We can all agree on this one, right?
2020 has stunk. It’s been brutal. It’s been miserable in any and all ways. Many of us have only recently been able to eat inside a restaurant for the first time since there was snow on the ground. We spend much of our days breathing through masks and living through old memories and snapshots of the way things used to be. We watch the evening news with one eye closed.
We watch baseball games with no fans, golf tournaments with no galleries, tennis matches with no atmosphere. There are cardboard cutouts in stadiums and digitized walls in the basketball arenas. It is one long, surreal megalopolis of weird. We are due a little good news. Hell, we are overdue for that.
This is where you come in, Jets.
This is where you come in, Giants.
Here’s all we need for you to do across the next four months: Surprise us. Thrill us. Make us apologize in December for the cynicism that fills our hearts in September. Give us a couple of seasons that we have no business hoping for, or even dreaming of. Give us something to rally around. Give us something we can cheer.
We aren’t going to get greedy, OK? We aren’t asking for a Subway Super Bowl, or whatever we would call it if the Jets and the Giants were each to qualify for Super Bowl LV, which sounds like it should take place somewhere on the Vegas strip, but will, in reality, be held at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium on Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021.
(Besides: why waste THAT extravaganza on the Big Game when there’s still a shot that February will be home to more spectator-free events?)
No, we won’t go that far. We aren’t delusional.
But how about we push the clock back to 1997. Remember? The Jets were coming off a 1-15 calamity. The Giants were fresh off 5-11 and 6-10 back-to-back. There was no reason to expect anything that year and instead we got everything that year.
We got the Jets in Year 1 under Bill Parcells in the playoff hunt until the very last quarter of the season, until old Leon Johnson cocked his arm back. We had the Giants win the NFC East at 10-5-1 under Gentleman Jim Fassel, and lead a playoff game at home until everything went to dust in the final minute.
Remember what that year felt like week after week, green and blue, the surprises randomly falling out of the sky like the best kind of hailstorm? And even as bad as things had been then, they weren’t as bad as they are now: the Giants are 12-46 the last three years, the Jets 21-43 the last four. There have been zero playoff wins between them since Super Bowl XLVI.
Little is expected from either this year.
Check that: Nothing is expected from either this year.
So change that. Surprise us. Adam Gase: Show us that you truly have been mischaracterized as an odd, aloof weirdo and that you really do think a couple of moves ahead of the pack. Joe Judge: Let those of us who champion your decision to treat football practice like football practice cheer the high bar you’ve set for your players.
Let’s see the foundation quarterbacks, Sam Darnold and Daniel Jones, do more than simply hint at a brighter future, let’s see them actually deliver a promising present. Let’s see a game-breaker of yesterday, Le’Veon Bell, have a renaissance and let’s keep the most exciting weapon in football, Saquon Barkley, healthy for 16 games.
(And, not incidentally, let’s keep everyone safe and upright and free from the damned virus from here to January too, OK?)
Yes, we know: The talent isn’t here yet. Bad things tend to happen more easily, and more regularly, than good. That explains why the Yankees’ season has more closely resembled a triage scene from M*A*S*H; and why the Mets’ season went off the rails about 15 minutes after the first pitch was delivered; and why the Rangers and Nets went 0-for-7 in their seven playoff games in the hockey and basketball bubbles.
But why can’t you channel the Islanders? Before sports shut down, the Isles were careening out of the playoffs. If anyone seemed like a candidate to be one-and-done it was Barry and Lou’s crew. And yet, out of the sky, out of nowhere, they authored something around which their fans could truly rally. The best sports stories, after all, are almost always the ones we don’t see coming.
We don’t see you coming, Jets; we don’t see you coming, Giants. Mostly what we see are two struggling franchises on wobbly knees. We want to be wrong about that, and what’s more: we need to be wrong.
Stun us. Startle us. Stagger us. Surprise us.