Meanwhile, at stately Johnson Manor ….
It’s Christmas Eve and the halls are decked, a hearty fire is crackling, the nog has been egged, the tree is trimmed, and CJ is sitting in the main hall amid a huge pile of wrapped gifts. He is picking up each box, shaking it, and listening carefully. His faithful manservant Mountbank enters, and gives a little cough.
CJ [startled, tosses gift back into the pile]: I wasn’t peeking for a PS5, Santa! I was a jolly good boyyy—ohhh Mountbank, it’s you! What the dickens? You gave me quite the fright!
Mountbank: Apologies, sir. Although I’m sure Saint Nicholas is well aware of your behavior this year.
CJ: Fingers crossed! Although to be frank, the holiday is missing a bit of its luster, what with Woodrow still across the pond and my beloved, my shining light, my Doris quarantined at the Seasons in Vail with her kin. And then, such the random happenstance—Jeff Bezos. Gads! My angel never spoke of it previously, but apparently those two are quite the old chums! Like yachts in a slip, evidently.
Mountbank [under breath]: Well, someone is getting slipped something …
CJ: Eh, what’s what? Speak up, man!
Mountbank: Sorry, sir. I was just agreeing that with Ms. Doris away, it’ll be a quiet holiday.
CJ: Too true, too true. Looks it’ll just be you and I rattling around this venerable old mausoleum, eh Mounty?
Mountbank: Uh, about that, sir. I was hoping to have the rest of the evening off to spend with the old battle ax and chain, Miss Marmalade. Virtually, of course! Appears she’s got something extra special for me to unwrap, involving feather and leather—
CJ: Ah! My peepers, man! Even just trying to not picture that congress has all but sapped my vision. But you keep Christmas in your way, and I’ll keep it in mine, and we’ll not speak of it again. Just return by daybreak so I can dispense with my goodies. Oh, and Mountbank, did you … uh … take care of those special arrangements?
Mountbank: Of course, sir—I’ve put out the cookies and milk, as always!
Mountbank: And the carrots, yes. Wouldn’t dream of forgetting, sir.
CJ [rubbing hands together]: Splendid, splendid! Have to make sure to take care of those who take care of you, right? Oh, speaking of—a little extra treat in your pay stocking this year, eh?
Mountbank: Yes, sir. Can never have enough Band-Aids. So much more . . . thoughtful than a cash bonus.
CJ: Called Gorsky myself to have him pick them out of the warehouse. Don’t mention it, old boy!
Mountbank [under breath]: I wasn’t going to. [louder] Uh, if we’re all set here, sir, I’d like to call it an evening.
CJ: Call what an evening?
Mountbank [sighing]: I’d like to retire for the night, sir, if that’s okay.
CJ: Oh, right! Just a little jocularity. Don’t tarry a moment longer. I’ll just be here, all by my loneso—
Mountbank [turning and calling back over his shoulder as he dashes out the door]: Thank you, sir!
Mountbank departs quickly and CJ is left alone amid the presents under the tree. He sighs, shakes one more gift, and then sighs again. He abandons the gifts, leaves the great hall, and trudges toward his bedroom suite, head down and muttering. When he gets to his bedroom door, he goes to grab the knob. A familiar face momentarily appears on it before it disappears.
CJ [shaking head]: Pooh! T’was a trick of the light!
Nonetheless, CJ quickly ducks into the room, closes the door behind him, and on second thought, locks it and props up a chair against it. Secured, he gets into his favorite silk FDR footie pajamas, brushes his teeth, and finally crawls into bed. Just as he’s settling in, a familiar voice echoes in the night air.
Voice: Chriiistopher …..
CJ [looking around]: M-m-mounty? D-d-doris? W-w-woodrow?
Voice: Chriiiiiiistopher …..
A spectral figure takes shape in the gloom before him and slowly begins to approach him.
CJ: How now? What do you want with me? Stay back!
Spirit: Chriiistopher …. You can’t avoid me! The time has come!
CJ [pulling the sheets over his head]: You can’t get me! Everyone knows monsters can’t get through Brooklinen heathered cashmere, so begone! Scat! Away with you, dreadful apparition! Nanny nanny boo boo!
Spirit: Uh, Christopher … it doesn’t work like that.
The spirit reaches out, takes the end of the covers, and yanks them off. CJ sits up with a start, and puts his hands over his eyes.
Spirit: Christopher … I mean you no harm! I’m here to save you and your beloved NFL franchise!
CJ: I have an NFL franchise?
Spirit [sighing]: Your footballer squad! The New York Jettsetters, remember?
