The Zionist Conspiracy
Sunday, February 10, 2008
Memories Of Shea - The New York Sack Exchange
Things were falling into place in November 1981. Baseball had come back in time for the Mets to finally fire Joe Torre, albeit after a decent second half in the strike split season. The Yankees had lost in the World Series. And the Jets were having by far their best year since 1969, the last time they had made the playoffs - or even had a winning record.
After a 4-12 season in 1980 and an 0-3 start in '81, irate fans were demanding the firing of head coach Walt Michaels. But the Jets finally started playing to their talent. Led by Richard Todd and Wesley Walker on offense and Mark Gastineau and Joe Klecko on defense, they were 7-4-1 following a thrilling 16-15 victory against the Dolphins.
After the win against the Dolphins, all week I excitedly looked forward to the next game, on November 29, 1981 against the hapless Colts, for which my father had gotten tickets from a friend.
At around 11:30 a.m., my father came to pick me up, telling my 4th grade rebbi (a man who seemed to hate children despite - or perhaps due to - having something like 14 of his own) that he was taking me to the game. Off we went to Shea Stadium via train.
Our seats were in the mezzanine, behind the end zone. It was very cold and windy. And nothing was like Shea on a cold windy day. As I believe it says in the Talmud, "those who have not experienced strong winter gusts at Shea Stadium have not experienced the wind at all."
After that experience, listening to people describe "windy" Giants Stadium is laughable. Sort of like when people from southern California complain when winter temperatures fall into the 40s.
At some point in the second quarter, I had to go to the bathroom. When I saw the enormous length of the line, I ran right back to my seat, and fortunately was able to hold out until the two-minute warning. I recall being amazed then at how long it took for those ahead of me to complete their task. I was also surprised that fans brought their beers with them and continued drinking them there while on line.
The game itself was a dominant Jets win, a rarity over the prior twelve seasons. Rookie Freeman McNeil scored his first two career touchdowns, while Gastineau and Klecko sacked Colts QB Bert Jones twice apiece.
Despite the cold, I did not want to leave, though my father finally insisted on going with the Jets up 25-0 with around six minutes left in the 4th quarter.
On the way out, and outside Shea, and also on the 7 train, there was a feeling of euphoria, with drunks and sobers joining together for the J-E-T-S chants. The Jets were 8-4-1!
Four weeks later was the Jets' infamous loss to the Buffalo Bills in the first round of the playoffs.
The following season, the Jets would reach the AFC Championship, but lost to the Dolphins. Afterward, those who had demanded the firing of Walt Michaels got what they had once wished for.
With Joe Walton at the helm, by the time '83 ended, the same old Jets were back. The euphoria was gone.
So, forever, was football at Shea Stadium.
None of that mattered on a cold day in late 1981, when Shea was the best place to be.