The psychology of losing is an elusive thing. There are more ways to shoot yourself in the foot than Barney Fife ever dreamed possible, and the Jets seem determined to explore every variant. Blown coverages or ill-timed interceptions or missed tackles or the wrong play called at the wrong time—failure has many faces; pick one. They've choked up four fourth-quarter leads in seven games. Are their lapses physical? Mental? Spiritual? "I have no idea," answers Keyshawn, genuinely baffled by the high-octane knack this team has shown for self-immolation.
"If we had Vinny, we'd be rollin'," he asserts. "We could be 7 and 0, as close as these games have been." And he's probably right. Even with a quarterback whose ratings read like premature-birth weights, the Jets have moved the ball. Keyshawn has 40 catches for 577 yards, was tied for fourth in the NFL for receptions and was fifth in yards gained after Week 7; and running back Curtis Martin led the NFL with 615 rushing yards. But each has only two touchdowns, evidence of the Jets' bad habits in the red zone.
Keyshawn talks about all this with a tired kind of equanimity, makes it clear that he still has fun playing the game, still thinks the Jets can rise above their injuries and insults. "I just believe different than other people, I guess." There isn't any bluster behind his optimism, though, and he knows this season may play out as a long, slow-motion disaster.
Keyshawn, on his several appearances with the President of the United States on national panels discussing the role of race in athletics: "I'm really proud of that. How many people get to chop it up with the top dog?"
Like its owner, the restaurant defies most of your expectations. Situated on a quiet, tree-lined street at the moneyed frontier between West Los Angeles and Beverly Hills, Reign is not a sports restaurant. ("Reign," by the way, is a name no one on the Keyshawn, Inc. flowchart takes sole credit for, but it suits the ambitious iconography of the athlete in question.)
Historically, eateries owned and operated by the jockocracy fall into one of three evolutionary epochs. The ancient (e.g., Jack Dempsey's place, the kind of Runyoncsque steak house where a man could ogle DiMaggio and live large on redheads, red meat and red liquor in the company of other Broadway swells and touts); the modern (an all-star-style museum and memorabilia outlet, where everything has a price on it and the sweat-stained sanitary socks of Charlie Hustle's youth hang framed and certified just inches from your souvenir minicrock of congealing beer-cheese soup); and tire postmodern (a multimedia "themed environment" like the ESPNZone in Times Square, which has nothing to do with eating but, thanks to TV monitors numbering in the dozens, everything to do with the reeducation scene from A Clockwork Orange).
Reign, though, is just a very nice restaurant in a neighborhood that's flush with very nice restaurants. No framed jerseys or commemorative balls are on display, no buzzing neon beer signs or blaring video games. Rather, it is a model of expensively designed restraint, done up in the chic urban signifiers of blond wood with stainless-steel trim and earth-tone fabrics.
The menu is best described as haute Southern, mostly upscale renderings of classic down-home comfort food. Fried chicken, smothered pork chops and red beans and rice are the mainstays, but there's enough arugula and Chilean sea bass on the bill to soothe the local foodies.
The recipes have come in most cases from his mom's kitchen. Before the place opened in May, Keyshawn took the chefs up to her Tarzana home and under his mother's supervision ran them through two-a-days on the rémoulade and gumbo.
On a night not long after it opened, the restaurant was bustling, three-quarters filled, loud with people enjoying themselves and the food. Keyshawn was working the room, greeting customers and politely turning away those who didn't meet his dress code, fussing over the details and kibitzing in the kitchen, pinching more file into the gumbo pot, all the while giving one interview to a television crew in the party room and another to a writer in the dining room. From the decor to the mortgage, from the menu to the personnel to the little gondolas of calamari, he takes responsibility for everything here. It wears you out just watching him.