CJ [finally peeks through fingers] Oh yes, that—wait! [sits upright]. B-b-bibsy?! Is that you?!
Bibbsy’s Ghost: In life, I was your man down at the club! You know me, convivial as a vicar on an Easter Sunday morning and twice as trustworthy, that me! Entitled, I walked with my eyes down and oblivious to the plight of Jets fans, never raising a hand to help end their misery.
CJ: In life? Oh my stars and garters, what is this humbug? Dear fellow, you gave me quite a start! How did you get here?! When did you expire? And didn’t you appear a bit different last go round? Black sweater vest, prodigious gut, No. 6 footballer tattoo, et all?
Bibbsy’s Ghost [whispering]: That wasn’t canon, just a casting stunt for the Thanksgiving holiday spectacular. Work with me here, Christopher! And for the purposes of this tale, I recently died in a tragic kiln accident. [louder] At this time of year, Jets fans suffer most from your continual and needlessly cruel oblivion. I’m here to warn you so that they have yet a chance to escape the most terrible of fates.
CJ: Warn me? Why in the name of John Jacob Astor should I care about them? I’m rich as f#ck!
Bibby’s Ghost: You will be haunted this night by three spirits!
CJ: I think I’d rather not!
Bibby’s Ghost: Too late, no take backs! You will be haunted in the hope that you will shun the path I chose and will show mercy to those who need it most so as to save your own damned soul. Expect the first specter when the bell tolls midnight!
CJ: Sorry old boy, midnight is not good for me! I’ll have my secretary—
Bibby’s Ghost [shrieking as the wailing and gnashing of teeth of countless departed Jets fans suddenly fills the room]: REPENT CHRISTOPHER! AND REMEMBER WHAT HAS PASSED BETWEEN US!
CJ starts to scream, but just like that, the room goes dark and he’s alone again in his bed. He mops his brow with a monogrammed kerchief, and shakes his head.
CJ: A nightmare, that’s all. Hah! Must’ve been the salmon mousse, that’s all. All a dream. I mean, Bibbsy worried about the hoi polloi? Really. Puh-lease!
CJ waves away the vision, but is troubled and struggles to fall asleep, one eye on the grandfather clock across from his bed. Just as he dozes off, however, the hour strikes midnight.
Voice: Hey man, wake up! Time to get this party started! Let’s go!
CJ [groggily rubs at eyes]: Who … what … GADS!
Standing at the end of his bed is a blazing bright phantom with brown wavy hair and a fu manchu, clad in a classic green No. 12 jersey, a long white fur coat, and pantyhose. His arms are draped around the shoulders of two nubile young stewardesses with pixie cuts and short flower mini dresses.
CJ: Heavens! Are you the first spirit whose coming was foretold to me?
First spirit: I am the Ghost of Jets Past! I’m here to see to your welfare, and the welfare of Jets fans everywhere! Now rise, and party with us!
CJ: Party? Why didn’t you say so! Now that’s a haunting I’m on board with!
CJ hops out of bed, but as his feet touch the floor, the room suddenly swirls into myriad visions …
The Ghost of Jets Past: Ah man, those were the days! The New York Jets—
The Ghost of Jets Past [sighing]: Your footballer squad, the New York Jetsetters! We were on top of the world, the toast of Broadway, the kings of the city, NFL champions! All-night parties, wild clubbing, booze and broads, Johnnie Walker red and blondes aplenty, endorsements, money, and more fun than you could shake a cheerleader at!
CJ: Brilliant! Sounds like my days at Choate!
The Ghost of Jets Past: Yeah man, it was a gas! But like all good things, it finally came to end.
CJ: Say it ain’t so! What happened?
The Ghost of Jets Past: Too much partying, too many distractions—and the biggest sin of all—too many losses. In the NFL, when you lose, your fans and all that comes with it—the ladies, the accolades, the ladies, the money, the ladies—all disappear quick.
CJ: Too much partying? Surely that’s just humbug. No such thing!
The Ghost of Jets Past: Yeah man, we went from too much partying to none at all. And then everything else just—
CJ: NO MORE PARTIES?!
The Ghost of Jets Past: Uh, yeah. We tumbled off the back page and into anonymity, became yesterday’s news and forgotten heroes who weren’t invited to the parties. The fans left us in droves as well because we lost focus on the game and forgot to take care of business.
CJ: Spirit! Remove me from this time when there were no more parties. I cannot participate. I cannot bear it any longer!
The Ghost of Jets Past: Hey man, I’m not sure you’re taking away the right message here.
