Thursday, January 21, 2010

It's Destiny: The JETS will win

Steve Huba was my father. He died last January. He suffered a fatal heart attack. It was the alarmist barking of our family dog Pepper that woke my mother and made her come downstairs to the living room to find him. She said the second she saw him slumped in the chair, she knew. He’d made a cup of tea because he was having chest pains. He never took a sip. It was still warm when my mother touched a finger to it. He’d planned on going to the grocery store then watching the NFL’s wild card games. He was happy. He was 54.

There’s no justice in death and usually it lacks climatic value. It just happens. So you have to focus on the life that precedes it. My father was a blue collar, family man. He worked hard, second shift at the GE Plant on Anderson Drive in Albany. He drove just 2 different cars in 20-plus years: a rusted Ford Granada and a Dodge Dakota with a broken driver’s door. He had a beat-up motorboat that never ran right. In a world where everybody wants the flashy toy right now, Steve Huba’s working-hard-to-earn-it ethic was out of style. He was a man who could’ve driven a Cadillac with all the whistles if he wanted. He could’ve. But he didn’t. He worried about the grocery bill but would cough up his bank account to save his family from the slightest hardship. He smiled in every picture. 700-plus people went to his wake.

My father was a devoted Jets fan and season-ticket holder. A few times a year we’d make the drive down 87-South to East Rutherford, NJ to watch Gang Green. I liked the games, but I’m a Giants fan, so I always felt like I was at the wrong party. In the parking lot before Jets kickoff, we’d tailgate with hot dogs and burgers, maybe toss the pigskin. The men would drink Bud and smoke cigarettes. It was a world of old cars, and bearded, blue-collar guys in Jets hats and jerseys, those heavy, button-up flannels. It was a world of Steve Hubas. When the Jets scored, the whole stadium would chant (in waves) J-E-T-S: Jets! Jets! Jets! Most years they stunk, no real shot at the playoffs, and forget the Super Bowl. That was for the Giants, and their CEO-type fans. The Jets represented the working class, the guys that busted their butts to make an honest living, listened to Lynyrd Skynyrd, never got ahead. The Jets were seen as second class. After all, the stadium they played in was named after New York’s “white collar” team. But year after year we’d drive down 87, only to be disappointed with another “I can’t believe they blew it” moment. I remember the days of Kenny Interception, and Browning Nagle, and Rich Kotite. Every season would end with my father saying, “same ole Jets.” One week before my father died, his Jets missed the 08-09 playoffs after starting the season with an 8-3 record. Same ole Jets.

Now the NY Jets--with rookie QB and coach--are one win away from the most improbable Super Bowl trip in NFL history, while the Giants sit home with memories of their ‘07 run through destiny. Four weeks ago the Jets were dead, on the way to blowing it . . . again. Then destiny stepped in and here they are. The Bengals were just bad and the Chargers’ surefooted kicker botched three chipshots. And here they are: the J-E-T-S. I have no idea what that destiny is or what higher power Rex Ryan has at his disposal, but I can venture a guess. And now, if the Jets can conquer the same Colts franchise they stunned in Super Bowl III, 41 years ago, they will be a single win from being world champs. No longer New York’s little brother, the symbol of hardworking guys who never make it all the way. They'll be the team all others blue print for success. Great defense. Solid running game. Destiny. These are the new Jets.

Some may say this Super Bowl shot comes one year too late for my family’s interests. Maybe that’s how destiny works, especially if you’re a NY Jets fan. Either way, my guarantee is simple: The NY Jets will win Superbowl XLIV. First they will take down Peyton Manning then outmuscle the NFC champion. I know it the same way Joe Namath knew it in 1969, when my father was just 14.

And when they do, I, a diehard Giants fan, will celebrate my father’s victory. Then I’ll remember his old Jets sweatshirt and the Jets mug he always had with him. I’ll wish I had appreciated his blue-collar ethic when he was alive. I’ll be sad for letting a whole life slip away without him knowing how much I respected him. I’ll be sorry if some fool in a sharp suit ever looked down their nose at him. In a world where nobody wants to get their fingers dirty, I’ll know that Steve Huba, working class hero, will have the last laugh, because the team that represents guys like him will sit atop the NFL mountain, if only for a year. And because he wore that same old sweatshirt and drove that clunker-truck, his wife will never worry about money again. A family man till the end.

And even if the Jets don’t take the Lombardi Trophy, in so many ways they’ve already won, because nothing in life is more important than hope.


Brian Huba

1 comment:

  1. What a beautiful story of a wonderful man and his life, it would have been an honor to meet him. You are are loving, down to earth son. The JETS beat my chargers, when ever the JETS played (except against the chargers) I always rooted for them as I will be this weekend. When they win I will look up as I am sure you will and you will see your Dad smiling