(Long Island, N.Y.) Somewhere, Harry Wismer is smiling. The original owner of the New York Titans was known for his character first and probably owing money next, but he helped put the organization on the American Football League map back in 1959.
The outlaw league, as it was known at the time, was counting on the franchise from the big city to be one of the leaders on and off the field. But the Polo Grounds was falling apart and the best the Titans could do is finish 7-7 in their first two seasons of existence. Wismer talked a big game but when it came down to it, he was in over his head.
A group led by Sonny Werblin eventually bought the team, changed their name to the Jets and moved into Shea Stadium once its doors opened in 1964. But that shouldn’t take anything away from the humble beginnings when future stars like Don Maynard wore the navy blue and gold.
The Jets have paid homage to their forefathers on six occasions the past few years and have a 5-1 mark to show for it. Their success wearing those duds was something that Rex Ryan made a point of when he addressed the media in the week leading up to Sunday’s 32-3 home win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“Anything for a win,” the Jets head coach joked. “It doesn’t matter if it (were) purple; we’d be wearing the purple. Anyway, I think our players kind of like it.”
That sentiment was seconded by Mark Sanchez, who not only likes the uniforms, but also took it a step further.
“I love the throwbacks,” the third-year quarterback said. “The Titans of New York. They give us some sweet gear and sweatshirts and all that. It’s really cool.”
Some free swag – and the possibility that they are good luck charms – make it an easy sell to the coaches and players. As Ryan put it, there was some “grumbling” within the fan base concerning the throwback uniforms. But even the staunchest of Kelley green supporters have to be okay with a Sunday afternoon in blue if a win is attached to it.
Perhaps the one complaint could be that the old uni’s should be saved for a game versus another AFL opponent on the schedule, such as the New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins, Oakland Raiders or Denver Broncos. The Jaguars? Well, they barely have a history at all and surely nothing that dates back to the psychedelic 1960s.
MetLife Stadium was rocking on Sunday with 78,834 Jet fans in attendance. That number would have been a pipe dream back up at Coogan’s Bluff in Manhattan. Crowds usually were reported as being in the area of 10,000 for a Titans game, and that was considered a very bloated number if you ask anyone who was there in person. An outdated stadium in a section of town that had seen better days coupled with a new team in a new league may have been a recipe for disaster, but all involved persevered to prosper in a few years.
All, except for Wismer. But none of it would have been possible without him. Thanks, Harry.