CJ: Leave me! Take me back. Haunt me no longer!
The Ghost of Jets Past: As you wish.
The visions of Jets glory of old fades and CJ is back in his bed. The Ghost of Jets Past is standing at the end of his bed.
The Ghost of Jets Past: Hey man, I know you’re still trying to process this and the lesson here, but remember that you will be visited by another spirit shortly.
CJ: Eh, what? Ding dangit! This somnambulant sojourn is going to continue?
The Ghost of Jets Past [raises index finger as he fades away]: I guarantee it!
CJ is alone in his bed again.
CJ: Odds bodkins, what a phantasm! It beggars the mind! So glad it was but a figment of my imagination.
Random voice: Right? It’s totally crazy. Why would anyone stick around here?
CJ nearly jumps out of his skin as another spectral figure begins to apparate in his boudoir. As the shadow takes form, he can see this one is an athletically built giant of color with a neatly clipped goatee, long multi hued dreds, a black bandana, and a green No. 57 jersey. He’s holding a torch made of burning hundred dollar bills.
Spirit: I am the Ghost of Jets Present. Look upon me! You have never seen the like of me before.
CJ: Of course I have! I may have led a privileged life, but I am working to be waked! Just ask my acquaintance, Franklin Gore. He can vouch that—
The Ghost of Jets Present: Quiet! I wasn’t talking about the color of my skin! I’m talking about being a wraith who haunts the cursed and forgotten realms of the current world.
CJ: Cursed and forgotten realms? You mean, like leveraged ETFs and the Garment District?
The Ghost of Jets Present: Uh, not quite. I meant the places, physical and metaphysical, associated with the New York Jets!
CJ: Who now?
The Ghost of Jets Present [sighing]: Really? Still? Your footballer squad, you vapid elite! The Jetsetters! Just touch my jersey, and I’ll show you!
CJ: Hold up! Why are you asking for consent?
The Ghost of Jets Present: Now I remember why I opted out of this mess. Let’s just go!
The room swirls once again, and when it clears, they are standing in the general manager’s office at One Jets Drive. A stout man is sitting alone at his desk, scrolling through scouting reports and nipping from a flask.
CJ: Hey, that’s the general maven of my footballer squad, Jordan. [shouts] I say, old bean, tally ho!
The Ghost of Jets Present: He can’t hear you—we are just shadows in this world, although what you see unfolds this very night.
CJ: But he’s burning the midnight oil the very Eve of Christmas? Santa won’t come if he dallies with the clock.
The Ghost of Jets Present: Uhh, yeah. He’s working nearly around the clock, attempting to right the fate of your footballer squad.
CJ: My footballer squad? Why? I heard that they recently had one of the most memorable wins in franchise history. Surely, all must be going well?
The Ghost of Jets Present: Wow, you are dumber than a box of spats. Observe!
The ringing of a Zoom call interrupts JD’s research. He looks at the source, hides the flask, and answers.
JD’s family [on computer screen]: Hi Daddy! Are you still there at the office? It’s Christmas Eve. Come home and celebrate with us!
JD: Sorry kids, I guess the night got away from me. Just so focused on fixing this mess! And just when I thought we were on the right tank, er, track, it all goes sideways! Stupid Rams, didn’t get the memo. But I’ll be home soon. So why don’t you all raise a glass of hot cocoa, and we can have a big toast before you get in bed.
Mrs. D: Oh, and what should we toast to?
JD: Well, how about to the founder of our fortune?
Mrs. D: The founder of our fortune, indeed! I wish I had him here. I’d give him a piece of my mind, that clueless, idiotic, boob who’s more obsessed with playing polo and jetsetting than running a football team. No one knows just how stupid he is better than you, Joe!
CJ [whispering to The Ghost of Jets Present]: I wonder who she’s talking about?
The Ghost of Jets Present just shakes his head.
JD’s youngest son: I hate that mean old Mr. Christopher Johnson for making you work on Christmas. This blows! That ogre can choke on a bowl of d#cks for all I care. F that phony who won’t fire that tool of a head coach and is making you go through all this. He’s wrecking everyone’s lives!
CJ eyes grow wide.
JD: Hey, Little Joe! We said no more talk like that! It’s Christmas and we won’t speak ill of anyone tonight. Mr. Christopher Johnson hired me and has given me an opportunity, and I have nothing to say against him.
Little Joe: Thump that! Mr. Christopher Johnson is a d#ckless monster who doesn’t care about anyone or anything other than his own happy little life, and it’s about time someone told him that to his face. Let me do it, Pops! And then I’ll shiv him in the neck. [makes a stabbing motion]
JD: That’s enough out of you, Little Joe! I’m sorry for him; I couldn’t be angry with him if I tried. He means well, in his own way.
