The Jets, the Cowboys, and 9/11

When the New York Jets open their season at home against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, September 11th 2011 at 8:20 PM, it will be exactly 10 years, 11 hours and 34 minutes after the first plane hit the north tower. You couldn’t ask for a bigger deal.

The Jets franchise is going all out to commemorate the anniversary. Rex Ryan and the Jets feel the pressure. There is plenty. They have to win.

First, we Jets fans want them to win for the obvious reasons. It’s the first game of the season. We want to come out strong and smart. We want them to establish themselves early on. We want to be 1-0 instead of 0-1.

And then of course, we want them to win because it’s against the Cowboys. “America’s Team.” Uh, if by “America” they mean “Dallas and only Dallas.” Does anyone outside of Dallas like the Cowboys? Yeah, there’s that oddball here or there that’s a Cowboys fan, but nobody else roots for Dallas if they can get away with it. Sure, Jets fans don’t have the same hatred for the Cowboys as Giants fans, but most of us prefer the Cowboys don’t win.

Then there’s the rest of it.

It’s been a long, hard ten years since that miserable day in New York. Life’s gone on. We’re rebuilding. We’ll never forget. And as news of more threats bubbles up ahead of the 9/11 anniversary, we hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and look forward to this game.

If you look at the papers, the internet, and the rest of the coverage, a Jets victory has come to symbolize everything New York has had to conquer in the last decade. It’s somehow become tied to the resilience and perseverance of New Yorkers and their neighbors in New Jersey and Connecticut, the bravery of its first responders, the triumph and resurgence of a city that has, hopefully, seen its darkest days come and go. As new buildings take their form at Ground Zero, it’s a “phoenix rises from the ashes” story. The Empire State – an empire brought to its knees, but never beaten.

It’s an emotional day for the people who live in this area. And the Jets have to win, because on that day, the idea of losing, the idea of that kind of emotional letdown is just unacceptable.

On Sunday, the Jets should get to be America’s team. New York should get to win, just because on 9/11 we shouldn’t have to lose.

If Dallas does win, well, New York will get over it. New York has gotten over bigger, more important things. Still, the only people who should be rooting against the Jets on Sunday are Cowboys fans.

Ha! That’s a pipe dream. Other people will be pulling for Dallas too, for any number of reasons. New England fans will be rooting against the Jets. Anybody who thinks the Jets talk too much and are too cocky will probably be rooting against them. Anybody who bet money against the Jets will not be pulling for them.

But the fact that other people will not be cheering for the Jets is a good thing. It’s living proof that as much as things have changed in New York and in America during these last ten years, that much is still the same. After all this time and all this hardship, we can still root for or against any team we want without guilt. We can still enjoy something as normal as a football game, and that’s a comforting thought.

Let’s go Jets.

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