I don't know if I'm feeling the endorphins kicking in after a particularly grueling season or whether I'm just a complete cockeyed ass/Jets fan, but when I read the news that Rex Ryan was our next coach, and considered the implications for the next few years with this football team, I became nearly happy. Yes. Not just encouraged, but happy. Usually the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl are spent in preparation for the enormous letdown that is the Super Bowl (last year excluded) and its aftermath. But here I am - not just buoyed by the absence of George W. Bush from the White House but positively pleased that Rex Ryan is our Head Coach. After waiting 21 days for the announcement, I have come to the conclusion that this is awesome news.
Why? I don't know. I liked Steve Spanguolo. I wondered why nobody called Jim Fassel, too. I had the abused partner's second and third thoughts about bringing the Tuna back into the house. But this is great.
Yes, it might just be the euphoria one feels early on in a new relationship, either with a significant other or a pet (no, it's different this time; I'm really going to take care of this one; I am!), but Ryan's optimism on defense - an area of the game with which the Jets have sketchy history, Sack Exchange and all - has made me feel rejuvenated. According to the Times' coverage of Ryan's press conference, the new coach referred to Darrelle Revis as the best cornerback in football. Really? Well,...OK! Sure! “I just knew that this was where I wanted to be,” he is quoted as saying. Really? Here? Here. OK. Want a tour of Hell yet? You do? Alrighty, come on in.
One of the things I notice in the coverage of his hiring is that Rex Ryan apparently wants Brett Favre back for next season, which, if you read the article above, is not really what he's saying. He said he would welcome Brett back. He didn't say he wanted Favre. It's a careful way of saying, "Not yes but not no," which, as far as I can tell, means no. You have to welcome him back the way you welcome Nixon to a banquet with the understanding that he's a potential eyesore with a bad track record, but he's an historical icon all the same. What are you going to do? Gods don't answer letters, as Updike suggested of Teddy Ballgame, but they don't need invitations, either. I don't like our odds on offense next year, but then I don't like them with or without Brett Favre. What's more, my only worry (at the present time)is that Ryan will carry over the Ravens' long-standing disdain for the position of quarterback. This year was a lucky strike with Joe Flacco, but it's been too many years since they cheated Trent Dilfer out of a job while trying to pointlessly disprove Vince Lombardi's old assertion that football's weakness is an over-reliance on the QB. But I digress slightly. I don't think Rex Ryan wants Brett Favre back, any more than Brett Favre actually wants to return to the Jets. I don't think either man smokes cheebah, much less the quantity required for such thinking.
And the Haters? Those of Whom We Do Not Speak? Here's the Boston Herald taking a gentle swipe at the selection. They speak as if they never had to cover a sports team that couldn't coach Jim Plunkett, that let Chuck Fairbanks go off to Colorado, that let the guy from Norelco mishandle a sexual harassment case in the Patriot locker room, that hired Dick MacPherson (sorry about that one, Charlie), that couldn't manage a much better winning average than the Jets had until the day Bill Belichick chose them over the Jets. They're like a bunch of shanty Irish pretending to be lace curtain or descendants of Mayflower. Having gone to college in New England from 1987 to 1991, during which the New England Patriots went 29-50, I remember them a little differently.
How differently? I was a sophomore at my small Catholic college in Rhode Island when my friends and I decided that our collective frustrations with the meal plan, the lack of sex, the local TV, all-night studying and general boredom could only be relieved by a gorging at the Burger King located across the street from the local U-Stor-It, which had to be greeted with one of us starting to say, in a Rhode Island accent:
"Nah, you fackin stawh-vit."
And so on. Repeat. For hours of fun. Inside this Burger King were ceiling-to-floor black and white photographs of New England sports celebrities, courtesy of the moment. There, accompanying our deep, fat-rich dinners, were the Boston Celtics of that heralded era like Larry Bird, Robert Parrish, Denis Johnson, and Kevin McHale. Then there were the larger-than-life Red Sox like Roger Clemens, Wade Boggs, Mike Greenwell, Oil Can Boyd. And the Patriots? A single old shot from the mid-70's of Steve Grogan.
"God," said my floormate Mickey from Chelmsford, Mass. "Fuckin' Pats. They just suck it."
But I digress, less slightly this time. Here's the rub. Read Ryan on his defense's new philosophy:
“If you take a swipe at one of ours, we’ll take two swipes at one of yours."
Well. I see. Now that took me aback, or took me back a little. Who does that sound like to you? Is that supposed to sound like somebody I know? Well, the first thing I thought of was a pudgy little gnome from hell who was once a defensive coordinator for the Jets in Super Bowl III and the Bears in Super Bowl XX. There are two things Philadelphia is known for, in the strictly sporting sense: 1) Booing Santa Claus, 1968 and 2) A coach who put a hit on the opposing quarterback, 1988. Buddy Ryan. A Billy Carter look-alike whose sense of comfort owes its charm from ancient Rome's taste for criminal law.
I was probably about three days behind everyone else when I realized that Rex was Buddy's son, and that the sense of satisfaction I took above in Rex Ryan was a Jungian archetype of primal rage that Philadelphians relish sentimentally when they think of Buddy Ryan and the Body Bag Game. And now I'm a little less happy. Now I'm back to normal.