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Gristmill: Gang Green Blues

Thu, 03/23/2023 - 10:23
The program for the infamous Nov. 17, 1968, “Heidi” game, when NBC cut away from a thrilling N.F.L. finish to air a kids’ movie.

We interrupt the raging March Madness, its string of upsets eliciting no end of Little Rascals double takes, to wonder when the Good Grief Jets’ Aaron Rodgers waiting game will ever end.

To quote one of Loudon Wainwright III’s many trenchant tunes: “Mr. Ambivalent, / you don’t gain no ground / when you stay in one spot. / Mr. Ambivalent, / make a little movement / or get off of the pot.”

It’s been weeks of empty conjecture, of thuddingly repetitive news reports. Pity the poor “NFL RedZone” or ESPN “SportsCenter” devotee, which I do, as my own older brother is one.

“Hey, I’m getting mighty tired of the Aaron Rodgers Jets talk,” he writes from the coast. “Sure, I wouldn’t say no to a #12-led playoff run, but wouldn’t Lamar Jackson be a better option? Imagine last year’s team with him?” Meaning the hard-hitting D, a good young receiving corps.

I could try to picture it, the exciting, scrambling QB getting a better shake than he got from the Baltimore Ravens, but instead what I see when I close my eyes and dream of green — Gang Green, that is — is another New York-area team in thrall to celebrity, cheap attention-seeking, quick ratings, spending for spending’s sake. Because clearly no lessons were learned that last go-round, the one with another Packers castoff, Brett Favre, as the Jets’ signal-caller. He was here, he didn’t fit, then he was gone, back home to the Mississippi ranch, where one hopes the painkiller-yellow eventually drained from his eyeballs.

They say relationships are everything. They say this time will be different simply because of the presence of one man, Nathaniel Hackett, the Jets’ new offensive coordinator, who in that role helped Rodgers to two M.V.P. seasons in Green Bay.

A last hurrah at age 39?

“A-Rod,” my brother answers, “the darkness retreat, etc. Who needs the drama?” It’s true, he’s the most hangdog great athlete you’ll ever see. Then, with reluctance, “But if he’s gonna pull a Tom Brady-style Super Bowl run, sure.”

Just don’t hold your breath. By a wide margin, the Jets are now number-one on the list of the N.F.L.’s longest playoff droughts. Twelve years and counting. So, who’s responsible for the curse? Mark Sanchez and the Butt Fumble? Joe Namath and his knee brace? William Shea, ghost of the abandoned stadium?

Maybe that’s the lesson. Don’t mess with Queens.


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