No way I'm doing this. I can't even believe I received this e-mail.
The NFL sent Jets fans an e-mail asking them to pre-order their AFC Champions gear.
Listen, NFL, I'm confident...not crazy.
There's a big difference between Rex Ryan saying the Jets are going to win and me buying the champions t-shirt and hat before the Jets are champions. (segue into flashback...)
This is a problem that didn't exist the last time the Jets were in the AFC Championship Game, following the 1998 season. There was no such thing as pre-ordering on the internet...or at least, I wasn't web savvy enough to know how to do it.
I need to tell you the story of the 1998 AFC Championship Game, and how I didn't even see it. Live. (You didn't think I'd miss it, did you?)
To be completely honest with you, I don't remember exactly how the day unfolded. I remember watching the Falcons-Vikings game in my dorm room, right up until the final kick. I also remember that I had to leave right after that game to call the Boston University hockey game (with Justin From NYC, incidentally), and I wasn't able to watch the Jets-Broncos.
I set a tape, told my roommate I would be back to watch the game around 10...and don't tell me anything about what happened. (In truth, I doubt he watched...or cared.)
I did the hockey game and managed to avoid finding out the Jets score the whole time. This is notable because the hockey game was also airing on local TV, and the crawl would pop up every so often and I had to train my eyes not to look at it. Justin had watched most of the first quarter (he lived closer to the arena, so he could, plus, he was not taping the game like an idiot), but as a good friend gave no clue about how it was going.
So after the game (no memory of the opponent or the result), I remember parting with Justin, jamming my walkman over my ears, and walking, head down, home. I made it home without hearing a thing.
I walked in the door, and there was my roommate and his girlfriend, watching TV.
"Don't give me any idea how the game went!" I said immediately. "Can I watch it?"
"We're just finishing this movie," my roommate replied. "There's about a half-hour left."
"Really?" I asked. "You have to watch that here?"
"We're almost done."
"Just another half hour."
Worst half hour of my life. I don't remember the BU opponent, but I remember sitting on my bed trying to study (probably didn't retain a thing) while my roommate and his girlfriend, knowing full well my situation that day, watched "The Opposite Of Sex", starring Christina Ricci, on our only TV.
I don't remember what time I ended up watching the game, and I don't remember much of the game (my mind has a way of blocking out most losses, but remembering the good games), but I disctinctly remember the interview (Hannah Storm, maybe?) after the game outside the locker room when Bill Parcells was asked if he was coming back the following year.
I think about this story often. I think about whether it was fair to be angry at my roommate for a while after that. (It was. There were plenty of places they could have watched their movie. His behavior that night was a harbinger of what was to come...we no longer speak.) I think about how different things are in just over ten years - that night I listened to a tape in my walkman coming home....as I mentioned earlier the internet was a shadow of what it is now.
But mostly I remember thinking after the Jets went from 1-15 to 9-7 to 12-4 and the AFC Championship Game...Wait until next year. Next year will be the Super Bowl. It's the last step for the Jets. Then Vinny Testaverde tore his Achilles in the season opener and the Jets haven't been back to the AFC Championship Game until this year.
I was reminded of that simple fact in an e-mail from my cousin earlier this week - as much as I don't want to think this way, this could be the only time Mark Sanchez gets this close to a Super Bowl.
The Jets need to take advantage.
Some things haven't changed in the ten-plus years since this story took place. I still am pretty obsessive-compulsive about the way I watch sporting events (in fairness to my then-roommate...who probably never saw any fault in watching a movie in his dorm room on a Sunday night). I still am a rabid Jets fan. I still occasionally try to pull the ol' tape-the-game-and-avoid-human-contact trick. And I still will tape the AFC Championship Game.
Except this time I'll also be watching it live. And hopefully the Jets will win.
I'm doing my part to help by not buying the AFC Champions gear....yet.