtis Martin's big injuries?) . But right now, the Jets seem to have a lot of heart, and I'll take heart over boring perfection any day.

Still, know how much of a Jets fan I am? I didn't watch much of their most recent game---a victory against the Buffalo Bills. In fact, I watched more of the Giants' disaster against the Seahawks than the Jets game. I like to be entertained, but when there's work to be done, there's work to be done.

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