When talking about your history of being a fan of the Jets, many on the outside would joke there have been tons of embarrassing moments as a Jets fan.
That is not very realistic, and playing in the media capital of the world, the few big negative moments have been blown out of proportion.
Of course, if you are looking for a really obvious moment, one in the recent past generally pops up if you speak about an embarrassing moment.
That of course, is the “Butt Fumble”, orchestrated by Mark Sanchez and Brandon Moore. But really, that is a physical action of a really bad play. Did it suck? I think we know that after 48 weeks of it playing in a loop on ESPN. But was I embarrassed as a Jets fan? Not any more than the fact that my team was bad in 2012.
No, my most embarrassing moment came against the Patriots, but 5 years prior, with a different embattled quarterback, and a different devastating year.
It was September 9, 2007. The Jets, once again, were on the receiving end of a Patriots scoreboard beating. Chad Pennington, coming off a playoff season in 2006, had a typically good Pennington efficient game – 16/21, 167 yards, 2 touchdowns, and no interceptions. It had not been an explosive game for the offense, as the running game only produced 57 yards, but one that you could hardly pin on the veteran QB.
And then I heard it, watching the game from a seat in the upper-deck of Giants Stadium not too far from where I saw Pennington clinch the AFC East crown just 5 years prior. Pennington had rolled his ankle and it looked bad. As yet another possible injury on Chad’s career of them, I was worried and upset.
Apparently I was in the minority.
What came from the crowd was shocking. It was not just one person, or a few, or a couple hundred, but what had to be a significant portion of the crown cheering Pennington’s injury.
No doubt frustrated by years of having an injury-prone quarterback, or living under the [overly cynical] view of being one of the NFL’s worst teams, or being on the losing end of a heated rivalry, the fans had turned on their quarterback – one who had actually had a history of success for them.
I sat in the crowd more puzzled at the time than angry. Yes, there had been rumblings after a good preseason that the team and a groundswell of fans wanted to see what 2nd round pick Kellen Clemens could do. He, after all, had an NFL arm! No more soft passes or a lack of a deep game, we could have a prototypical QB for the Jets!
All of that manifested in what happened in the crowd: A fan base looking for a different hope, seeing an opportunity and expressing it in all the wrong ways. On the CBS broadcast, Jim Nantz even questioned what the fans were thinking. Columnists, like Mike Freeman in that previous link, thought he should have gone even further in the criticism.
Do I think there was evil in the fans’ hearts? No. Frustration can lead to weird reactions. But seeing my fan base cheer an injury to a player who had given them so much, not just felt thankless, but also plain mean.
It was a low point. One that has been repeated in some ways recently, but a rare moment of unpleasantly from one of the most dedicated and supportive fan bases in the NFL.
This is not all meant to be some glowing praise of my actions or some holier-than-thou writing. For as many people as may take my opinion, there are going to be just as many who think I am being soft.
But I bring this up because just like the players and teams we root for, fans can make mistakes. It is not an excuse, but rather an explanation for a terrible moment.
And another terrible moment happened last Sunday in Houston. Matt Schaub, coming off an NFL record 4th game with an interception returned for a touchdown, got injured and had to leave the game.
The Texans fans cheered.
As what happens in these occasions, his teammates, including his backup T.J. Yates, came from Schaub’s defense. Even the media went after fans, which is not surprising when the choice is either coming out against taunting your own injured player, or being nice, but still was noticeable for the wrath taken against the fan base.
Again, human reaction and emotion made a bad decision. Do we forget what happened? No. Do we learn from it and hopefully forgive? Definitely.
Whether it is from karma of the backup instantly throwing a record-increasing 5th “Pick-6” in a row, or reflection, Texans fans, just like Jets fan, and fans of most teams that have ever committed this mistake will learn and get better.
As humans, we have a long-standing relationship with types of entertainment that derive from a Gladiator mentality. From literal Gladiators fighting against animals in the Colosseum of Rome, to certain fans of NASCAR who root for crashes, to football and fantasy football fans who look at players as objects of entertainment and gain for their franchises, we too often remove the human factor from those that play our sports. High-paying contracts and bad results often end in us taking it out fairly or unfairly on those who came up short. The internet, and its freeing nature of opinion have made certain aspects of sports ruthless against the players.
It is hard to dictate behavior of fans, after all, we all have different opinions of what is right and wrong. But for the mutual benefit of both sides, we should all hope that the next time something like this happens, we are able to take a moment of pause and remember some sanity in a game.
After all, we are all human, and mistakes can be made just as easy in the crowd as on the field we watch each Sunday.