The end of the Jets ride
The Jet fans rolled in Friday night and set off fireworks of vibrancy. All of a sudden, Indy had a soundtrack of loud accents and raucous cheers. The streets filled with Kelly green and carousing buddies. Plenty of beer guts and gut-busting laughter.
The energy crescendoed on
Sunday with Jet tailgates surrounding Lucas Oil Stadium. The air smelled of grilled brats and
hangovers. The fans held their weary
livers and partied on. More green, more
cheers, more hugs with total strangers.
J-E-T-S, they shouted!!! Jets,
Jets, Jets!!! Kenny from
Victory wouldn't be theirs,
sadly. The team's confidence and early
lead faded and Peyton Manning did what Peyton Manning often does: assert
football dominance and win. When it was
all over, I felt as crestfallen for the team as I did for the fans, but the
sorrow didn't stick around long.
"Next year!" the Jet fans assured me, their green face paint
fading. "What a season, right?!!" they toasted, over beers at a
nearby pub. "We're resilient," one smiled. "To 2011,"
another cheered. "There's
time," a man gently promised his son, his arm slung around the boy's
shoulder "We're Jet fans. There's time." No fights, no riots, no meanness. "Ah, it's okay," Scott from
People become fans when they fall in love with a team. They learn the stats, remember the plays, and feel sincere admiration for the tough players, and the tremendous athleticism and grit it takes to play professional football. The season becomes a story line of emotional up's and down's and perseverance. A fan follows it all, invested to the end. Most of the Jet fans I met this past weekend have been following this team and its up and down story (often light on the "up's" and heavy on the "down's") for decades, and they've done so in their own inimitable winning way -- with optimism, reverence, acceptance, loyalty, and love.
I became a Jet fan this weekend, but not because I fell in love with the team. I fell in love with the fans.