By Jeff Capellini, CBSNewYork.com
NEW YORK (WFAN) — The Jets may have crashed and burned spectacularly in 2011, but they are somehow, someway still considered a very relative talking point, basically throughout every gear of the machine that drives sports media.
And I’m not just referring to what you see on this website, hear on local radio or take in while engaging fans of the franchise on the Internet.
Though the Jets failed miserably to come together as one this season, they are treated as one in the press, meaning an awful lot of good citizens have been getting lumped in with a few bad apples. This has allowed the media to classify the Jets as a singular entity regardless if guilt should really lie with just a few individuals, and has made them as polarizing a force as the elite wrongdoers — names like Tiger Woods, Alex Rodriguez and LeBron James.
The Jets are now grouped in with Tiger, A-Rod and “King James” regardless if none of their players have been hit with accusations of infidelity on a massive scale, taking performance enhancers and acting indifferent or deciding a major sports network is the perfect place to flaunt your millions while kicking your former team and fan base to the curb.
Like it or not, the Jets are now that guy. In fact, the Jets seem to become a national story just by simply someone of note or pull saying “Jets” in front of a camera. And when and where this takes place makes little difference.
They have been a major topic of discussion this week at the Super Bowl media gatherings in Indianapolis — and it’s had very little to do with the team’s possible pursuit of Peyton Manning this offseason.
What amazes me is how an 8-8 football team that at times couldn’t get out of its own way this season has garnered as much attention as it has over the last two weeks, time that should be reserved for nothing but discussion of how Eli Manning or Tom Brady will lead their respective teams to victory.
Think about it: the Giants and Patriots are about to do battle for the biggest prize there is and their players are literally spending big chunks of their time answering questions about Rex Ryan, Plaxico Burress, Darrelle Revis and Mark Sanchez, among others.
It’s ridiculous for sure, but at the same time extremely calculated.
Back in 2005, when I got into online news media, I learned the two most important words in Internet traffic.
Yes, if you attached the pop diva’s name to the keywords section of any story, that story, upon publication, would become one of your most viewed stories on any given day due to the beauty of search engines. Obviously, those news producers who did just that out of context were quickly captured by their organization’s police department and arraigned on fraud charges, because linking Spears to stories on the economy, politics, food and crime, to name a few, was, as they say, cheating or stuffing the ballot box for your site’s own benefit.
Well, if you fast forward to 2011, the Jets have become the Britney Spears of the sports world. And while I suspect “Rex Ryan” is not being added to stories about Caroline Wozniacki or Danica Patrick, news gathering operations are finding other ways to inject the Jets into the sports story of the day without cheating to get page views.
They are having their reporters do the dirty work instead of leg work.
Let’s be fair here. The Jets do not deserve any type of notoriety at this point unless linked to what went wrong this season and what they plan on doing to fix it. But even that has become overkill of late. How many times do we have to read or hear that Rex was clueless about the locker room or that Sanchez didn’t have the backing of all his teammates or that Santonio Holmes is not deserving of the NFL’s Man of the Year award?
I think we all get it. The Jets were major disappointments in just about every way imaginable in 2011.
But that hasn’t stopped reporters from constantly asking questions about the Jets as if it’s is part of their job descriptions.
I may not like it, but I understand why reporters do it. Where there was once just a need to fill column inches and create a buzz, it’s now as much about driving Web traffic and getting page views, Facebook “Likes” and “retweets” on Twitter. It’s gotten to the point now where if you see the word “Rex” or “Jets” in a headline some strange force just makes you click on the story.
Believe me, every reporter and editor knows that and has mastered the art of misdirection direction.
And you really can’t even blame the Jets for the latest green and white media overload. Last I checked they haven’t done or said anything really inflammatory by their lofty standards since Revis decided to reiterate Rex’s cluelessness about the locker room a week ago. But even then, that was tame and old news.
But yet the Giants’ Brandon Jacobs, as well as the Patriots’ Brady, Logan Mankins and Shaun Ellis have answered questions on New York’s other team over the last few days in Indianapolis.
Jacobs was asked about Jets receiver Burress’ future. Mankins was pressed about the Jets’ penchant for talking. Ellis spoke of Jets’ “loyalty” while leaving out the $4 million he took from the Pats to leave. Brady went to bat for Ellis in his typical “shove it, Jets” tone.
The full context of what was said by each isn’t really important unless it was enough to warrant more questions. That’s how the game is played. That’s how ideas become stories that dominate news cycles.
There were probably many other players that found themselves offering answers and opinions on a team that should be so irrelevant as far as this season’s Super Bowl discussions go that even the horrible Pro Bowl should be a more prudent and timely topic of conversation.
My question is wouldn’t it have been nice if one player had said “no comment” or “why are you asking me about them?” when asked about the Jets? No, that’s a problem for everyone because unless the person being questioned comes up with something really creative, not answering or changing the subject only leads to more of the same types of questions.
The Jets are so powerful a news driving force, they could easily pull a George Steinbrenner and try to steal some of the Super Bowl thunder in Monday’s papers by holding an impromptu press conference at MetLife Stadium at around 6:15 p.m. Sunday under the guise of some “big announcement.” The league, of course, would go ballistic, but I promise you, if the Jets went ahead with it every last reporter not in Indianapolis would be dispatched to East Rutherford and every reporter inside Lucas Oil Stadium would be glued to a television, little notepad or tape recorder in hand.
Right or wrong, deserved or undeserved, that’s power the Jets have that you can’t buy.
When Rex was hired in 2009 his first job was to change the culture of this franchise. He did that by getting the Jets to the AFC Championship game. The next year his job was to turn the Jets into champions, and though he once again came up a half short, he completed the public transformation. The Jets went from the team with no identity to the team with the biggest bull’s-eye on its back in the NFL.
The Jets were a lifeless body strapped to a gurney a few seasons ago. But then an eccentric mad scientist showed up and flipped the electric switch. What has resulted has been a Frankenstein-type creature that has caused all kinds of mayhem, but never quite enough on the field, where the true measure of who should be worthy of attention or criticism is supposedly determined.
Yet the media can’t get enough.
These are strange times, indeed, and my guess is they are only going to get worse before they get better.
If you thought before that the only way the Jets could control and justify their message was to win, get ready for an offseason of utter insanity.
For the Jets are always news, be it of their own creation or whatever the devious and desperate minds decide to dream up and pass off as relative.
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