Who do you think are the hardest-core NFL fans? Raider Nation out in Oakland? Their owner, Al Davis says. "Just win, baby", and he doesn't appear to care much how. Those folks can get pretty rowdy. Pittsburgh Steeler fans have their "terrible towels", and up in Green Bay they wear cheese on their heads. Of course, in Green Bay, they don't have much else going on, but I always did wonder -- for a team that's supposedly owned by the fans -- who hires and fires the front-office personnel anyway? Beats me.
Yet you can combine all the above, liquor them up, and even give them some serious steroids, but there's one guy that puts them all to shame.
His name is Mel, and he's a close friend of mine. Yes, I know it's hard to believe, but I actually have a few friends. Mel and I first crossed pathes many years ago in, of all places, a campground just north of Daytona where we both found ourselves for Bike Week.
He was born in New York and got moved to southern California as a military brat. Mel did his own armed services stint where he got moved around a lot more, but eventually drifted back to NYC, got married, established a business, and settled down.
Mel became a hard-core Jets fan. He well remembers Joe "Willy" Namath, and not only his famous prediction that the Jets would beat Johnny Unitas and the mighty Colts, which as we all know happened, but also the flap about Namath wearing panty hose to stay warm.
Back to Daytona, same campground, the following year. Mel had this Harley that was unbelievable. You name the accessory or the piece of chrome that was available from Harley-Davidson, and that bike had it. Depending on the angle of the sun and which way you approached it, it could be blinding to look at. There were always bike contests that Mel would enter, and he'd always win a trophy. Near as I could figure, the judges must have worn welder helmets to even look at it.
Somwhere in that time frame, while Mel was going through more chrome polish than the rest of us were gasoline, he got tagged with the name Chrome Cowboy. I can't remember for sure if I'm the one that came up with it or not, but I was there. For any of Mel's friends that may read this, you now know his true identity.
Back to Brooklyn a few years later. Though he's seen a lot of years, coaches, and players come and go, Mel's even more entrenched as a Jet fan. The Big D involving marriage rears it's ugly head, so he retires and moves to Florida. At that, Mel still makes occasional pilgrimages back to his old neighborhood, but perhaps for different reasons than you might expect.
Having bounced around Florida here and there for a few years, you'd think Mel would forget about some NY team that actually plays in New Jersey, and develop a loyalty for a team closer to where he now lives. You would be wrong. He's even more hard-core. When the Jets beat the Cowboys on 9/11, I most definitely heard about it. There were the media accounts, and then there was Mel. He's still celebrating.
Rex Ryan is his hero, and he can't wait until playoff time for another crack at the Steelers, the Brady bunch up in Foxborough, Manning Schmanning, or whoever else gets in the way. Anybody coming out of the NFC doesn't matter. That's a mere formality in the Super Bowl.
Is he right? Hard to say. Here's what I know for sure ----
Like Jim Croce once sang ---
You don't tug on Superman's cape
You don't spit in the wind
You don't pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger, and
You don't mess around with........ Mel
At least not when the Jets are playing.
One last thing. Joe Namath didn't leave a lasting legacy with the panty hose bit. That came and went. However, if Mel were to prance around in them at certain locations we both know about in Florida during Bike Week, that would be forever. This is not recommended. Joe Willy lived through it. The Chrome Cowboy might not.
Love ya, bro.