It is unfortunate what happened to football.
Sure the popularity of the game has brought the world some great gadgets. Redzone, football on your phone and gambling (I’m lumping fantasy football in here because…you know why) have imprinted this game into our daily lives.
However, things change once they start floating in the mainstream.
Focus groups, polls and people who have limited experience with the product but specialize in profit margin begin to dictate its direction.
As much as we don’t like to admit it, sports are gladiator-like contests. Opponents do battle in front of a crowd of screaming spectators to see who can physically control another human being. To be successful in this world certain personality traits are a must.
One of those is self-confidence.
From his first press conference as head coach, Rex Ryan let all who heard know he understands that concept thoroughly. In his “just hired” suit Ryan said at his introductory press conference “The Jets are coming and we’re gonna give you everything we’ve got. And that’s gonna be, I think, more than you can handle.” He also spoke of his team returning a blow from another with two of their own, and looking forward to meeting the president in the next couple of years.
In this new corporate way of football, bravado and individualism are discouraged. We’ve shown that as long as the players are big and run fast Americans will make football a priority. So why bring on board people who may say something that could upset a viewer or sponsor. Put some helmets and headsets on the robots and go sign some TV contracts.
Ryan’s not from that school. His education comes from a place where the Washington football team held daily happy hours in the tackling dummy shed. A place where Lawrence Taylor would not hesitate to let anyone know who was baddest man on the planet and the Raiders favorite joke was “What did five fingers say to the face?” The actual spokesperson of that place is probably his own father. Buddy Ryan may be more famous asking his co-workers to step outside than for building possibly the most destructive force to wear athletic shoes.
Personally, I loved that era of football. Very few things brighten a dull day like seeing on the channel guide America’s Game 1980-something. It takes a different type of individual to run into other grown men at full-speed 16-20 times per year to earn a living. So let me see that guy. What are his likes, dislikes, goals, superstitions about running over certain types of road kill on the GW Parkway on gameday, etc.
Unfortunately for Rex he made the one mistake that results in an automatic fail in that curriculum, losing. Not only did the Jets lose, they became Elmer Fudd in a shiny green outfit. Any reasonable person should expect some criticism after being the leader of a team that introduced the world to the term butt fumble.
It is unfortunate no one actually took the time to see what went wrong with the Jets. After their stellar 2010 season they proceeded to get rid of every offensive player with a quick-twitch muscle on the roster. Those players were not replaced and left Mark Sanchez in a situation with only one player capable of making a play. When that player is Santonio Holmes get the early-bird airfare for that January Cabo trip.
The other fact that many seem to forget about the 2012 disaster is the Jets’ two best players missed nearly the entire season. With no Holmes or Darrelle Revis the playmaking was gone on both sides of the ball and it showed every single week.
The actual man responsible for creating the mess, general manager Mike Tannenbaum, was shown the door. Ryan was then permitted to hold his job for another year, and the Jets took some drastic steps to put their organization back together.
Summer started just as winter ended with New York looking like one of Dr. Evil’s guards with its quarterback issues and lack of skill players. Then the season began, and all of a sudden there was a plot twist.
The Jets looked like a real football team. Sure they still do some knuckle-headed things and got trounced by the Titans, but they have a 2-2 record when they were being mentioned before the season in the same breath with the Raiders and Jaguars.
Guess who is smirking at us, the funny chubby guy. Clearly Ryan isn’t the sole reason the Jets have a respectable team. Muhammad Wilkerson is an outstanding young defensive lineman, David Harris looks like himself again and Stephen Hill is nine catches, 20 yards and three touchdowns away from topping his 2012 season. Still, this team had every opportunity to let this season pass without ever reaching for it.
So keep your Bill Belichick and Mike Smith waste-of-life press conferences. I’ll let Rex take me back to a simpler time. A time when quarterbacks mooned helicopters and cornerbacks wore stick em. I like football the same way I like tweets, honest and cooky.