Back in July, I posted a comparison of the prospects for the New York Jets (aka Gang Green) and the Green Movement this fall (probably the first time in human history these two were ever linked in the same sentence). At that time, the outlook for the Jets was particularly grim and so I argued that the Green Movement’s prospects were brighter than “Gang Groan’s”. Let’s see where things stand now that the NFL season is about 1/3 complete.
NEW YORK JETS
Expectations for the Jets were so low in the preseason that ESPN ranked them 32nd out of all 32 NFL teams. And that was before beleaguered-but-experienced QB Mark Sanchez suffered a season ending shoulder injury, playing behind backup offensive linemen during a meaningless exhibition game (reckless, dumb move by coach Rex Ryan), thus thrusting rookie Geno Smith into the starting role. With that backdrop, the Jets 3-3 record has to be considered a pleasant surprise. The reasons?
Rookie QB Geno Smith leads Jets to Upset Win at Atlanta on Monday Night Football (Photo credit: NFL)
- Geno Smith: Yes, he’s wildly inconsistent (13 interceptions so far) but he’s just starting out and that’s par for the rookie course (Andrew Luck’s/RG III’s/Russell Wilson’s precocious 2012 rookie campaigns notwithstanding). Smith has shown that the stage isn’t too big for him, a bigger and more accurate arm than Sanchez (Geno throws a very nice deep ball) and an ability to put bad games behind him. It’s too early to tell if he’s going to be the franchise QB (he holds on to the ball too long at times, doesn’t read coverages well yet) they so desperately need but it’s also too early to see he can’t be. He’s been better than I thought.
- Nick Folk: Folk is the Jets kicker who has made every field goal he’s attempted thus far this season, including two long game winning kicks at the final gun (vs. Tampa Bay Week 1, at Atlanta Week 5). If he misses both, the Jets are 1-5 and the whole vibe (and this post) is completely different.
- Mike Tanenbaum: Before the season, the conventional wisdom was that the Jets lousy 2012 and expected-to-be lousier 2013 were the fault of fired General Manager Mike Tanenbaum (John Idzik is the new man). Tanny guaranteed huge $$ to Sanchez and that turned out to be a big mistake. He was also killed for being an awful drafter of college players. But some of the players Tanny drafted who were thought to be so-so or even busts have played positive roles this season, including RB Bilal Powell (2011, 4th round), WR Stephen Hill (2012, 2nd round), LB Demario Davis (2012, 3rd round), and S Antonio Allen (2012, 7th round). Undrafted free agent TE Jeff Cumberland has turned into a borderline star. Even the vilified offensive lineman Vlad Ducasse (2010, 2nd round), still a disappointment overall, has made some positive contributions. So Tanenbaum, in absentia, deserves some credit.
Now 3-3 is all well and good given the expectations, but the Jets are still a long way from the playoffs. The schedule, just middling so far, gets much tougher the next three weeks (New England at home on Sunday, then at Cincinnati, then home to New Orleans). Can they win one of those three? Let’s see where things stand after that.
It’s much more difficult to measure the progress (or lack thereof) of the Green Movement since July. The scoreboard in such a long term, global battle will never be as clear cut as in a short term, win-lose enterprise as a football season. And, really, the comparison is somewhat silly (Football vs. Saving Humanity As We Know It? C’mon, MAN!) But, hopefully, within the silliness there can be some bits of wisdom revealed. So let’s press on.
The Green Movement, at least in political terms in the US, has put most of its eggs in the Keystone XL Pipeline basket. The decision to approve or reject the extension of the Pipeline that would carry dirty Canadian tar sands-based oil to Texas refineries still has not been made by the President and the State Department, headed by former Senator John Kerry. President Obama has sent conflicting signals as to his intentions.
Most policy pundits think he will approve it in the end while green activists are hanging their hats on the President’s statement that he won’t approve it if it’s proved that Keystone XL will increase greenhouse gas emissions. A State Department analysis said that the pipeline would not do so but that study has been vigorously questioned by Keystone opponents, citing serious conflicts of interest on the part of the contractor which conducted much of the study.
Now, many will say that the Keystone decision is symbolic, that if the President turns it down, TransCanada (the company building/operating the pipeline) will re-route it and that the tar sands oil will still be refined and burned. I’m not sure if that’s true (Where would they go? Canadian First Nation tribes have blocked routes through the west. Going east and north would be very expensive and make the oil too pricey for export) but even if it is true and even if this is mainly symbolic, SO WHAT? I mean symbols are important and I’d argue that a US President making a statement that, as far as he’s concerned, some types of dirty oil need to stay unburned would be a big deal indeed. But the jury is still out on Keystone’s approval so it can’t factor into our analysis at this point.
Beyond the political world, there are some lightly reported green victories since July we can report on that could have big implications down the road. One is that young people (Americans 16-34) are driving far less than before, down 23% in 2009 vs. 2001 per a recent study. The reasons are varied (economic collapse, advent of social media, increased urbanization) but a concern about the environment is certainly a factor.
A small positive note from the intersection of Green + Sports: Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Connor Barwin has demonstrated his concern about climate change by driving a Tesla and by taking public transit to and from practice and home games. Hopefully more Eagles–and other athletes–will follow Barwin’s lead. And if athletes lead (LeBron, we’re waiting!), fans will follow.
Finally, the best story was the news that the stunning decline in the cost of solar panels in the US has accelerated, down 60 percent vs. 2011! This has led to a projected 25 percent growth of solar installations in the US in 2013 vs. 2012. That stellar growth is expected to continue, with the market doubling in size by 2016.
But, even with that growth, solar still only represents less than 1 percent of the US energy mix. The report that coal, the dirtiest energy of all, will replace oil as the world’s #1 energy source by 2020 was certainly depressing to this reporter and exposes the depth of the steep challenge the green movement faces. And, when one considers that the majority of Americans and Chinese (the world’s largest CO2 emitters), per a Pew study last month, are unconcerned about climate change, you have a situation in which most Americans seem to say a collective “WHATEVER” in response to the biggest challenge the world faces: SAVING HUMANITY AS WE KNOW IT!!
The preseason prediction here was that the Green Movement would have a better season than Gang Green, in large part because expectations for the Jets were going to be abysmally bad. Thus, through the first six games (16 games overall), the Jets 3-3 record, because it’s better than expected, rates a B-.
As for the Green Movement, the expectations, while low this summer, were not THAT low. The big win-loss event (symbolic or otherwise), the Keystone XL Pipeline decision, has not been made and so scoring this is difficult–but not impossible. My take is that the tangible positives detailed above, while important, are small potatoes, compared to the double whammy of 1) coal’s (the dirtiest energy source of all) ascendancy, and 2) the lack of concern among the American and Chinese publics about climate change.
I give the Green Movement a C- grade.
What does this all mean? Jets fans don’t have to figure out how fill their Sundays, at least for the next few weeks. And those concerned about climate change have to redouble their efforts to get people to care about this issue on those Sundays–and on any other day that ends in a “Y”.