Little Joe: God, f#ck us all.
Mrs. D: Enough, Little Joe!
CJ rubs his forehead vigorously as the scene begins to fade.
Little Joe: Oh, and Pops, after my virtual Christmas pageant, that creepy guy followed us to the ice cream shop again. I tell you, I’m gonna pop a cap in that weasel’s ass too if he doesn’t stop. Then I’ll dump his body with Mr. Christopher Johnson’s out behind the American Dream Mall where no one will ever find it because no one is ever going to near another horrible Jets game again ….
Before CJ can respond, he and the spirit are once again on their travels. This time when the air becomes still, they are standing in an empty white void.
CJ: What place is this? And what of Little Joe? I beg of you, kind spirit, does he ever forgive me?
The Ghost of Jets Present: I only see a vacant place where his heart is. And what do you care? You’re ‘rich as f#ck,’ remember?
CJ hangs his head.
The Ghost of Jets Present: So I’ve brought you to this realm of the damned, a place in which those forsaken by you have come to commiserate about the Jets. See what you’ve wrought!
Strings of words and comments start to form in the air around them, and begin swirling around.
CJ: I don’t understand. What is this place?
The Ghost of Jets Present: It’s the most devoted Jets—Jetsetters!—fan forum on the intrawebz.
CJ: Come again? There’s not a lick here anywhere about my footballer squad.
The Ghost of Jets Present: Exactly! Your seeming lack of interest and general indifference regarding the success of your NFL franchise has even turned these last diehard fanatics to talk of other, inane subjects. And trust me, it gets inane—don’t even get them going on nachos vs. wings. These poor wretches who gather here daily are broken beyond repair.
CJ: Have they no other refuge or resource?
The Ghost of Jets Present [the torch goes out and he begins to fade]: “Have to make sure to take care of those who take care of you, right?”
CJ: Wait? Why did you say that?
CJ is left standing alone in the void as more and more and more unrelated Jets comments appear. The words twist, spiral, and billow around him, creating a maelstrom of misery. CJ staggers about, swinging his fists at the air, trying to drive it away. He finally drops to his knees and screams.
As his cries echo in the void, the comments suddenly disappear and he’s shivering and standing alone in a graveyard. Or so he thinks.
CJ: What is this place now?
Before he can sort it out, a large figure in a spotlight black cloak and hood is suddenly standing next to him. None of its facial features are recognizable, although it appears to have skeletal fingers and feet.
CJ: Am I in the presence of the Ghost of Jets Yet To Come?
The Ghost of Jets Yet To Come nods.
CJ: Are you going to show me the future as it pertains to my footballer squad?
The Ghost of Jets Yet To Come nods, and points to two men standing next to a freshly dug grave. CJ quickly recognizes the mourners.
CJ: Mounty! Jordan! Ahoy hoy! Blast it, they can’t hear me, can they?
The Ghost of Jets Yet To Come shakes his head.
Mountbank: I can’t believe he’s actually gone. Although, to be honest, it seems as though he should’ve accidentally drowned years ago, staring up at the rain with his mouth open like a turkey. Keeping him alive all these years has been exhausting.
JD: He wasn’t the brightest bulb on the tree, was he?
CJ [whispers to The Ghost of Jets Yet To Come]: I wonder who they’re talking about.
The Ghost of Jets Yet To Come brings its bony hand to where its forehead would be and rubs it.
JD [produces a flask from his jacket, takes a long pull from it, and hands it to Mountbank]: You know, in all these years, he never got my name right once. The closest he got was when he once called me Jose. Oh well. I hope he didn’t die from anything catching. Like the ‘rona.
Mountbank [taking a nip from the flask, passes it back to JD]: It was the salmon mousse!
JD: Huh. Not what I expected, to be honest.
Mountbank: He accidentally spilled some, and then while riding his polo pony through the great hall, it slipped and threw him onto that enormous marble statue of Richard Nixon he insisted on installing there in the atrium. So in the end, he was impaled on a Tricky Dick.
JD: Annnd there it is! [takes a pull at the flask, and hands it back to Mountbank] But where is Doris? Woody? Adam? Why aren’t there more folks here? He was a bit eccentric, but not a bad guy by any metric.
Mountbank: Ms. Doris is … occupied with Mr. Bezos currently, but sent her condolences. And Woody has been … detained along with much of the former administration. Coach Gase is, well, Coach Gase.
