CINCINNATI -- It is kind of like Las Vegas in the sky: What happens on charters, stays on charters. Especially charter air flights contracted by professional sports organizations.
Like other leagues, NFL teams have their favorite carriers right down to preferred cabin attendants, (females, resplendent in team jerseys) and they likewise have their preferred teams. Some are more reserved than others but none are bound by traditional constraints. Starting with perfunctory pre-flight safety instructions. ‘A lick and a promise’ as my dad used to say and absolutely none of the rigid ‘tray tables and seat backs’ admonishments that are standard fare on commercial flights.
Which brings us to trays of another sort. Those which Pete Carroll, now head coach of the Seattle Seahawks, rode to infamy in the early 1990s as defensive coordinator for the New York Jets.
Bruce Coslet was the head coach. Boomer Esiason had been acquired from the Bengals and the Jets were making some noise. Coslet was always a fun guy and in Carroll, he had a kindred spirit. Both were Bay Area born: Coslet in Oakland; Carroll in San Francisco. Both attended the University of the Pacific. So naturally Carroll brought one of his West Coast fascinations to Jets air charters by ‘surfing the aisle.'
Keep in mind this stunt only happened after road wins, providing a somewhat perverse incentive to the lads.
Here is how it worked:
As the team charter was preparing to land in New York City, Carroll would select a food service tray and place in at a pre-determined spot on the aisle floor. The launch point was standard so as to keep track of Carroll’s progress over the course of a season.
With the tray in place, Carroll would retreat to the rear galley to await the ‘wave’. That came as the plane landed. Carroll had figured out how long it was between when the plane landed and when the cockpit crew activated the reverse thrusters to slow the plane.
You’ve all felt that decided tug on your seatbelt when they are applied. Anything not tied down or strapped in is propelled forward.
That would be Pete Carroll. At the penultimate moment, Carroll would bolt down the aisle and jump on the tray hopefully just as the brakes and thrusters were applied. And he was off. Up the aisle as far as his impetus would carry him and, of course, to the howling delight of Jets players and staff.
His end point would be noted with great diligence and fanfare to see if he had achieved a personal best or fallen short of the mark, to be bettered another trip.
Carroll will be poked and prodded by the media over the course of Super Bowl week, but I suspect this subject won’t be raised. Nor will any civilians ever witness anything like it no matter how long they fly or ride the big ones.
It’s like it never happened. Only it did.
And that's my two cents.