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I'm Glad the Holidays Are Over: A Rant for 2013

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(Note: I’m aware that this is an odd post. I guess I’m looking for some commiseration from my fellow Jets fans; my Seasonal Affective Disorder has officially kicked in. At the very least, I’ve created a story that people can read on their phones while they’re on the toilet. If that's the case, you're welcome.)

Out here in the Midwest, Jets fans are a rare breed--I’ve met maybe two others in the many years I’ve lived here. That unfamiliarity can lead to some odd interactions, and I wonder if anyone else has had similar experiences.

My cousin came into town last week over the holidays. I hadn’t seen the guy since I was a little kid; he moved to Texas a long time ago and hadn’t come back since, so this was definitely a special occasion. I met up with him at a family get-together, and after the initial pleasantries we sat down and had a conversation.

Not ever having visited Texas, I was expecting him to be the stereotypical sh*tkicker with a seventy-gallon hat, stretching words like “y’all” and “damn” into 47-consecutive-vowel strangulations of the English language. I was only partially disappointed, however, as he was just a regular guy wearing a Texans shirt. That immediately--and unfortunately--steered the conversation toward football. Shortly into our exchange, I received the question that every Jets fan dreads:

“So, who’s your team?” he asked with all the causality of a fan whose team doesn’t consist of players currently deciding which couch cushion fits their asses best. (I wasn’t wearing any Jets gear at the time; I’d retired it after Thanksgiving.)

“The Jets,” I mumbled, my eye contact immediately wavering as my subconscious defense mechanisms began to kick in.

What happened next is an all-too-familiar situation. Through my own personal experience, I’ve found that other people react in one of two ways when they discover that I’m a Jets fan. My cousin fell into the more light-hearted category.

He immediately spit out his drink, coughing in a sloppy convulsion of laughter as if my previous statement had been a testament to my love for the Macarena. Once he regained his breath and took note of my expression--which was that practiced and potent cocktail of forlorn embarrassment--he regained his composure and began to backtrack.

“Oh,” he blurted, staring down at the ground in an attempt to begin a new conversation that didn’t begin with the J-word.

I didn’t give him any time to elaborate; I went into that usual defensive tirade that all of us Jets fans do: Circus This and Butt-Fumble That; I’ll trash my own team so hard that you’ll defend them.

Once I regained my wits and reflected on the experience, I got to thinking. There are two ways that people react when I tell them I am a Jets fan. My cousin went the OMG-Are-You-Joking-Wait-A-Minute-You’re-Serious-WTF-I-Thought-I-Knew-You route, but there’s another one out there.

I’ve also run across people who treat my fandom like a major life loss. They’ll cover their mouths and gasp, eyes widening with an “Oh, God, I’m so sorry” look, as if I’d just told them my puppy died in a kitten fire.

Reactions like that make me long for our back-to-back AFC Championship appearances that much more. At least in those days I got responses like: “Hey, I didn’t think the Jets could do it, but you guys did pretty good this year,” added to raised eyebrows and a hearty slap on the back. It was like getting a comparison to that slow kid in high school. No one thought he’d amount to much but he got a good job checking tire pressure at the gas station, and dammit, good for him.

Never thought I’d miss those days.

Anyway, the calendar has turned, just as it always does. I’m looking forward to a promising off-season, just as I always do. Above all, I’m glad I get to share it here.

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