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Heave-Ho

Warning: This story may gross you out at the conclusion. Consider yourself warned.

My vomit streak may not rival that of Jerry Seinfeld's, but I mark the last day I upchucked as a significant one in my history as a football fan.

On December 29, 2002 the Jets were in the final week of a multi-team AFC playoff mishmash involving the Patriots, Dolphins and Cleveland Browns, one caused by an awful loss against the Bears a few weeks earlier. The Jets were facing the Packers at the Meadowlands at 4pm but needed the right combination of results at 1pm to set up a scenario by which beating Green Bay would mean a postseason spot. It had been an exciting, up-and-down season, one in which Chad Pennington made his first impact on the New York sports scene, taking over as the team's starting quarterback early in the season and leading them to several impressive wins. My dad and I had gone to the Meadowlands a couple of times that season and he suggested we make another trip. I resisted, partly because while football games provide a fun atmosphere, they're not necessarily better to view in person.

"I think this will play out better if we watch it on tv," I told him.

Around noonish, I went across the street from my apartment for lunch at a pizza place. For some reason, rather than get a couple of slices, I ordered a chicken parm hero and washed it down with a bottle of Orange Gatorade. It was not a good mixture.

Basically the Jets needed either the Browns to lose to the Falcons, or the Dolphins to lose to the Patriots to render their game meaningful and those two games caused their share of gastric distress on their own.

The Browns led 10-0, trailed 16-10, then went ahead in the fourth quarter and cemented their lead with just under four minutes to play when William Green's touchdown run put them in front 24-16.

Meanwhile, the Dolphins were dominating. Ricky Williams, who rushed for 185 yards, ran for two first-half scores and Miami's lead was rather comfy at 14-0, 21-10, and 24-13 with just under five minutes to play.

Now with my health issues gradually worsening, I decided that desperate times called for desperate actions. I gathered myself together, grabbed the remote control and moved, from my computer desk to an area maybe 18 inches from my television set and stretched out. It was time to invoke the power of "The Spot."

I wrote a lengthy essay on this after the fact (I've also seen articles on the subject by Bill Simmons), but to summarize, "The Spot" can be defined as the place that a sportsfan rests or contorts his/her body to bring good luck to a team. There is limited movement allowed, except in cases of emergency. Being in the spot requires maximum concentration and positive energy. The location varies from house to house and moment to moment, but a true fan has an intuitive sense as to where it should be at a particular time. In this case, it was lying down 18 inches from my TV.

I don't have an exact timeline of the events of the day, but as I recall it went something like this.

The Falcons drove the ball to Cleveland's four-yard line with less than two minutes remaining. The Patriots started a drive as well, but were still two scores behind, so I harnessed my energy towards Cleveland.

Warrick Dunn rushed for three yards on first down (So far so good), so it seemed reasonable that with three shots, Atlanta would score and get a two-point conversion chance. Dunn got stopped at the line of scrimmage on second down (OK, I can live with that, more positive vibes coming), then stopped again at the line of scrimmage on third down (uh-oh), and then, amazingly stopped again at the line of scrimmage on fourth down (negative energy overflow causes stomach to churn violently). Browns win. This spot was batting .000, a sign that you're supposed to try another. The Jets options rested in Miami. My options rested 18 inches from the TV, as I was feeling both sportingly ill and humanly sick.

(switch to New England-Miami telecast)

The good news was that the Patriots drive was a successful one. Tom Brady threw a touchdown pass to Troy Brown, the two-point conversion was successful, so the Patriots trailed by only three points with 2:46 to play.

I'd like to think at this point that the power of my spot, combined with those of other Jets fans, sitting in their apartment, took over at this point, because the Dolphins went into all-time brainlock mode. First they misjudged New England's intentions on the kickoff, and Travis Minor watched a deep kick die down shy of the end zone. Travis Minor fielded it and got pummeled on his own four-yard line. Then, Dave Wannstedt decided that rather than hand the ball to Williams, who could have all but ended the game with a nice run or two, that the Dolphins would throw the ball. Two incompletions and a short quarterback run later, Miami was forced to punt and their subsequent kick was horrendous. New England got the ball back at the Dolphins 34. They barely had to move to get in field goal range and Adam Vinatieri was clutch, hitting from 43 yards out to tie the game with 1:09 left. The Dolphins conceded on their next possession, setting up overtime, which began right around the same time the Jets and Packers kicked off from the Meadowlands.

