Rex Ryan: Impact of the Fickle Finger of Fate
If Rex Ryan didn't let his AFC East opponents know how he felt about them last summer when he declared that he hadn't come to New York to kiss Bill Belichick's Super Bowl rings, and go on to declare that he could beat Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder in a fight, they most certainly know it now.
For the past 24 hours, photos of Ryan and his fat middle finger have been plastered on newspapers, blogs, and social networking sites to the thrill of some and the shrill whining of others. The incident stemmed from Ryan's raucous reception by irate Dolphins fans at an MMA event, in which he declared over the public address system that the Jets would sweep the Dolphins next season.
Later that evening, Ryan provoked by a bunch of rowdy Dolphins fans, prompting the boisterous coach to flip the bird at the fans, who smartly snapped a photo of Ryan's profane gesture with a cell phone camera, after which it found its way onto the Worldwide Web.
A few things come to mind:
1) This incident should serve as a warning to all coaches and players of professional sports teams. The so-called Dolphin fan who worked up Rex enough to flip that fickle finger goes to show the lengths some people will go to entrap celebrity figures in public.
Last season, when the Jets visited the Seattle Seahawks, Seahawk fans tossed snow at the Jets players as they walked off the field after Seattle won the game, 13-3. One person hit Shaun Ellis with a snowball, enraging the defensive end, who then decided to pick up a boulder of snow and chuck it at a group of Seahawks fans sitting in the front row.
The moment was captured by the omnipresent cell phones by several fans who immediately posted it to YouTube. The video made Ellis look like a complete jerk; he certainly had no right to throw the snow back at the fans.
Outside of the sports world, we have seen many political and celebrity figures get harrassed by citizens and paparazzi.
Former Italian President Silvio Berlusconi was assaulted by a Italian man who launched a miniature statue of a cathedral building at the controversial pol, putting him in the hospital. Actress Julia Roberts has constantly yelled and chased away photographers taking pictures of her and her children. In short, when someone feels threatened, they react, and it could be embarrassing.
Even Mr. David Hildenbrand, who captured Ryan and his fat finger, admitted that his friends were taunting the coach with declarations that the Jets "suck," which is standard stadium language, and that the Colts had "whupped" him.
In a lot of ways, Ryan took the high road. He flipped his middle finger at them as a way of saying "get a life." It could have been much worse. If the fans were truly unruly and set off Ryan's temper, it could have started a fight which would have been a much bigger black eye for Ryan, the Jets, and the NFL than it is.
2) Should Ryan have walked away? The best thing Ryan could have done for himself was to ignore Hildenbrand and his entourage. If he had done so, nobody would be talking about this non-event today.
Ryan is a tough guy with lots of bravado, and it can get the better of him as it did last weekend. In the future, whether it comes from a fan, an opposing player, i.e. Channing Crowder, or even another coach, Ryan should take the highest of roads and remain silent. Ever hear the expression "silence is golden?"
3) Did Ryan's finger constitute a black eye for the Jets? From a public relations standpoint, having the head coach of a football team plastered on every single paper in the country waving his middle finger into a camera lens is not good for the public image of the Jets around the league, but do Jet fans really care?
No. Jet fans could care less, and after talking to a handful of Jets fans I know, most told me that they loved Ryan's reaction.
What you have to understand about the Jets fan is this: they are a rebellious bunch scarred by 42 years of shattered dreams. They want a winner and are tired of being stomped on by other fans, TV analysts, and late night comics who use the Jets as a comedy foil.
Having a coach who is willing to stand by his team, stick up for his players, make declarations that his team can win a Super Bowl, even if executed a tad declasse, lifts their spirits after years of mediocrity under Rich Kotite, Herman Edwards, and Eric Mangini, to name a few of many coaches that led this franchise.
At the end of the day, Ryan's middle finger will not prevent fans from buying tickets to games or team merchandise. Ryan's middle finger will also play into the build up for the next Miami/Jets game next season, making the game must watch TV. A little bad publicity never hurts ... sometimes.
Ryan was right to apologize for his actions. He made a mistake, falling into the same trap a lot of high-profile personalities fall into. Often, discretion is the better part of valor.
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