Like It Or Not, The Playoffs Need a Villain: Thank You, Mr. Ryan
Ready, Self? Take a deep breath. Here we go.
As someone who grew up a Dolphins fan, and as someone who eventually found himself a stranger in the strangest land (Raider Nation), what I'm about to say will not only bring shame upon myself, but on the deep rooted sense of pride both of those franchises command.
Thank God for Rex Ryan.
Now before I lose my citizenship to my Nation and my Miami home, let me explain.
More than a close game, or naturally talented athletes, I'm drawn to the image of the Common Man bucking political correctness. Maybe it was because I was born into the middle class, and I'm living out my Great Escape through a honky-tonk persona. Maybe there's nothing to my fixation, and it's just my love for rebels coming out in newer, fatter ways.
Maybe it's because the only movie we had on VHS growing up was Rocky III -- which was the only thing I'd sit down to watch for more than 5 minutes.
Whatever it is, I'm hooked. Call him a pariah if you will. Lord knows plenty in Miami and all over the country already have. But chances are people have begun using TiVo thanks to this man.
I'm one of them.
Stop. Watch. Fast Forward. Did he just say that? Let me check again.
All of a sudden, the most exciting part of the broadcast has become the post-game conference -- a rarity in the Year 4 ADG (After Dennis Green).
And if Ryan and the Jets were smart, they'd take a page from the Book of Andrew "Dice" Clay: Be good, but be abrasive.
From all the "outrage" Ryan has sparked, it looks like they already have.
Just like that, the Jets are in the AFC title game, and Rex Ryan is Ted Dibiase. He's "Ravishing" Rick Rude. He's less Tony Dungy Humility than he is Jeff Spicoli "those guys are f*gs!" Bravado trapped inside Jon Daly's body.
That attitude is why Rex Ryan is the NFL's newest heel -- and just what these Ochocino and TO-less playoffs need.
But all that talk wouldn't be worth a dime if he wasn't good, and the Jets look good.
Something's flipped in the NFL. Whatever gods run the defensive side of the game have bolted Baltimore and flown to the Meadowlands.
On Sunday, they helped force three missed FG's from an All-Pro who'd missed three all season. They held the vaunted Charger offense to 14 points -- 14 points lower than their season average. The week before, they stomped the Bengals into a submission for the second time in 7 days.
And Ryan's calm, "I-told-you-so" demeanor has been there all the way, just like it has all season long.
Ryan rode into the AFC East with a roar, shunting Bill Belichick's dominance of the division and offering to personally throw down with the Miami Dolphins. His cadence sent out sparks of disbelief, sure, but it stirred a fire in the Jets that no one's found a way to snuff out.
"I think this year he's brought a lot of attitude to us sticking together as a team and being aggressive," Darrelle Revis told the New York Post. Being in the AFC Championship Game isn't what "popular opinion" wanted, Ryan said, but that attitude should bring a new dimension to an otherwise bland Underdog/Superpower match up:
People laud you when you win...but piss them off and they'll pay to watch you lose.
Spoken like a true heel. Thunderlips would be proud.
Take away the market share and the potential ratings bonanza that would be a Jets Super Bowl, and what's left is a raw desire to watch loudmouths get put in their place.
If the loudmouths win, they'll be Public Enemy #1 next year...and all the talk would equal to a very hefty pay day for the League.
For me -- and I doubt I'm alone here -- football is a gross spectacle of money and performance enhancers and guts and drama, cut and edited and brought to you by the following sponsors.
It's an escape, and like every escape we're raised to suckle on, it needs a compelling story. For every Rocky, there needs to be a Clubber Lang.
So cheer for Mr. T. Cheer for the loudmouths. Or boo them. Either way, Sunday should be a fun showing of class and stoicism (or so the Colts are packaged) versus a daunting and freshly-inspired defense (or so the Jets have proved).
Don't ever let them tell you it ain't Shakespeare. And don't ever let them make you feel like less of a human being for knowing a "Dice" Clay nursery rhyme.
If people want to continue to feign outrage in the face of a moneymaking bad guy, let them. Ryan will keep winning, and he'll keep jawing.
No one in the highrises here in Miami ever says a word about the hobo who waves his penis at bicyclists -- but no one ever admits to cracking a smile at him, either. It's those little moments where people break character that makes my day go by a little smoother.
So let there be penis waving; let there be heels in the NFL; let there be Rex Ryan -- may he inspire us all to smirk in private.
Let there be all three at the same time, if possible.
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