The Jets must just want the attention.
After having to fend off multiple scandals throughout last season, from the harassment of Ines Sainz, to the frisky photos of Brett Favre, to Sal Alosi's unorthodox stretching exercises, to Rex Ryan's unique activities with his wife, you would've thought things would quiet down a bit now that the season's over. But you would've thought wrong.
Now comes the story of quarterback Mark Sanchez dabbling with a 17-year old high school girl around New Year's. How will this affect the team's plans for next season? And what ramifications might Sanchez face from conduct cop Roger Goodell? Let's find out.
Before everyone gets too crazy, we all need to just calm down a bit.
Sure, maybe it wasn't the best judgment for Sanchez to decide to get frisky with a high school girl. I'm not saying he's a fine upstanding citizen who should be serving as a role model to young men everywhere with this kind of behavior.
Nevertheless, the "age of consent" in New York state is 17. In New Jersey it's 16. So technically, anything that may or may not have occurred here, as long as it was consensual, was completely legal. Ethical? Moral? Ehh. But legal? No question.
So stop foaming at the mouth, Jets haters (I'm looking at you, Patriots fans). And don't worry, Jets lovers. Sanchez won't be facing any sort of jail time over this.
We've seen before that even if a player doesn't face criminal charges from police, he still might face discipline from the league.
Roger Goodell has made strict enforcement of the league's 'Personal Conduct Policy' one of the hallmarks of his administration over the NFL. This obviously isn't the same situation as the one that Ben Roethlisberger faced last year, because as of yet, there's no question of consent, but that case showed that Goodell will prosecute even when the authorities won't.
He holds players to a higher standard, and basically all he needs to have is a reasonable suspicion that a player acted in an unbecoming way to enforce that standard. Cleaning up the image of the league has been an important task for Goodell, and even if nothing illegal happened here, he wouldn't want to risk appearing soft or inconsistent.
So there may be talk of a minor suspension floated around. We'll see if Goodell runs with that talk.
What else should we expect from these Jets?
We should give them credit. They've cultivated an image, and they've stubbornly stuck to it, despite any outside criticism they might have received. Coach Rex Ryan plays up the renegade, outsider mystique as much as possible, in order to use it as a motivational tool for his team.
This story just flows with that image. You do what you do, and you're proud of it, and you don't apologize for it. To hell with what anyone else thinks.
Besides, it lets them stay on the back page of the New York tabloids, as they constantly compete with the Giants for newspaper real estate and attention.
Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum might decide that he's had enough.
They've been dealing with player character issues for too long. Whether it's been Santonio Holmes serving a four game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy, or Braylon Edwards being arrested in September for DUI, the Jets have had more than their fair share of off-the-field issues this season.
Will this be the straw that breaks the camel's back? The 2011 Draft is coming up in a couple of months. I think the Tannenbaum and the Jets scouting department decide to place a higher value on integrity and being a good citizen in the players they scout, draft, sign, and trade for moving forward.
It just becomes a running joke after a while. And maybe that plays if you're having on-field success, like the Jets have had. But if that stops? That's when it just becomes a circus (i.e., the Dallas Cowboys or Cincinnati Bengals).
I can already hear the lawyers and PR representatives sidling up next to Mark Sanchez.
He can probably count on having them by his side much more frequently in the future. They need to do that if they want to be sure of avoiding things like this happening again. After all, Sanchez is a young, handsome, rich, high-profile athlete in New York City. Temptations are everywhere.
Plus, this isn't his first run in with this kind of a story. Sanchez was arrested for an alleged sexual assault back in 2006 when he was a red-shirt freshman at USC. In the end, charges were never filed, but it does show that he has a knack for finding this sort of trouble.
Maybe he needs a life coach?
As potentially salacious as Sanchez's late night frolicking may be, the fact is that it's child's play compared to the much larger off-the-field story looming over the NFL.
The labor dispute doesn't appear to have a solution yet, and unless something changes soon in negotiations between Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith, the elephant in the room will grow to become a black hole that dwarfs any other off season news.
There is still a very real chance, I'd even say a probability, that we don't see a full football season in the fall. And maybe that will help the Jets out here. You think Goodell has time to worry about Sanchez and his relatively small potatoes with his league's existence in the balance? People will soon forget about Sanchez's dalliances as the labor dispute consumes all.
The Jets have just learned from Bernie Madoff, that's all.
What you need to do to make questions about previous scandals go away is simply draw attention to a new one. As long as you constantly keep having new scandals, it's a foolproof system. The perfect Ponzi scheme.
What, sexual harassment of a female reporter? That's crazy, we should ... oh wait, Brett Favre texted what to Jets masseuses? That's even more crazy, he should ... oh no, did you see Sal Alosi trip that Dolphins' player? He should be ... what? Rex Ryan and his wife do what? He shouldn't ... Who? Mark Sanchez slept with someone how old? Oh man, why ... [insert next scandal here] ...
You see how it works? Brilliant.
As scandals go, this one is pretty tame.
I mentioned earlier how Sanchez is a highly compensated, pretty boy athlete in the public eye in the largest city in the country. So maybe it's unfortunate, but it really seems like especially in this day and age, something like this goes with the territory.
And honestly, more than anything, it's Deadspin reaching for a story that isn't really there. They know that just mentioning the words "Mark Sanchez" and "17-year-old" will set fingers a-clicking, and good for them for doing their jobs well.
But rest assured, that doesn't mean that this is the Story of the Century. It means that they've done a good job making you think for a brief second that it might be the Story of the Century. By the time you realize it's not, you've already clicked on it and read the story.
Or, non-story, that is.
I already talked about how Rex Ryan thrives on this sort of environment.
I mean, did you watch HBO's Hard Knocks last year? Ryan is foul-mouthed, non-PC, and proud of it. He's fostered a mentality within his charges that nobody else understands them. It's us against the world.
This kind of tactic isn't unprecedented by any means in sports, especially in football. That's why it's so popular, because it works. But Ryan seems to have perfected the art.
This story will feed into that mentality. It will actually serve to make everyone in that locker room that much closer and tighter knit.
In the end, I don't think anything will really happen that will be too troubling for Sanchez, Ryan, or the Jets.
This story will have legs as far as the next major sports scandal. Then, it will fade into the recesses of memory, perhaps occasionally recalled by late night sketch comedy shows for a chuckle or two.
Otherwise, the Jets will go on with their preparations for whatever 2011 season they might face in the fall. Sanchez won't be arrested or suspended. He might be teased at the next team gathering.
Hey, at least it's not booger-gate.