There was Mark Gastineau's roughing the passer penalty in the fourth quarter that led to a blown 10-point lead in a playoff game in Cleveland. Then fumbles by Keith Byars, Curtis Martin and Dave Meggett helped erase a 10-0 lead in the 1999 AFC Championship game against Denver. Vinny Testaverde's Achilles gave out in the first quarter of the first game of the ensuing season, suffocating a season filled with hope. Most recently, Doug Brien missed two field goals during a playoff game in Pittsburgh in 2005 to drive a stake through the heart of New York Jets Fans.
The stories are familiar and painful to anyone who favors Gang Green. They also serve as constant reminders that no matter how good things look one moment, they can be reversed as quickly as Leon Washington breaks a long run. So reading stories about a New York-New York Super Bowl or hearing Cris Collinsworth say that the Jets are the best team in the AFC on Sunday Night Football tests the resolve of Jet fans.
There's ample evidence of their worthiness. Five straight victories, three in unforgiving road venues, and the complete dismantling of an undefeated Titans team make it hard to argue against including the Jets among the title contenders. Yet all across the area, one can imagine Jet fans with butterflies slam dancing in their stomach at the thought of people considering the Jets as a team to beat with the NFL season nearing its conclusion.
There are two prescriptions for dealing with this affliction. One is just to keep repeating to yourself that the Jets are 8-3, nothing more and nothing less. Good things have happened, so have some bad things. Keep focusing on the potential pitfalls, the ways that the Jets can still find a way to blow that thing. There's nothing wrong with that mindset, it's practically a prerequisite for Jet fandom, even if it tends toward joylessness.
The other way, which may be harder for some to pull off, is to just surrender yourself to the hype. The economy's in the dumper and its getting colder, so use the Jets as a salve for both good feelings and warmth. Focus on the good, the possibilities and forget about what happened in 1986 or 1999 or 2005 because it has nothing to do with what's happening right now. After all, if it doesn't work out you probably won't find yourself saying, "Gosh, I wish I had doubted the Jets a little bit more."