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GOING THE DISTANCE
"LIFE AND DEATH ON EVERY DOWN"
I can't explain it. It just is. Around 1993, David Snow (the editor of Iron Horse magazine) wanted to put my bike Mabel on the cover of Iron Horse magazine. I said, "Great." Snow then said that he wanted Rob Sager, the magazine's photographer, to take some shots on sunday. To that I replied, "Sorry, that's no good. Sundays are no good because Jets games are on on sundays...." Exasperated, Snow turned to his wife Shawn and said...."Ya see, this is what I get!" Such is the overpowering hold of football on its fans, and there went the chance for my everlovin' Harley 74 "Mabel," to pose her righteous self on an international magazine cover. We eventually put Timmy's Harley (Timmy worked the parts counter of Harley-Davidson of New York) on the cover. Timmy's a nice guy who when overwhelmed with having his bike on the cover of Iron Horse, said...."Only In America!" Timmy has since then rode off into the sunset out west.
There was a popular saying among bikers in the 1970s extolling our mysterious (to non-bikers) and unshakeable attachment to our Harleys, probably hyped beyond all recognition by t-shirts, that went something like this:
"IF WE HAVE TO EXPLAIN, THEN YOU WOULDN'T UNDERSTAND!"
That old platitude is equally applicable to football---real football, not the European variety also known as soccer---for it emphasizes the inexplicability of it all. Hey man, we can't explain it in rational terms, but then again, we can't explain why we ride in logical terms either. Football like motorcycles, is an emotional issue. It is indeed, life and death on every single down. This past weekend, The New York Jets played the Cleveland Browns when it seemed that the Jets had the win in hand with a touchdown advantage over the Browns with a minute and fifty-some odds seconds left to the end of the game. The only problem was, the vaunted Jets defense, one of the strongest in the NFL, allowed the Browns to march down the field to tie the game, thereby sending the game into overtime. Back and forth the Jets and Browns went, exchanging possessions. It seemed interminable, and was nerve-wracking. At one point about five minutes into overtime, my wife Patty said, "I can't take it! I'm taking the dog out for a walk!" When she returned 20 minutes later, believe it or not, the game's victory was still unresolved---the Jets and Browns were still going at it. The Jets won the game with mere seconds left, but talk about chewing one's nails down to the quick!
I've tried to succinctly understand this phenomenon of the ironfisted grip that sports exerts on its fans. Let me say this: If you truly want to vicariously experience the degree to which football fans will dedicate themselves their teams, pick up a copy of the flick, "Big Fan." The story is about a New York Giants fan who dedicates his time to calling radio sports shows every day, whether its from his booth as a parking garage attendant by day, or his bedroom by night. He spends hours scripting and rehearsing his comments to the station.
This fan is known on the shows as "Staten Island Paul," and is a quasi-local-celebrity because of his almost daily broadcast phone calls to the station.
Staten Island Paul gets into a heated war with a Philadelphia Eagles fan known as "Philadelphia Phil" who also calls this New York radio show routinely, that becomes so intense, that Staten Island Paul decides to travel to Phiiladelphia with a gun, to confront Philadelphia Phil. That's all I'm tellin ya. You'll have to pick up the flick to see how it ends.
My hypthothesis regarding the fanatical (that's where the term "fan" comes from) importance that sports fans place on their sports, is that it's a tribal thing. I believe that sports fans come together in spirit, with a collective rooting for heroes, the "heroes" being the players. The team's players represent us, and as our representatives for a certain ideal or philosophy, we want then to win for our ideals and philosophies. Is this really any different than when we want the representatives of our political parties to win, therefore elevating our ideals and philosophies of life and law, proving that we're "right" regarding our beliefs? I submit that it is one and the same thing. Look at the New York Jets as an example. The Jets' defensive philosophy is to be aggressive, to blitz a lot, as opposed to sitting back in a read and react zone system that is more laid back. Naturally, Jets fans also believe in this aggressive philosophy, and want the victories to vindicate our belief in this system. "We" believe in this attacking style, and winning justifies our faith in the system.
Winning is everything, baby.
This phenomenon of the instinct to win, is why we all tend to see the opposing team, political party, "other" car or motorcycle brand, as the "enemy." Like Vince Lombardi said, "If winning isn't everything, why do they keep score?"
Republicans are a tribe. As are Democrats. Tea Party adherents are a crossover tribe, the amorphous "Tea Party" being made up of Republicans, Democrats and independents (despite the leftwing media's attempts to broadbrush them as "conservative extremists")
who happen to believe in federal fiscal responsibility. Jets fans are a tribe. So are Cleveland Browns fans and New England Patriots fans. You get the idea. It is a natural human instinct for people to join collectives to pull in certain directions, whether it consists of a certain style of football defense, or particular governing goals. It doesn't matter what we're rappin about, because the instinct to win is strong, whatever the arena may be. Harley fanatics believe theirs is the best, screw the rest. Britbike fans can't see anything else but their Trumpets or Beezers. Chevy fans are Chevy fans for life, disdaining Blue Oval or Mopar fans. We're all tribes, man.
Loyalty in people is an indomitable attribute, whether that loyalty is brand loyalty to Harleys, or to Fords, or even camera brands. I have a strong streak of loyalty, having championed loyalty to Harley-Davidsons, Chevrolets and Nikon cameras for a lifetime. I have been true to this loyalty, as many of you readers know, just as I've been loyal to the New York Jets for a lifetime. For those of you who I have to explain all of this in explicit terms, hey man---you wouldn't understand. GO JETS! Later.