At this point, I'm ignoring every IM chime and focusing completely on the coin toss, fully believing in the value of "The Spot." If ever a game was won by a coin toss, it was this one. As soon as the coin landed, Tom Brady pumped his fist, and it was as if the Dolphins captains had just had their "deflate" button pushed. The Patriots got great field position when Miami's kickoff went out of bounds, and took advantage. A 20-yard pass from Brady to Kevin Faulk set up Vinatieri. This time his kic was true from 35 yards away and the Patriots had a miraculous walk-off victory. "The Spot" had worked its magic and now could safely be vacated, both as part of the ritual and for the good of my health.

(switch immediately to Jets telecast)

I have three really significant recollections of the Jets-Packers game that afternoon

1- The first words from FOX announcer Dick Stockton over a montage of pictures of Woody Johnson and other fans celebrating New England's win: "And now the Jets have everything to play for..."

2- The Jets could do no wrong in this game. Sometimes you just know that your team is going to win, kind of like how you know when you've picked out the best place for "The Spot." I've spoken to a lot of Mets fans who knew that the Mets were going to win Game 7 of the World Series. Once the Patriots beat the Dolphins, it was like a giant whoosh had come along and sprinkled victory dust along the members of Gang Green. Pennington threw for four touchdowns, two to Chrebet. Curtis Martin and LaMont Jordan each ran for a score. The defense played a near-perfect game, holding Brett Favre in check, other than one moment at the end of the first half in which a laser-like pass went for a touchdown.

3- At some point in the first quarter, I heaved, and gakked the chicken parm and Gatorade into a toilet bowl (sorry to gross you out, but I try to do so tastefully, and as part of the story). It was pretty awful. I've had two bad cases of food poisoning, one about seven or eight years ago, after eating some appetizers that had been sitting out on a tray at work for several hours, and this instance, which coincided with a case of pigskin hysteria. I watched most of this game between coughs, sniffles and gags, though I do recall making a trip to Wendy's for a baked potato (kids, don't try this at home). I did my best to disguise my woes. In fact, I don't think my parents ever became aware of it (until reading this entry).

The good news was that my suffering was not long-term and that since, I haven't had any such recurrences (I have limited my chicken parm and Gatorade intake). By Monday, I was fine and dandy, as were the Jets, who had a home playoff date with the Colts and the AFC East division title.

True Metchuck's know...Jerry Seinfeld's vomit streak is referenced in two episodes of his tv show- "The Masseuse" and "The Dinner Party." Seinfeld had one streak of eight years and another of more than 13. He notes that he threw up on June 29, 1972 and June 29, 1980 (exactly eight years apart, both on dates of Mets losses), and then after eating a stale black and white cookie in "The Dinner Party" (air date February 3, 1994) his streak comes to an inglorious end

Comments

Metstradamus said…
1994, Devils/Rangers...game 7. Went to a friend's house where the last minute of regulation was spent in front of the couch in the basement close to the television.

One Valeri Zelepukin goal later, I spent the intermission between the first OT at the pinball machine in the same basement.

Overtime number one was spent in a crevice between the back of the couch, the side of the love seat, and pinned behind me was the back wall. The Rangers carried play so I didn't move.

The next intermission was spent back at the pinball machine.

The second OT was back in the crevice...and the rest is history. Yes, I know all about "the spot".

And my wife even indulged during Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS, where she was on a spot on the couch until the Red Sox were up 8-3. Figuring it was safe, she went to sleep. But then when Pedro came in an almost blew it, I had to wake her up to get her back to "the spot". There were no problems from there on in.
Unknown said…
Ah, you've pointed out one of the great inconsistancies of the Seinfeld oeuvre. In both The Dinner Party and The Masseuse, Jerry says that his vomit streak started on June 29, 1980. However, in The Dog, which aired on 10/09/91, George and Elaine make fun of Jerry's mannerisms while vomiting. In the same conversation, Elaine says that she came to New York in 1986. It seems there was a forgotten "Heave-Ho."

Keep up the good work, love the blog.

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