Giants, Jets futility has reached a very sad place
This is why there is so much diversity among football fans of my generation, why among New York-area kids who grew up in the 1970s there isn’t nearly as much solidarity as there ought to be. It isn’t this way with other sports, and with reason.
In the ’70s, you could hold your head up high as either a Mets fan (they were NL champs in 1973 and competitive every year from 1970-76) or a Yankees fan (starting in ’76, they became the modern Yankees as we know them). You could be proud of wearing your Knicks sweatshirt (NBA champs in ’70 and ’73) or waving your Nets banner (ABA titlists in ’74 and ’76). You might still be starving as a Rangers fan, but you’d been to the Stanley Cup final in 1972 and knocked on the door most years. The Islanders were ascendant.
But in football?
The Jets were awful. The Giants were worse. It wasn’t just that both teams were hapless, they were hopeless: there was no end in sight for the misery. Both teams went 0-for-the-1970s in terms of playoff appearances. Think about that. And other than the 1970 Giants who went 9-5, neither team was ever even “in the hunt” late in a season.
It was awful. Relentlessly awful.
“I would go to school,” John Mara told me once, “and I would see kids wearing Cowboys and Steelers and Dolphins wool-knit caps and it would make me physically nauseous. It would’ve been bad enough if they were wearing a Joe Namath shirt. But at least that was New York.”
A whole generation of New York football kids sought other teams: those three, and the Raiders, too, and maybe a few Rams exiles after Joe Willie went there.
How bad was it?
From 1970 through 1980, this was the Giants’ average record: 5-10 (the league jumped from 14 to 16 games in 1978).
From 1970 through 1980, this was the Jets’ average record: 5-10.
And it was worse than that, of course, because while the Jets were enjoying their one spasm of prosperity in the late 1960s, capped by a win in Super Bowl III, the Giants were finishing off a six-year stretch, in which they went 30-51-3, that included both a one-win team and a two-win team. In all, the Giants went 18 years — 1963-81 — outside the playoffs.
For those who didn’t seek outside comfort from Snake Stabler and Jack Lambert, Roger Staubach and Larry Csonka, those bad old days always served as a perspective-builder. The Giants ultimately won four Super Bowls. The Jets have been to four AFC Championship games since 1982. Good times emerged from the bad. You could look back at those years and chuckle.
But they don’t seem so funny now.
Because nothing about New York is funny now.
Because every week, the Jets and the Giants try to one-up each other with misery. Every week, Jets fans and Giants fans try to find relative solace in the fact that as bad as our guys are, their guys were even worse.
Never was the slapstick greater than last Sunday when, over the course of six perfectly gruesome hours, the Giants lost 36-9 to the 49ers’ scrubs and the Jets lost 36-7 to the Colts, two shockingly similar thrashings that perfectly summarize where we are in New York football right now.
Jets fans have had their solo say in the days after that disgrace against the Broncos on Thursday night, and that may well have been the last impediment on the way to 0-16. But Giants fans will get their turn Sunday, when Big Blue not only has to travel to Los Angeles, but gets to play a Rams team that is going to be in a salty mood after the way they lost their game in Buffalo last week.
Maybe this isn’t quite as bad as the days of arguing about who was better, Al Woodall or Norm Snead … no, let’s not even pretend. It’s every bit as bad as that. It’s why even New Yorkers who may be more inclined to root for famine and pestilence than the Yankees probably want to see them extend the baseball season as far as it can go.
Hockey is done. Who knows when the NBA is coming back. No, once the Yankees are eliminated, all we’ll have to occupy our attention between now and January are the Jets and the Giants.
Seriously, who did we tick off to suffer that fate?
After enduring the endless babble of Alex Rodriguez and Matt Vasgersian for four games across two series, it was sheer heaven listening to Boog Sciambi and Chipper Jones do the Cubs-Marlins series. It was like experiencing an entirely different sport. I think Chipper might even be growing on Mets fans!
For the record: Adam Gase may be executing a genuine trainwreck as the Jets’ head coach this year. But Gregg Williams has been even worse at his job. That defense is a disgrace on about 15 different levels.
Worth your time: Our old friend and rival Gary Myers is writing and hosting a 12-episode podcast called “The G.O.A.T: Tom Brady” in conjunction with iHeart Radio and Diversion Podcasts. The first two parts drop Monday.
After months of binge-watching one series after another, anyone else get an odd, empty feeling after watching the first two episodes of “Fargo” knowing you now had to wait a whole week for episode 3?
Whack Back at Vac
Tony Diaz: I am a Rays fan here in Tampa. There is no doubt that the Yankees are a much better offensive team. The Rays are just more opportunistic. I don’t believe the Rays should be the favorites. If the Rays pitching is not close to perfect, the Yankees will win.
Vac: I think that’s fair. I also think it’s going to be a wildly entertaining series, no matter who emerges with their season intact.
Bruce Welsch: If my math is right, Mr. Cohen, after spending $2.5 billion on the Mets, should have about $12 billion left over. That should be more than enough to buy the Jets from Johnson and Johnson, the football version of the Wilpons.
Vac: Any chance we can allocate a few shillings for the Knicks, too?
@CouchPotatoCop: Pro Football recently returned to Los Angeles. Any guess on when it will return to New York?
@MikeVacc: Ladies and gentlemen … the greatest Whack Back at Vac of all time.
Michael Gijanto: They ain’t making ’em like Henrik anymore! Kids, no matter what sport they play, could see what it means to be a true professional. Long live The King!
Vac: Put him up on the Sad Rushmore alongside Patrick Ewing, Don Mattingly and David Wright, local icons who never won a ring but will always be beloved.
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