New York Jets

New York Jets

Oct 22
New York Jets

I admit it, I’m a New York Jets fan. A long, long, LONG suffering New York Jets fan. But what most people don’t know is that the team was originally chartered as the New York Titans. When the American Football League was incorporated in 1959, the New York City franchise was granted to Harry Wismer, a well known sports personality and broadcaster on the then active DuMont Television Network. Dumont made early attempts to bring football coverage to TV, but it failed and the network filed bankruptcy in 1954 (the same year I filed for a birth certificate). Rather an odd fate when you consider that today football games are among the most widely watched sporting events, or for that matter, any type of broadcast show, and the broadcast rights to EACH game alone bring in about $35,000,000 from the various networks.
Wismer wasn’t much better at business than had been DuMont and by 1962 the AFL had to assume the costs of operation to finish out the season. The AFL sold the franchise to a syndicate headed by Sonny Werblin whose success at TV and entertainment programming while at MCA earned him the nickname “Mr. Show Biz”. He later came to own Madison Square Garden and was a driving force on building the Meadowlands Sports Complex. The very first thing he did was rename the team from the New York Titans to the New York Jets. This made sense from several points of view. First, why keep the name of a failed enterprise. I was once advised never to name a business for your children because if it failed the name of the child would be a continuing nuisance. Second, Werblin moved the team from the decrepit Polo Grounds to the new Shea Stadium. As Shea is located on the roadway between what were at the time the only two airports serving New York City, La Guardia Airport and Kennedy Airport, and Jets were just arriving on the scene (the Boeing 707, the first true jet airliner, only entered service at the end of 1958) and had a strong cache’, it seemed a good choice.
But we still haven’t answered the original question, why were they named the Titans? For this you have to consider the genesis of the American Football League. The National Football League, which includes the New York Football Giants, spurned many applications for admittance to the successful league that it eventually occurred to Lamar Hunt that there were enough applicants to form a second and competing league. As an interesting side note, at the time of the founding of the National Football League, 1925, the New York baseball team was the Giants. I presume that the team took the same name as a way to “steal” a little of the cache’, and maybe attendees, of the well established New York Giants. This became moot when in 1957 the Giants moved to San Francisco, California. However, in order to differentiate themselves somewhat, the team incorporated as the New York Football Giants, and are referred to as such to this day (listen to the announcer at the beginning of a game). And in the interest of full disclosure, from a time I can’t even remember, my father took me to New York Football Giants games until I left for college. I only became a New York Jets fan around 1993 (but it has been a long and painful time to be a Jets fan).
Whereas the New York Football Giants wanted to be associated in people’s minds with the New York Giants baseball team, the new and competing football team wanted to contrast themselves to the established New York Football Giants. So once again, why Titans? To put it simply, Titans are greater than Giants. We all pretty much know what giants are; essentially they are monsters of human appearance but of prodigious size and strength. It is easy to see why that was a name for a team that would suggest success on the field. But giants are still essentially human. Titans are gods! In Greek mythology, the Titans were a race of powerful deities descended from Gaia (Earth) and Uranus (Sky) that ruled the Earth, were immortals, and had incredible strength and stamina. So being really big and strong makes for the name of a fearsome sports team, but it sure isn’t the same as being a god. In the words of Harry Wismer, “Titans are bigger and stronger than giants.”
One last note, if you ever wanted to field a third New York City based football team (as Donald Trump attempted in the 1980’s with the New Jersey Generals) I have a suggestion for a team name. The Titans, though immortal, did not survive and were eventually overthrown by a younger race of gods, the Olympians. What do you think of that idea, the New York Football Olympians?

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