Jets head coach Rex Ryan (Photo: AP)
The Jets’ most faithful fans have grand plans to paint Cincinnati green on Saturday.
“After the game, we’ve planned to hit some of the local hot spots to celebrate our victory,” said an optimistic Justin Ciniello, 34, of the Upper East Side. “Jets fans are loyal, emotional, opinionated and hungry for a championship.”
The Jets haven’t won a championship since 1969, when they beat the Colts in the Super Bowl 16-7.
To witness Gang Green’s first-round playoff game against the Bengals in Ohio, Ciniello will take two flights and one car ride Saturday with hopes of arriving before kickoff.
The Jets’ journey has been similarly arduous for fans suffering years of late-season disappointments. This year has already exceeded expectations, partly because of the arrival of studly — but shaky — star quarterback Mark Sanchez.
“It’s been tough with a rookie quarterback, but we can easily make it to the AFC championship,” said Dan Winter, 25, who will make an 11-hour trek by car to Cincinnati, where the temperature will hover in the teens Saturday. “We’ll take it one week at a time.” On Thursday, the Floral Park resident’s prized “game jersey” was being dry-cleaned.
“He’s had his mistakes, like everyone else, but he’s made up for it, especially in the last two games,” Stephanie Lugo, 20, of Park Slope, said of Sanchez. “He’s just going to get better.” Lugo, a self-proclaimed Jets fan since birth, has been expressing her confidence in the team by drawing anime cartoons that she posts to their Facebook page.
Shawn Farash, who has attended Jets games since age 2, has also gotten creative in his support. The 18-year-old Hofstra student crafted a song about standout cornerback Darelle Revis to the tune of the “Gilligan’s Island” theme.
Jason Megna, of Staten Island, who also has been at every home game this season, opted to skip the road trip to avoid Bengal fans’ negativity. Instead, the 39-year-old will be leading the “J-E-T-S. Jets, Jets, Jets” chant at The Wild Goose bar. “We’d rather be around our own fans here in New York. I see what we do to visiting fans,” Megna said.
A victory would be bittersweet for team owner Woody Johnson, who is mourning the sudden death of his troubled 30-year-old daughter, Casey. “Nobody should have to bury their child,” Farash said. “Losing a football game is a lot easier than losing a family member.”
“Sure we have been pushed down — a lot — but we always get back up and keep pushing forward, that’s what Jets fans and NYers do,” said Ryan Striano, 27, a New York native who will travel from Philadelphia to Ohio for the Jets-Bengals faceoff.
No one may empathize with Striano’s declaration more than diehard Gang Green fan David Mitchell, 41, who moved from New York to Arizona for his health. Mitchell, a cancer survivor, has had his lung removed but now awaits a liver transplant.
He will be in the hospital for Saturday’s game, but still plans to go through the ritual of laying out his Jets jersey collection and asking all his family members to don one.
“They’re going to win this week and then they’re going to have to go play [the Chargers in] San Diego, which is only a six-hour ride from me,” predicted Mitchell, whose ordeal is detailed on DavidMitchellFund.com. “God, I’d love to go see them play San Diego.”