Consider this your secular confessional, dear friends. Here is where you can come and admit to me, your humble columnist, that which you would have difficulty conceding anywhere else, to anyone else.
Here, you can come clean: you actually like “Tiger King.” A lot.
Here, you can spill your soul and acknowledge you know all the words to every song “Journey” ever recorded.
Here, you can acknowledge that, despite what everyone says, you actually liked “The Godfather, Part III,” and not just to hate-watch it.
And here … yes, you can come forward without fear of ridicule or reprisal and divulge that every year at this time, despite knowing better, despite understanding that predicting football games five and seven months in the future is a fool’s errand, and despite all the times you have made fun of your favorite talk-radio hosts for engaging in such folly …
Well, you do it, too.
Every year. Every single year.
Because of course you do. What’s more is, you do it a couple of times, in a couple of different ways. You play the pie-eyed optimist (“Hey, the 49ers’ body clocks will still be West Coast time!”) in order to forge your way to a 13-3 season for the Jets. Then you flip a switch and allow the dark clouds to hover overhead and let in all the pessimism you can muster (“Maybe we can steal one from the Bengals in Week 12 if Joe Burrow hasn’t become Johnny Unitas yet …”) in order to brace yourself for a 1-15 mess for the Giants.
Then you take a deep breath, go back, do it a third time, this time looking at things reasonably and rationally and responsibly, and judging by the emails I’ve received the past couple of days, judging by the responses and the reactions I saw littering Twitter and Facebook, everyone on both sides of the New York football aisle sort of comes to the same conclusion:
Which means that, just as quickly, two schools of thought immediately took over the football conversations of our fair town.
1. Maybe everybody should take just take a deeeeeeep breath and take their sweet time getting back to playing professional football in the calendar year 2020 …
2. Do we get to keep the same draft position if there’s no season?
OK. Now, I get it, the folks who make the NFL’s schedule really didn’t do either of our teams any favors, especially not early. The Giants’ first five games go thusly: Pittsburgh, at Chicago, 49ers, at Rams, at Dallas. I happen to think that screams “2-3.” Just about every Giants fan I know would sign up for 2-3 with blood. They see that and see 1-4. Maybe.
The Jets? Well, bad enough they start at Buffalo, home to the 49ers, at Indianapolis (As one noted radio host might have put it, “That’s a lawss … that’s a lawss … Dog, that’s a lawss …”), there’s a backloaded portion of the schedule that includes at Kansas City, at Seattle, and at the L.A. Rams.
There aren’t a lot of gimmes, is what we’re saying, unless the context is “Gimme the remote control and let’s watch another couple of ‘Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives’ instead of more godawful football.”
(One interesting thing about Schedule Day: the citizens of Buffalo, who are born to believe the sky is falling at all times, are almost uniformly delighted with the Bills’ schedule, even though it’s just about the same one the Jets have, only a little harder — Browns/Colts for the Jets instead of Steelers/Titans for the Bills. Maybe now is the time we adopted New York’s only geographically honest team — or at least their fans’ sanguinity.)
(UPDATE: Not a chance. Never mind)
So now begins a long, ominous wait, for both the go-ahead to greenlight the NFL season and for whatever lies beyond. I’d like to think that we are simply beaten down by a string of forgettable football seasons, that one of these years one of our teams will figure it out again, no matter what the strength-of-schedule metrics say, and surprise us. Hell, I think we’re due for that.
Of course, I can also belt out a full version of “Wheel in the Sky” — chorus, verses, bridge, with an air-guitar solo to boot — on demand. So there’s that.