With no talk about free agency, contract negotiations, or off season workouts, there is not much football talk going on. All people can do right now is discuss the draft in a few weeks and make their predictions. It reminds me of the book/movie “All Quiet On The Western Front”.
Every football fan looks forward to going to the games. Not just to see their favorite team, but to be with friends and family. It is a time to relax, have fun, and have experiences that will turn into memories. I am sure a lot of people are reflecting on some now, hoping there will be a season this year. If not, they will reflect on seasons past and the fun they had. For many Jet s fans, the memories are all we have the past 40 years.
Many of us reflect on previous seasons. Games we attended with our father, brother, mother, sister, grandfather, uncle, or other family members who may not be with us anymore. It did not matter how bad the game was, one would always find something good to remember about the day. Even if it was a bad game, there was something about it that made it a positive experience. Many talk about how much they hated Shea Stadium and Giants Stadium. But they will always mention how much fun those times were in those bad situations.
If you are like me, you recall games you attended with someone who passed away. I always think about my dad when I think about the Jets. Every time I went to a game without him and sat in Section 226 Row 8, Seats 7 and 8 in Giants Stadium, I would think about him. Walking around the new stadium while filming, I would thin about him and wonder what he would think about the new structure built for the financially elite. Sometimes I would talk aloud to him, as if he was walking next to me.
A funny story my dad would always tell me was about the time he was headed to the AFL Championship game between the Jets and Oakland Raiders. He was speeding and was pulled over. He was sitting in a line of a dozen cars that were pulled over, dead last behind them all. He was running late and wanted to be there by kick off. He calls an officer over and explains he knows he was speeding and deserves the ticket. He then explains to the officer why he was speeding and shows him the tickets to the game. The officer tells him to hold on and be patient. Less than five minutes later, the officer returns with the ticket and tells my father to leave. He left before the other cars pulled over did.
He was the type that would have looked at the new stadium in amazement. Amazed at all the technology that was put into it and laugh when I would have to explain the reasons why. He was the type that just liked to watch the game, not much else. He would follow the changes in the game, but laugh and smile at the tech advances that are interwoven into it. He would have been 76 today. Still feels like yesterday. Every time the football season begins I think of all those games we went to. I know some others who feel the same as I do.
While filming in the parking lot at Giants Stadium in 2008, I came across Tommy Wilson. Such a dedicated Jets fan he owned the license plates “JETS” & “12 JETS”. I later find out Jets owner Woody Johnson offered to buy the “JETS” plate from him. Always wearing his #12 Joe Namath jersey and always at the games, his personality and presence felt like my father’s. I guess that is why his story touches me even more than others I met while filming.
Tommy was honored in 2002 by the NFL and Visa Pro Football Hall for Fans. He wrote the winning essay as to why he should be the fan to represent the Jets in the Hall of Fans. He held 10 season tickets for close to 40 years. His restaurants was named after the lot he tailgated in, Lot 12A. A true “Super” Fan in my book.
There is more I can say about Tommy but do not want to give away his entire story. I went back to get a follow up in September of 2009 and he pushed it to another game. When I emailed him about it in early November of 2009, his wife Mary Lou informed me he passed away in early October. I was deeply saddened to hear the news. He had purchased several PSL’s too. Tommy lived and breathed the Jets, helped to pay for the new stadium, is in the Hall of Fans for the Jets, but yet was just another fan to the Jets organization.
I met up with his widow Mary Lou and her son Tommy Jr this past October. Mary Lou thought about giving up the seats after he passed but knew Tommy would not have wanted that. Last year was a hard season but this year was different. Once again, many people who used to tailgate with them at 13A were not there. Some did not get PSL’s, others did not have the right parking permits, while others feel it is not the same without Tommy. For the remainder of tailgating last year, it was very somber without Tommy. He was the nucleus that held that tailgate together. Tommy Jr. got a tattoo to remember his father, even though his father did not like tattoos.
Mary Lou and Tommy Jr. always reflect on their memories about Tommy. It makes them smile and feel good about being a Jet fan. Even with next season uncertain, they still reflect and always will. Tommy was one of those fans that made you feel good when he talked. I guess he holds a place in my heart because he reminded me of my own father. There is a strange connection to fans from a certain era in football. An era where it was about the game, not the politics.
Everyone knows the kind of fans I refer to. The ones where they smile when they talk about past seasons. When memories were about actions on the field, not battles in courts off the field. Older generations of fans seem to have this glow in their eyes. Where you do not mind listening to their stories. The kind where you can sit with a beer and listen for hours if you need a reason to smile.
Right now fans need a reason to smile. They need a reason to believe a season will happen this year. Many look forward to those home games, not just to tailgate, but to create memories with friends and family. 50% of ticket money was already due, PSL payment in several months. Do the Jets think the season will happen? But when a season looks like it may not happen, there is nothing to look forward to.
As it stands, all we can do is think ahead to a season that may or may not happen. We can reflect about the games we have all been to before. Many will talk about the past two seasons as they ended in trips to the AFC Championship game. Looking forward to a season where a Super Bowl could be in the Jets grasp for the first time n over 40 years. But all we can do is sit back and wait.
There may be no season. Then all we can do is reflect on the 2011 season that never was. How we all waited for players and owners to come to an agreement to end a lockout. Where the courts made the decision instead of the NFL. In 1987 at least there were some games played. Who knows what will happen this year.
Ahh, the memories.