It's been almost two weeks since my beloved New York Jets failed to close the deal in the AFC championship game, falling one Sunday shy of the Super Bowl for the second straight year.
In the normal progression of grief, I would say that I am anywhere between bargaining and acceptance, with a strong possibility that I may still be lingering in denial. Actually, who are we kidding? I've been lingering there for a good portion of two decades.
I'm not just talking about the Jets, either. To complete the trifecta of mediocrity, my allegiances also lie with the New York Knicks and the New York Mets, franchises that have made it their goal to emotionally decimate their fans. Not since 1986, when the Mets beat the Boston Red Sox in the World Series, has a championship trophy been hoisted by one of my teams. Meaning anyone under the age of 25, myself included, has no clue what it feels like to win … anything.
Unless you remain solely loyal to the Buffalo Bills or the Buffalo Sabres, or God forbid you have any ties to Cleveland, Ohio, literally nothing can be worse than being a 21-year-old Jets, Mets and Knicks fan.
I was five years old when Patrick Ewing's finger roll failed to go in against the Indiana Pacers in game seven of the NBA Eastern Conference semi-finals, and a nine-year-old the last time the phrases, "Knicks" and "NBA finals" were used in conjunction with one another. Since then, the Knicks have been more irrelevant than a pair of Starbury shoes.
In my lifetime, the Mets have also supplied more than their share of heartache, starting with the Subway Series in 2000. They promptly choked away that chance for a championship in Game One when outfielder Timo Pérez decided to put his hand in the air and trot around the bases following a deep fly ball by first baseman Todd Zeile. Pérez was then thrown out at home plate, trashing all momentum. The Mets went on to lose the series in five gut-wrenching games to their cross-town rival, the New York Yankees. Reflecting back, being killed in a post-Y2K apocalypse may have been more enjoyable.
Redemption seemed to be at our fingertips six years later when the Mets stormed into the playoffs, winning 97 games and the National League East title. Returning to the World Series seemed all but destiny after outfielder Endy Chavez's miracle catch. However, after a ninth inning home run by Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina and a wicked curveball by his teammate Adam Wainwright, the Mets were on the outside looking in once again.
Nothing, however, can compare to the anguish of the following season when, with 17 games to play, the Mets relinquished a seven-game lead to the Phillies, missing the playoffs all together. The collapse, which eerily repeated itself to a lesser degree in 2008, was one of the single most painful moments of my life. Imagine for a second waking up on the morning of your wedding only to find that your fiancée killed your dog before taking off on your honeymoon with the best man. Well, now you know how I felt – almost.
Then there are the Jets, who along with Chad Pennington's noodle arm, a pair of Doug Brien missed field goals and now two straight AFC championship game losses, have helped to make my life as a sports fan somewhat less than enjoyable.
To complicate things, and what I really mean is make them infinitely worse, I have the privilege of co-existing in a city with the Yankees and Giants: two organizations that have been blessed beyond what they deserve and have fanbases who, for all intents and purposes, represent a collection of people who wouldn't recognize disappointment if it greeted them with a roundhouse kick to the face. The 2004 American League Championship Series only slightly makes up for that.
Believe it or not, there is a bright side to this horror story because every once and awhile the stars do align and somehow, some way the Jets, Mets and Knicks win. Although these years are anomalies, the laws of probability suggest that they are bound to happen again, someday.
The feelings associated with winning a championship remain a mystery to me, but I know that winning one will almost certainly make up for a lifetime of suffering in vain. Until then, I'll just have to "wait 'til next year."
At least that's what I keep telling myself.