What It's Like

God forbid you ever had to walk a mile in his shoes [...]
'Cause then you really might know what it's like to have to lose
- What It's Like, Everlast (1998)

Imagine winning your lone championship in the sixties, then failing to even get back to a championship game ever again. Blown opportunities, heroic failures, falling short when it seemed like it might finally be your year...these happened, but most of the years went by permeated with a sense that you were as far away as ever.

Except you don't need to imagine, because - as Jets fans - you all know exactly what that's like. Whether or not you're old enough to remember the first time, the escalating sense of desperation and humiliation grows with every year and continues to this day.

Improbably, I find myself in one of those pockets of competence within which a team can deceive its fanbase into a state of delusion that perhaps this time it will be different. As most of you know, I was born and have lived my whole life in England and, later today, our national soccer team faces inevitable defeat in the World Cup semi-final against Croatia.

Don't worry, I know some of you hate soccer. Rest assured, this isn't a post about soccer - it's about empathy, suffering and bonding through shared experiences.

On those rare occasions where the Jets have had sufficient patience, foresight, intuition and good fortune to build a team capable of contending, there would always be that one moment where you realize it's not going to happen and feel stupid for ever believing that it might.

And so it goes for England, where missed penalties, own goals and red cards replace the "why the hell did we pass it to Keith Byars?" or "you only need a yard, why didn't you just do a quarterback sneak?" type questions that we'll keep asking ourselves years into the future.

In fact, with England, it's more clear cut. The moment everything goes south is always that exact moment where everyone starts to believe. Everyone vows not to get swept up in the hysteria because once they do, it's just a matter of time before the team is either utterly outclassed or performs heroically but falls short due to rotten luck.

They've already got my Dad. A curmudgeon of the proudest variety, his "why are we even bothering?" attitude to the group stages was admirable and he constantly and correctly observed either that we're "not that good" or, at particularly low points "bloody dreadful". And, yet, they've somehow got to him. Phrases like "perhaps I was wrong about Jordan Henderson" and "I think we have what it takes to beat Croatia" have crept into his lexicon.

We're doomed.

Ironically, this England team doesn't have the same kind of star power or depth of talent as squads of the past and hasn't played consistently well throughout the tournament. Yet they find themselves in the unenviable position of being just one game away from the World Cup Final itself.

Prior to the tournament, even the most optimistic experts were saying the best possible outcome would be to reach the semi-final, so now that they've made it this far, does that mean they can't go any further?

Like the 2007 Giants or perhaps the 2011 Giants, they've muddled their way through to where they are now, as nearly all the other top contenders have taken each other out. Maybe they can end up winning by default like that Australian speedskater at the 2002 Winter Olympics did:

Unfortunately, there are still a few opponents left standing and England have made it this far without having had to beat anyone as good as them. So, disappointment continues to loom squarely on the horizon...but they're just one game away, so the temptation to hope remains.

To those of you that are writing off the Jets this season because they don't have a chance or saying we should sacrifice this season to develop Sam Darnold for the future, can you be sure things won't fall right for this team? They might have a chance of making it to and progressing through the postseason if things bounce their way.

Heck, as bright as the future seems, you can't be sure it won't turn out to be their best chance for a while. They could make a run and then all the guys you're expecting to be part of the nucleus over the next few seasons could be beset with injuries or fall foul of off-field temptations and never be as effective as they are now.

We may never again rule the world, but the hope remains that one year will be our year and that's something that can never be taken away. Maybe that will come when you least expect it.

Of course, for England, that year is destined not to be this year, so spare a thought for me as the nation's hopes and dreams are once again crushed later this evening.

But one day, perhaps we'll get to experience together how it feels to actually see our team reach the promised land.

Wouldn't we all like to experience what that's like?