You have to hand it to Woody Johnson, Mike Tannenbaum, Eric Mangini and the rest of the management team of the New York Jets. Imagine their dilemma: They run a team that has broken the hearts of fans for 40 years, they play in a stadium that bears the name of their in-town rivals, the Giants—who, in case you hadn’t heard, won the Super Bowl earlier this year—and they’re spending hundreds of millions of dollars to build a new stadium that they’ll share with the Giants.
Going into training camp for the 2008-09 season, the Jets were a team in serious need of a big-time shot in the arm. Their long-suffering fans presumably are going to have to purchase personal seat licenses—extra fees attached to the cost of season tickets—beginning in 2010, when the new stadium in the Meadowlands opens. The Jets, seemingly doomed to play the role of annoying little brother to the better-established Giants, needed to give their fans a reason to believe, and a reason to pay big bucks to keep their season tickets.
So the team went out and made a trade for one of the most accomplished quarterbacks in National Football League history. With the arrival of quarterback Brett Favre, the longtime leader of the Green Bay Packers, the Jets have become one of the NFL’s darlings, a team with realistic playoff expectations.
Mr. Favre’s arrival in New York the other day inspired a full-scale media circus, demonstrating yet again why world-class athletes aspire, or ought to aspire, to play in the New York market. Mayor Michael Bloomberg invited Mr. Favre to City Hall for a press conference and a photo op. Mr. Favre has stared down blitzing cornerbacks and hard-charging linemen, but as he stood alongside the mayor in City Hall, he looked just a little overwhelmed, in a charming sort of way.
Jets’ fans seemed similarly overwhelmed, and why not? They’ve come to expect the worst from their team, and now, incredibly, they will find themselves cheering for one of the league’s living icons. There’s more than a little gray in Mr. Favre’s beard, and Giants’ fans know that he’s capable of throwing ill-advised passes at crucial moments, but still: His arrival is the best thing to happen to the Jets since a brash kid from Beaver Falls, Pa., found his way to Broadway back in the mid-1960s. His name was Joe Namath, and he took the team to its only NFL championship.
It would be unfair to expect similar heroics from Mr. Favre. Frankly, his best football is behind him. Nevertheless, there’s no question that the Jets have become instant contenders, and have made just the right move to counter the success of their big brothers, the Giants. Football fans around the country will be watching the Jets closely all year. Mr. Favre promises to bring drama and excitement to a team badly in need of both.
What’s more, Jets fans have reason for hope, which has been a scarce commodity in Jet-land in recent years. Brett’s Jets figure to be a great New York story.