1968 Superbowl III Season Photos
All things considered, John Schmitt is doing quite well these days. His big laugh is as hearty as ever, disguising the fact that a fortnight earlier, he'd swapped out another joint in his natural body for the newer, manufactured kind.
"I never really had a problem with my hip until about a year ago," the Jets' once and forever Super Bowl center said from his Long Island home recently. "The last six weeks it went downhill real fast. I could barely walk into the operating room. I had it replaced two weeks ago, and it's great.
"I had my knees replaced nine years ago — that was really ugly," Schmitt said. "The operation was a dog and the rehab was a dog. But they're fantastic now. And the hip, this is easy. I'm walking without a cane, doing rehab every day. Now and then it bites you, but nothing compared to the knees."
Despite slowing down his golf game — he can only chip and putt for the next four weeks — and his frequent trips to Florida in pursuit of the dimpled white ball, the operation didn't stand in the way of him enjoying Super Bowl XLII. After two days in the hospital, he checked out Friday, Feb. 1. Two days later he and his wife, Joanne, skipping the Super Bowl parties they had been invited to, enjoyed the Giants' win over the Patriots in the postsurgical calm of their living room.
Schmitt's take on this game was, as it was for many who helped the American Football League's Jets rock the Baltimore Colts' and the NFL's world four decades ago, complex.
"Being an old AFL guy, I wanted to see New England win. I wanted to see 19-0," he said. "I played against a 17-0 team, the 1972 Dolphins, and all the characters on that team. Many of them are friends of mine to this day. But they had the torch long enough. I thought it was time to pass it on."
But conversely, Schmitt definitely thought the Giants had a shot at upending the Patriots' plans, and when that happened, the outcome didn't displease him.
"That Giants defensive unit, it not only hits you, it hurts you," he said. "I thought they could surprise New England with that rush. Tom Brady got hit so many times in that game, he was shellshocked. Halfway through the second quarter, I told Joanne, 'I think the Giants are going to beat these guys.'
"They deserved it. I'm happy for the Maras. I knew Mr. [Wellington] Mara for many years. Not that we initially wanted to be friends, but as time went on, we became friends, even though they were the Giants. I'm really happy for them and I'm happy for New York. It was just great to see it. If it wasn't the Jets, at least there was somebody else from New York to be rooting for in the game."
One more angle to throw at these Super Bowl III champions is that storyline that developed in the days before the game, that if the 12-point-underdog Giants beat the undefeated Patriots, it would be a victory to rival or even surpass the significance of the Jets' 16-7 win over the 17-point-favorite Colts in Super Bowl III.
"I'm a Jet!" Schmitt barked with that infectious laugh. "I still think our game was the greater game. We were bigger underdogs, No. 1. Nobody even gave us a chance to win that game. No. 2, our quarterback guaranteed the Thursday before the game that we were going to win the game. The Giants' win, it's a close second, but I don't think it's greater than ours."
Jets fans are still coming down off of their conflicted Super Bowl withdrawal. Their choice was to support either a stadium mate, infrequent rival and market competitor, or the team from their conference and division questing for immortality, against whom there have been a number of recent losses and issues.
The outcome has caused more than a few fans of the Green & White to grumpily count up the Giants' three Super Bowl victories since 1986 and compare it to their team's one since 1968. That fact may be a bitter pill, but the only way to change that reality is to get to work on the next season, which is what the Jets have already done.
And Schmitt has a carrot to dangle in front of all the Jets players, coaches and front office personnel as they immerse themselves more and more each week into 2008.
"I wear my Super Bowl ring every day of my life," he said. "We only won it once, but we won it. I know a lot of pro football players who played longer than my 11 years and they never got a sniff of it. It's special. If you have a Super Bowl ring to walk around with on the face of this earth, you're a very lucky human being."
Even if you've had a hip and two knees replaced over the years as the hidden costs of earning that ring. But as Schmitt said when recounting his life of football success, hobnobbing with presidents and tirelessly pursuing his charitable interests:
"It was all worth it. Never a regret."