In his book on the 1986 New York Mets "The Bad Guys Won!", author Jeff Pearlman told the story of a talented Mets team that put winning and self-adoration on equal footing.
From the manager, to the players, to the clubhouse attendants, the Mets exuded an obnoxious "Screw you, we're awesome" swagger that made them loved by their fans and sincerely detested by just about everybody else on the planet.
This probably included Bill Buckner.
I was thinking of that '86 Mets team as the Jets celebrated their unlikely win over the Patriots at Gillette Stadium on Sunday. I'm not sure if it was Braylon Edwards doing backflips at midfield or Bart Scott giving postgame interviews with an intensity that would make "Macho Man" Randy Savage blush, but the stunning 28-21 victory made one thing exceedingly clear: The Jets, like no NFL team in recent memory, have fully embraced the "bad guy" ideal.
Whether that's something to actually be proud of can be debated, but what's not debatable is that the Jets have advanced to the NFL's version of the Final Four for the second straight year. Rex Ryan's team speaks loudly, but also carries a big stick.
"Maybe everybody else never believed, but we believed," Ryan said in his post-game presser, leaning on the time-tested "nobody gave us a chance but us" maxim. "Same Old Jets, back to the AFC Championship."
Ah, yes. Same Old Jets. A term of derision that has stuck with the team since Ken O'Brien was throwing mortally-wounded ducks into the swirling winds of the Meadowlands during the Reagan administration.
Boiled down to its core, it means this: "We will suck you in. We will get you to let your guard down. We will make you believe. And then we will rip your guts out like Jason Voorhees on a blood bender. We will cost you at least one television set and two to three romantic relationships."
That Ryan even acknowledges something as intrinsically fan-rooted as the "Same Old Jets" stigma is exactly the type of thing that makes him such a fascinating figure. He's a loud mouth, yes, but a completely self-aware loud mouth who uses the media to: a) take heat off his own players and coaches, and b) make himself more famous.
He's earned his masters in Bill Parcells' school of media manipulation, and it took him only two years to get the diploma. This was not a trait that Rich Kotite possessed.
"This is our year. ... We're not just going to win, we're going to win big. We're going to dominate. We're going to blow the rest of the division away. I have no doubt about that. And neither should you. Now let's get to work."
No, that wasn't Ryan from an episode of Hard Knocks. That was Mets manager Davey Johnson in his first address to the team in spring training 1986. That Gotham team walked the walk, becoming villains of the sport en route to capturing the franchise's first championship since 1969.
New York's newest bad guys hope history is in the process of repeating itself.
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