My weekend was marked by the sneaking suspicion that I had lived it several times before. I do not refer to any of the principal components of my daily life, which took their usual twists and turns in direct proportion to the amount of alcohol I consumed. Rather, I am talking about the culmination of two narratives for which I sat in the passenger seat and carried no more than an observer status: the New York Jets squandering away yet another seemingly promising season and the launching of an Israeli military campaign in Gaza.
There are few teams in professional sports that are as painfully predictable as the Jets. Weeks ago, they sat at the head of their division after a spirited win against the previously undefeated Titans, a win that launched them to the top of many NFL power rankings and began a local media buzz about a potential "Subway Super Bowl." Jets fans knew better. We remembered A.J. Duhe and Doug Brien, all the interceptions and missed field goals, all the lost opportunities and unfulfilled dreams. When they were 8-3, did I know that their season would end yesterday at the Meadowlands? Probably not. But I also knew it wouldn't end five weeks from now in Tampa.
I often joke that, as Jets fans, we watch the games not so much to see whether they're going to lose, but rather to see how they're going to lose. Following a Jets season often feels like watching reruns of an old show on television -- you remember the episode's final outcome, but the details on how exactly it got there are a little fuzzy.
The only thing more predictable than a Jets football season is the ongoing saga that is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The extent to which each installment of this feud fits into the pattern of previous chapters make it almost as if the principal players involved are reading off a script. Here's what happens: Palestinian extremists will carry out continuous terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians; Israel will eventually feel like it is no longer able to sit idly by while its citizens are under attack and respond militarily; among those dead will be many innocent Palestinians; European countries will criticize Israel and the United Nations will draft a resolution singling out Israel for condemnation without mentioning the violence that prompted their reaction; the United States will veto this resolution; and we start again from the top.
But why do we expect different results? At last check, do you know who is currently the front runner to take over as the next Prime Minister of Israel in the upcoming elections? Benjamin Netanyahu. Yes, that Benjamin Netanyahu. Really? We're going down that road again? What comes next after he inevitably fails one more time? Round nine of Shimon Peres?
This endless cycle would be comical if it wasn't so real and serious. Israel's response to Hamas's attacks on Sderot was justified. That doesn't make it smart. (The same analysis can probably be applied to the settlement campaign.) It throws everyone back into the same old pattern and because we've seen it so many times before, we all know it ends: more dead Israelis and more dead Palestinians, a result that plays right into the hands of Israel's enemies.
The saddest part about this ongoing chronicle is that nobody has any real answers. The more I read and the more I think about the issues that underly the conflict, the more I become distraught at the notion that it's unsolvable. It's the kind of hopelessness that only a Jets fan could appreciate. Still, I'm not ready to give up. I have already been advised by several of my friends to either switch teams or stop following football. They argue that I can't allow this team to keep doing this to me. But I can't just give up. I don't have the answers, but I know that it starts by breaking the pattern and looking forward instead of looking back. Don't focus anymore on whether former head coach Eric Mangini or quarterback Brett Favre was more to blame for this season's collapse (or whether it was Israel's embargo of Gaza or Palestinian rocket attacks that prompted this latest spurt of violence.) Instead, focus on the future and how we can make decisions going forward that are smarter, wiser, and more practical. As I have said, I don't have the answers for the Jets' problems, but all I know is that when they form a list for a potential new head coach, Ehud Olmert and Benjamin Netanyahu's names better not be on it.