CJ [to the Ghost of Jets Present]: Hold up, are they talking about—
JD: That’s … too bad. I’m surprised that no Jets fans showed up.
Mountbank: They did—but we had the authorities remove them from the grounds. They were not exactly here to … mourn, to put it politely.
JD: Can’t say that I blame them. He had multiple opportunities to do the right thing by them and then … didn’t.
Mountbank: With great power comes great stupidity. [Mountbank pours the remaining contents of the flask into the open grave] Fare the well, sir! It was, well, not quite an honor, but it wasn’t all bad. Excelsior!
Mountbank tosses the flask into the grave, and he and JD turn and leave. CJ and the spirit are left standing there. A cold wind blows through the graveyard. The Ghost of Jets Yet To Come points at the grave stone.
CJ: Don’t make me look at that, I beseech you!
The Ghost of Jets Yet to Come continues to point. CJ eventually gathers up his strength and looks at the tombstone.
CHRISTOPHER WOLD JOHNSON
GIVEN EVERYTHING; DID NOTHING
CJ: D’OH! [shakes a fist] Oh spirit! Are these the shadows of the things that will be, or are they shadows of things that may be, only? Hear me! I am not the man I was. I will not shut out the lessons learned here this night. Oh, tell me I may sponge away the writing on this stone!
Rather than answer, The Ghost of Jets Yet To Come suddenly morphs into a heavy set man in a white karate ji. He reaches for CJ.
CJ: What? No, no spirit! Please, no!
The Ghost of Jets Yet To Come grabs CJ by the notched collar of his footie pajamas and ….
CJ’s scream wakes him, and he’s in his own bed, drenched with sweat. Doris is next to him, tapping at her phone.
CJ: YESSS!!! What?! It was all just a dream. [turns and pokes his wife in the arm] And my dear, darling Doris! You’re here! In the very flesh!
Doris [stops tapping and puts down phone]: Yeah, I had them gas up the jet so I could red-eye it home. I … missed you, you blithering sap! And I knew you’d be on your own, and who knows what trouble you’d get into all by yourself.
CJ: Oh Doris, my sweet! You don’t know the half of it. [kisses her] Hold up! What’s today, my fine girl?
Doris: Why, Christmas Day!
CJ: Christmas Day! I haven’t missed it! Huzzah! Let’s go open all my presents! And there better be a PS5 in there, or I’ll positively spit!
CJ leaps out of bed and starts running for the door. As he goes to grab the doorknob, he pauses.
CJ: The spirits! Wow, I am blithering sap! [dashes out into the hall] YEEEAAAHHH!!! Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas, you old hall! Merry Christmas, movie house! Merry Christmas, emporium! Merry Christmas you wonderful old building and loan! Merry Christmas Mr. Pott—whoops! Wrong ending ….
CJ bursts into Mountbank’s quarters.
CJ: Merry Christmas, Mouuu—MY EYES! WILL I EVER LEARN?!
Mountbank [snaps down the screen of his laptop and bundles up his robe]: I’m very sorry, sir! I am behind my time. It’s only once a year—it shall not be repeated. I’ve been making rather merry with Marmy, sir.
CJ [rubbing eyes and shaking his head]: Now, I’ll tell you what, old friend. I am not going to stand this sort of thing any longer. And therefore, I’m doubling your salary and your time off! Huzzah!
Mountbank: Oh sir, it’s way too early to be so drunk.
CJ: Oh, I’m not drunk, Mounty! I’m intoxicated on life and finally doing the right thing—ooh, speaking of, when you’re done here, I want you to send the best catered turkey dinner you can find to the home of my footballer squad general maven Jaaa … hang on … I know this … to … the home of … Jose Douglas! Yes, that’s it. Jose! Send it along with a note that says, “You have my permission to do whatever you need to make the New York Jets great again! Fire or hire whoever you need to! I am committed to finally getting this thing right!”
Mountbank: Uhh …
CJ [claps him on his back]: A merry Christmas, Mounty! Merry Christmas to us all!
And CJ was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Little Joe, who did not stab him in the neck, he became a second father, even providing a wood chipper to dispose of a certain weasel.
CJ then became as good a man, and as good an owner, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, franchise, or team, in the good old world. He had no further interaction with spirits (other than the occasional gin rickey), and it was then said of him that he knew how to keep a team well, if any man alive possessed that knowledge.
And, as Little Joe observed, God f#ck us, every one!
Special thanks to GaseGottaGo for the suggestion, and apologies to the Ghost of Charles Dickens and lovers of true literature. Merry Christmas, all!