by Paul Knepper
It hurts. Oh man does it hurt. I try to block it out by delving into a book or one of life’s many mundane daily activities, but every few minutes it pops up again.
I’m talking about the Jets loss to the Steelers in the AFC Championship Game on Sunday. Sometimes it’s the image of a certain play which creeps into my head, like Sanchez’s fumble and the ensuing touchdown late in the first half or L.T. getting stuffed at the one yard line on fourth down. Other times I’m overwhelmed by an existential thought, like there are only so many times in my life that the Jets will get that close to the Super Bowl again.
It’s not the thought itself that hurts. It’s what follows. Like Alex in A Clockwork Orange when exposed to violent images, a sick feeling comes over me. It’s difficult to describe, but every die hard fan knows what I mean. My stomach feels queasy and my knees get weak. My heart aches and the features on my face involuntarily scrunch together, like an addict jonesing for his next hit. I desperately want that feeling to disappear. I desperately want to forget.
But the reminders are everywhere. People talk about it around the water cooler at work. Some of my “friends” fan the flames with sarcastic comments. Other friends and family members attempt to be supportive by offering up a cliche like “It was a great season” or “They’ll be back next year” when all they’re really doing is feeding the sickness.
However, the greatest irritation is caused by the ubiquitous sports media. The Jets loss to the Steelers is the lead story in every local newspaper, national sports television and radio show and sports website. In order to truly avoid the sickness I must go into complete media deprivation mode. For a sports junkie like myself that’s easier said than done.
I typically start my day by watching Sportscenter and checking ESPN.com for any developments in the sports world since I went to sleep the night before. During the subway ride to work and several other times throughout the day I check Twitter to see what my favorite sports reporters and athletes are writing about. While walking from the subway to the office I pass several bodegas with the headlines of the New York Post, Daily News and New York Times prominently displayed in the window. Then I check ESPN.com and SI.com at least every half hour to see if there’s any breaking news. The first thing I do when I get home is watch PTI, usually followed by Sportscenter or another sports news program later in the evening.
By Wednesday it will appear as if the threats have died down, but I know better. A second wave of media attacks will be launched. Sports Illustrated hits the newsstands, its cover almost certain to include a shot from the Jets game. Inside the NFL and other weekly sports shows will bombard the airwaves. If I’m not careful I can fall victim to a near vomit inducing segment of Plays of the Week on Sportscenter a full week after the tragic loss.
Media deprivation mode requires significant changes to my daily routine. I stare at the ground as I walk down the street, overdose on CNN and crappy reality shows and start tweaking from a lack of tweeting. Before long I’m completely out of sorts, leaving me vulnerable to unwanted intrusions by virulent thoughts about Schottenheimer’s play calling and why the refs called a personal foul on Eric Smith, but not on James Harrison when he dove into Sanchez after Sanchez slid to the ground.
And like that the sickness is back. My eyes peeled wide open, vivid images of missed tackles and dropped passes thrust before them. And it hurts. Oh man does it hurt.