by Jeff Neal
January 12, 1969. I was 8 years old and ended that day on top of the world. My favorite football team, the New York Jets, had shocked the experts and won Super Bowl III.
That was 45 long — very long — years ago.
And still I wait for the ecstasy of that day to return.
You see, being a Jets fan has been trying to say the least. As we head toward Super Bowl 48 (I can’t even do Roman numerals that high, for goodness sakes), I’m still waiting on the Big Green to return to the Big Show.
Oh sure, we’ve flirted with greatness.
A year after winning the Super Bowl, the Jets made their final postseason appearance in the Joe Namath era and lost a heart-breaking AFL playoff game to the eventual world champion Kansas City Chiefs.
The Jets didn’t see another playoff game until 1981, when they lost a gut-wrenching wildcard game to the Buffalo Bills. (Somewhere Bills fan extradonaire Jon Burlew is smiling).
In the strike-truncated 1982 season, we were one game away from the Super Bowl, after pulling off upsets of Cincinnati and the Raiders in the AFC ”tournament.” But in the finale, the Dolphins beat the Jets in a monsoon at the Orange Bowl.
You get the idea. The ‘70s, ‘80s and most of the ‘90s were wrought with frustration.
We got a taste of hope when Bill Parcells came in to coach the Jets and led them to the AFC championship in 1998.
But we lost.
More disappointment ensued.
Then current coach Rex Ryan came aboard and there were two straight trips to the AFC title game.
And two more losses.
And for the last three years, we have been utterly mediocre.
Which has been par for the course for most of the last 45 years.
So why am I still a Jets fan?
Perhaps the loyalty was etched on this day, 45 years ago.
You see, I was told by everyone that Namath and the Jets had no chance against the awe-inspiring Baltimore Colts. My dad was kind ... “Don’t expect too much,” he would say.
But I believed. And as it turned out, Namath and the Jets were magical.
So whenever I get discouraged — either at the Jets, or even sometimes in day to day life — I think of the courage and determination it took for those 21-point underdogs to topple the Colts on Jan, 12, 1969.
Sometimes we can beat the odds and set the world on its ear.
Broadway Joe did it.
And, for one, I have confidence that one of these days I’ll be able to smile again on Super Bowl Sunday.
Even if it takes awhile.