The 1980s were a strange time. Michael Jackson owned a chimpanzee. Eddie Murphy had a music video. Television's biggest star was an alien puppet. But, even by the standards of the President Reagan years, the Jets asking players' wives to sing a fight song was cringeworthy.
In the latest episode of "New York Accent," newly minted Pro Football Hall of Famer Joe Klecko explains how his wife had enough. "One of the things Joe Walton's wife tried to do, they brought all the wives in one day and had them sit in our lockers inside the locker room. And they wanted to teach our wives a fight song. My wife and Joe Fields' wife got up and walked out. They said, 'This is just too much.'"
A decade earlier, Lou Holtz tried to install a fight song (36:03 in), but it never caught on. And after a 3-11 campaign in 1976, Holtz was run out of town. Walt Michaels replaced the spittle-soaked Holtz, and led the Jets to a resurgence with an AFC championship appearance in 1982. Like most of the Jets, Klecko built a strong bond with Michaels. But when he left due to health issues after that season, the franchise was back to a coach who struggled connecting.
"For me, it was a big difference, without a doubt," Klecko said on the podcast. "I don't think Joe ever wanted to treat us like men. That's the way Walt treated us [like men]. And I think that was [Walton's] big downfall." Walton started with a pair of 7-9 seasons, but he steadied the ship with playoff appearances from 1985-86. However, the rest of Walton's tenure was marked by mediocrity, and he was fired after a 4-12 finish in 1989.
The biggest star on those Jets rosters was pass rusher Mark Gastineau, who reached five consecutive Pro Bowls and became part of the Hollywood crew by marrying actress Brigitte Nielsen. Klecko's understated demeanor clashed with his "New York Sack Exchange" teammate.
"When we played, there was always that tension between us because he was flamboyant, and I was not," Klecko said. Klecko even told his sons -- including Dan Klecko, who played six NFL seasons -- to never act like Gastineau. "I said to Dan, 'If you ever choose to celebrate the sacking of the quarterback, hurry up and turn around. Because the first person who'll be kicking your ass is me."
"Mark and I were very quite the opposite. There was an edge at times. But the one thing I knew was that, to get to where we wanted to get, him and I had to be good. And we did succeed. So it made us win. And that was one thing that I was gracious of. Our first year after him and [defensive lineman] Marty Lyons came in the draft, that was the first year we went to the playoffs."
You can listen to the entire conversation about Klecko's 35-year wait to reach Canton -- along with stories about the 1980s Jets -- everywhere you get your podcasts, and on YouTube.