Better Late Than Never

Never in a million years would I think that with all the events that took place this season, I’d be on a plane to go watch the New York Jets play in the AFC divisional round of the playoffs.  Most fans of any other team wouldn’t see it as a big deal, but having suffered with this team for years on end, it’s something to be excited about.

To say that this season has been like taking an emotional ride on a rollercoaster is an understatement.  I haven’t remembered a season that has played and tugged on every emotion it possibly could in a long time.  This year has been different from the very start. 

The typical year of a Jets fan starts around February, when every few years we get to hear who the new coaching staff is (I’m hoping this cycle has come to an end for awhile).  This year’s sense of hope started the very day Rex Ryan was named head coach.  This was a guy football fans knew and loved.  I still remember his press conference after taking the position.  I couldn’t wait to see what this defensive mastermind could do to help my team. 

Before you know it April comes around.  Draft day is always stressful – you either leave Radio City Music Hall feeling hopeful or cursing the team yet again.  Drafting Mark Sanchez this year only added to the excitement across Jet Nation.   As the spring came, players start getting traded, being added to the roster.   Jim Leonhard, Bart Scott – little by little this Jets team was starting to shape up on paper to be the team we always knew it could be. 

It only got better from there.   From mini camp came rumors of how powerful and physical this defense could be.  At training camp the worries of Thomas Jones and Leon Washington not participating were settled, Mark Sanchez was named the starting QB and there was absolutely nothing to be pessimistic about this season.  I remember feeling that for once – everything was falling into place for the Jets and wow it felt good.

We all know the ups and downs that occurred once the season started.   Looking back on it now, I don’t fault any Jets fan for “drinking the Green Kool-Aid”.  This team was something to be excited for, it had been a long time since decisions were made that made sense and made you feel like this team really was taking shape to be successful.

Excitement or angst, anger or doubt, betrayal or hope, you name it I felt it this season.  Week to week I didn’t know what to hope for anymore. If you recall, I decided to stop caring about my emotions, stop analyzing why these things happen to the Jets and to just roll with the punches.

Well here we are.  The last few weeks have made me prouder than ever to be a Jets fan.  I’ve told many people I could really get used to this.  It’s made me start to wonder if maybe the bad luck that has haunted this organization for so long is finally gone?   I’ve always been a fan that avoids using the cowardly term “Same Old Jets”.   It pleased me to ponder, has it finally made its last appearance?  

I want to believe more than anything that this team has made a 360.  That something clicked, a light bulb went off and they get it now.  But has it really?  Tomorrow’s game against the San Diego Chargers will answer that question for me, and I’m prepared to accept the reality either way.  That change I saw back in April and May is finally showing itself now; it just took a few months to happen.  2009 has been the year for change in more ways than one.  Better late than never right? 

There’s nothing more I like than to witness the Jets win tomorrow and play for the AFC Championship.  Should tomorrow be their last game I think I will still walk away pleased.  The Jets have proven to me this year that they are capable of winning.  They’ve shown us the potential the team has and let us see the talent we all knew was there. 

As a fellow fan, my only words of advice would be to not jump too far ahead yet.  Take each win one at a time this post season and enjoy it, cherish it and remember it because we know they are hard to come by.  Let that excitement that usually only comes mid-spring to start a little earlier this year.  This team finally has all the missing pieces it needs. 

While it has been a rollercoaster ride of a season, it’s been a great one.  I’d get back in line for more in a heartbeat.

After all, it just makes these milestones and wins are that much sweeter.