Robert Saleh’s recent claim that New York Jets fans are “more invested” than Giants fans is a spot-on observation that’s tough to argue.
Somebody call Elon Musk and Stephanie McMahon. Get each on a Zoom meeting titled, “Robert Saleh‘s introduction.”
Musk, the genius whose companies have helped progress planet Earth, represents the best chance of time travel. McMahon, Vince’s daughter who currently serves as WWE’s Chief Brand Officer, would have no problem lassoing Saleh into the Attitude Era mix.
— Jets X-Factor (@jetsxfactor) January 15, 2021
Why not? Saleh, 41, projects every look required to battle with the big boys of the late 1990s. Carrying around that bald dome and well-put-together physique, the only thing to hammer down is his finisher.
The Saleh Stunner, perhaps? The Saleh-plex, maybe?
Everything else is on point. Take his mic sills as Exhibit A. The rookie head coach didn’t waver in his first big-boy press conference a couple of Thursdays ago. He laid down the “All Gas, No Brake” mantra like a pro, thus throwing New York Jets fandom into a full-blown tizzy.
His most recent promo decided to include the Jets’ unofficial rivals, the New York Giants. (Yes, the term “rivals” here is loose-fitting.)
“The fanbase is so passionate … ” Saleh said of Jets fans while on the Huddle & Flow podcast with Steve Wyche and Jim Trotter Friday. “We always make fun of Michigan for kind of being more the uppity-ups, sit on your hands, where the Spartan fans are a little bit more rambunctious, a little bit more passionate, a little bit more … they’re louder.
“When we’ve played the Jets in the past versus the Giants—no disrespect to them, (as) they’re absolutely a phenomenal franchise—but the Jets’ fanbase feels more invested … in the way they are just so passionate about their team.”
Cue the shattering glass. (What?!)
The idea of the starving, rabid fanbase is as old as anything in our modern sports landscape. And the starving fanbase usually equals the more invested. (That is, of course, unless you’re a Jacksonville Jaguars fan living in a college football town that never shows up for its professional sports teams.)
When thinking about which Super Bowl party would be nuttiest, it’s tough to find a fanbase that would surpass the Jets.
Giants fans are some of the most loyal in New York. In fact, it’s been said frequently that Giants and New York Rangers fans are the two groups that show up no matter what. It’s tough to find a large percentage of fair-weathered individuals in either of those two segments.
But investment is another thing entirely.
Rewind the clock to 1994. The Rangers, seeking their first Stanley Cup since 1940, produced mayhem the city had never before seen. This Canadian thing called hockey was simply a backdrop. Mark Messier, Brian Leetch, Adam Graves and Mike Richter took center stage in a way that put their fans through hell.
Only the starving fanbase could possibly be this invested in the outcome of every moment. Stephane Matteau’s double-overtime winner in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final nearly brought Madison Square Garden’s roof down.
Ask any New York Yankees fan which World Series is his or her favorite from the 1990s dynasty. In spite of the 1998 team’s dominance, the resounding answer will be 1996.
Again, it’s about starvation. It’s starvation that leads to investment. It’s about the downtrodden quietly building character en route to dreams and hopes on the extremely-hidden other side.
The way Yankee Stadium reacted, in unison, when Joe Girardi drove home Game 6’s first run, is something that cannot be duplicated.
Or how about Don Mattingly’s postseason home run the prior year?
Nobody can convince me that Yankees fans were more invested than New York Mets fans during the fall of 2000. The Yanks and their fans, seeking their third-straight championship, viewed the Mets as more of a nuisance than an opportunity at the time. Joe Torre has since revealed the extra pressure the Subway Series put on the great Yanks dynasty. Instead of celebration, Torre and the Bombers let out a great sigh of relief.
The Mets, on the other hand, were thirsty. It was their moment for the taking, a singular series that would flip the script entirely. While no Yankees fan intentionally took his or her foot off the gas, human nature simply makes a little relenting a fact of life.
Nobody could convince me that the Yankee fan in 2001 was more invested than the very same fan five years prior. Sure, the miracle late-inning home runs against Byung-hyun Kim were nearly other-worldly, and the 9/11 timing upped the ante, but pound for pound, the first one is always the most revered. The first one always produces the most hysteria.
Imagine a world that witnesses the Jets emerging as Super Bowl champions. After all the suffering, the name-calling and laughingstock fallacies, that one moment is something incredibly tough to duplicate.
Think back to the Philadelphia Eagles championship a few years ago. Now that’s a party New England Patriots fans couldn’t dare dream of duplicating save for the first Super Bowl stunner against the St. Louis Rams.
Sadly, MetLife Stadium, New Yankee Stadium and Citi Field don’t offer up the same rabid climate its predecessors did. The conveniences of today’s technologically-driven world have been combined with the pricing out of the diehard fan. Even Madison Square Garden couldn’t dare duplicate the sights and sounds of a John Amirante National Anthem these days.
Our sports world has drastically changed over the last couple of decades. What never changes is the passion that’s brought when the starving fan feeds off hope.
A decade of miserable football, the wrong individuals running the show and a league status that leads to misconceptions is what Jets fans have been forced to deal with—all while Eli Manning and the Giants added another Super Bowl to the trophy case.
The hope that surrounds World Tag Team champions Joe Douglas and Robert Saleh has the New York Jets fanbase teed up to perfection. Giants fans are tremendous and steady. They’ve also been a bit spoiled at times, and routinely eating well leads to lethargic attitudes.
By the way, ask any older Giants fan which Super Bowl is his or her favorite. I bet the majority will label the 1986 team as the winner. And remember, the Giants fan went through hell the two decades prior to those 1980s teams, leading to an incredible investment on their part.
In the end, the New York Jets fan continues to battle his and her way to the adult table at Thanksgiving, and once they get there, nothing will ever be the same and the investment we currently speak of will need to be revisited.
Yes, Robert Saleh is right: The Jets fan, the younger, character-driven individual who’s enjoyed some highs and plenty of lows, all while waiting patiently since 1968, is more invested than the big-brother Giants fan.
They have simply been put through too much crap to turn away now.
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