“If you’re honest,” Lon Chaney’s character, former marshal Martin Howe, tells Gary Cooper’s Will Kane in “High Noon,” “you’re poor your whole life, and in the end you wind up dying all alone on some dirty street. For what? For nothing. For a tin star.”
Well, I’ll earn my tin star here, Jets fans.
I’m going to be brutally honest with you. Emphasis on the brutal:
The next four weeks are going to be awful. Unbearable. That might describe life as a sports fan in general as we walk with trepidation through “COVID: The Sequel,” but as with most things Jets fans will bear the brunt of the bad stuff. The next four weeks will be gruesome. Grisly. Hideous. Horrible.
But you must endure them. Look at it as a four-week obstacle course. You get a three-week tour through Florida’s highs (Tampa), lows (Jacksonville) and middlers (Miami), then get to trek to Buffalo where, in Week 18, maybe there’ll be a fine ice storm, blizzard or squall to put a fine dusting on things. Close your eyes and grind through it.
Because after that, as of the morning of Monday, Jan. 10?
Then you can exhale. Then you can start to feel like a real football fan again. Yes, yes: The playoffs will go on without you for an 11th straight year, and the only rooting interest you’ll have is hoping against hope that we don’t get sentenced to a Brady-Belichick Super Bowl (and we all know how that’s going to turn out).
But that’s extraneous. As of Jan. 10, you can start to look to the future again, and you can do it without keeping a hand over one eye and another covering three-quarters of the other one.
You can look forward to the draft, where the Jets are sure to have two of the top-10 picks (if not two of the top seven; thank you, Jamal Adams) and four in the first two rounds. A team can get healthy in a hurry that way.
You can look forward to free agency, in which the Jets will have around $50 million to start plugging holes and upgrading talent. A team can get healthy in a hurry that way, too.
You can look forward to an offseason when Zach Wilson will have a season of experiences, both good and bad, under his belt. Perhaps Mekhi Becton can get beyond his injury and hit the reset button on his career. Carl Lawson ought to be fully healed by summer, and with luck will pick up where he left off when he hurt his Achilles in Green Bay in August.
Yes, there are a lot of words like “hope” and “luck” and “ought,” but that’s the case with every team. But it beats the dark-cloud misery that followed the team this year, that has shadowed it in every second since the Steelers’ goal-line stand in Pittsburgh a decade ago, when the Jets were that close to the Super Bowl.
The Jets never get those kinds of breaks?
Yeah. Well. Not long ago, neither did the Chiefs. Neither did the Buccaneers. Neither did the Patriots. Neither did the Cardinals. Neither did the Browns, nor the Bengals, nor the Chargers. Once upon a time neither did the Steelers, Packers nor Seahawks.
Until they did, to various degrees.
That’s the hard part, sure. GM Joe Douglas’ track record conducting this football orchestra is, to be kind, spotty. But this offseason, from the moment he dealt Adams, was the one he was pointing to. This is the offseason that was always going to define him, for better or worse. That offseason is just four weeks away.
That offseason will go a long way toward writing the chapters of a lot of men presently employed by the New York Jets. It will go a long way toward changing the narrative come next Dec. 19, when there the despair must be replaced by different conversations, when at the least the Jets are a mainstay in the “In the Hunt” portion of the playoff picture presented every game. Those are fair hopes. Those are fair expectations.
You just need to grind your way through MiamiJacksonvilleTampaBuffalo.
You can do that standing on your head. Can’t you?