It was as plain on the face of a disheartened and flabbergasted Tom Brady as he stood, helmet on head, contemplating exactly what had just transpired in Foxboro:
This is the greatest day of my life.
Following the Jets dramatic, seemingly improbable victory over the Patriots last night in the AFC divisional round, I could not think of a better way to celebrate than doing so in typical American fashion: by typing and entering the above statement as my Facebook status.
Now, considering the 8,552 days I had lived up until yesterday, my statement might come off as bold and irrational. Surely there were several moments in my life that were greater, like when my mother first agreed to let my brother and I have an XBOX, but in my experience as a New York sports fan, there can be no question: This is, in fact, the greatest day of my life.
Within minutes of posting my controversial status, I had my first human reaction to it in comment form, written by none other than my roommate’s girlfriend, a New England fan.
“Dislike,” it read.
As the evening progressed, more and more comments amassed on my wall, most of which sang the same tune as the first, having been posted by Patriots fans. There were, however, a number of people who “liked” my status to offset the haters (even Deion Branch might have called them classless), but the dislikes kept flowing in.
As I write this article, there are 10 comments written underneath my original status. All but three are dislikes or some nuance of that.
And of the those three, only one isn’t an inside joke about my current fantasy hockey league.
The one outlying comment that gave me serious pause was one written by a good high school friend of mine. A fellow Yankees fan that rooted for the football Giants, he challenged my status with the following blurb: “Better than the Yanks winning the series? Aaron Boone home run in 03?” It was a good question, and one that could only be answered with the help of another Jets fan like myself.
Teaching English to elementary students in Spain for the current year means that I am six hours ahead of everyone on the East Coast of the United States. Sunday’s game started at 10:30 p.m., and by the time I left one of Granada’s finest Irish pubs, it was nearly 2:30 a.m.
I can’t remember feeling more excitement, elation or pure happiness with the end result of a sporting event in quite some time.
Riding the high of both victory and Guinness, I first made an expensive phone call to my brother in the United States from my cell phone and celebrated ebulliently, albeit briefly, as most of the neighborhood around me slept. When I returned home to my apartment, I sifted through my mobile’s contact list and from the most wonderful invention in recent memory—the Gmail phone, which allows free calls to the USA—punched in the digits of every single Jets fan I came across.
The answer to my friend’s question was looming.
Another one of my high school friends was the first Jets fan other than my brother to answer his phone. We talked—sorry, blared—uncontrollably about Mark Sanchez’s ever-bourgeoning brilliance, Santonio Holmes’ perfect paws, Rex Ryan’s rapturous run, but above all, about what we both valued most: the New York Jets, and how in the world they (finally) managed to beat the New England Patriots in the playoffs.
After the jubilant soundoff that lasted for at least 10 minutes, I posed the question to my friend, who also happened to be a Yankees fan: Was this, in fact, the greatest day of my life as a New York sports fan?
I brought up the World Series win back in ’96, and the three-peat that ensued from ’98 to ’00. And, of course, I brought up Boone’s walkoff bomb that put a smile on my face that would have lit up the Manhattan skyline and destroyed Boston hearts one more time.
Was Sunday night’s emphatic win over the Patriots better than all of those indelible pinstripe memories? My friend’s answer couldn’t have been more accurate:
“Of course it’s better, dude! The Yankees ALWAYS win! The Jets NEVER win!”
It’s a rarity to be both a Yankees and a Jets fan, as the former typically goes hand-in-hand with rooting for the Giants, the latter with rooting for the Mets. It was this anomaly that I became back in 1997 when, after 56 long years, my late father, brought on by incompetent team management, a myriad of blown leads and the infuriating Dave Brown, audaciously switched allegiances from the Giants to the Jets, who had just signed Bill Parcells as the team’s head coach.
My Jets fandom, of course, quickly followed suit.
I’ve been that anomaly for almost 15 years now, and while it’s been the closest thing to a bed of roses rooting for the Yankees since then with an occasional Red Sox World Series victory to swallow, the Jets side of the equation has been far from that.
As is true for most franchises, there have been numerous memorable moments along the way; there were the successful Testaverde years of the late 90s; winning the division on the last game of the season back in 2002 to keep the Patriots (and Dolphins) out of the playoffs; and last year’s amazing run that nearly saw them reach the Super Bowl.
But for each one of those fond memories of the Jets, there was a Super Bowl victory for the Patriots. And if it wasn’t that, it was a superior record, a division crown or a longer march in January.
Yes, the Patriots-Jets rivalry all those years (and perhaps before Sunday, especially after the 45-3 whipping New York received six weeks ago) could have been likened to that of a bully and a nerd. Growing up in New England only made matters worse.
Even when the Giants stunned the world by handing New England their first loss of the season a few years ago in Super Bowl XLII, I let envy get the best of me and wondered if a day like this would ever come for the Jets, allegedly New York’s second most popular football team.
On Sunday night, it finally did.
Another friend and ardent Patriots/Red Sox fan whose comment I can throw under the “dislike” umbrella, posted: “win the championship or it means nothing. You told me this after the Sox knocked off the Yankees in '04. I don’t think your team goal was to make the AFC championship this year.”
While I don’t remember saying that, I probably did in a heated moment of disbelief, frustration and anger. I can only assume that my friend was experiencing similar feelings Sunday night, and retaliated cleverly.
The only problem is, he’s wrong.
The Jets may not win the Super Bowl. Heck, they may not even beat the Steelers in Sunday’s AFC Championship Game. But one thing is for certain: They finally beat the New England Patriots when it counted the most.
In the playoffs.
In front of their fans.
And they did it their own way: backing up the talk, and walking the walk.
So in honest reality, no matter what happens to the Jets from here on out is just icing on the cake, and I remember feeling similarly about the Yankees after Boone’s ’03 walkoff (they lost to the Marlins in the World Series that same year, by the way, but Yankees fans don’t seem to remember that or more importantly, care).
But will I be disappointed if the Jets lose in Pittsburgh six days from now? Of course. And will I be even more disillusioned if they fall in the Super Bowl? No question. But what happened Sunday night in Foxboro will forever live in the minds and hearts of Jets fans alike across the country for years to come. It was a special victory, and it’s something not even New England fans can ever take away from us. It may mean nothing to some teams if they don’t win the whole thing, but rest assured, for Jets fans at least, Sunday night’s victory over the Patriots meant (and still means) everything.
To close out the night I phoned another high school buddy of mine, the same friend with whom I watched the ’04 Doug Brien debacle against Pittsburgh.
“Hey man, it’s Chris,” I started to leave on his voicemail, “We did it.”
I hung up the phone immediately wearing one of the most satisfied grins I think I’ve ever produced. It really was the greatest day of my life.