Friday, August 27, 2010

Why couldn't we get that guy?

You can't tell me you wouldn't want to party with this Guy

A man crush is not something to be ashamed of.  In fact, a guy’s ability to admit a man crush proves that they are completely comfortable with their sexuality.  Having a bromance with another guy doesn’t have anything to do with sex; it’s about the infatuation with the thought of great friendship.  Thoughts like,  I’d love to go have a beer with that guy, I bet he pulls or pulled (at one point in life) a ton of chicks, it’d be great to have him on my men’s league team, or I bet he could catch the hell out of a fish.  Currently, if US Weekly wanted to, they could have me bromantically linked to three men.  The first, Hawk Harrelson, has been a twenty year courtship that began when I first started following the Sox in about 1990 (By the way, I could go on and on about how awesome Hawk is, and probably will at a later date, but the focus of this article is not about him).  The second, Wes from the Bachelorpad and The Bachelorette (Jillian’s season in case you were wondering) acclaim, has been a brief two year fling, although I don’t know if it is meant to last.  I’m just not sure that I can trust him after what he put Jillian through.  The third, most recent, and subject of this column, Rex Ryan, was a case of brove at first sight and a guy that undoubtedly has potential to be the man crush of my life.

Ryan is the head coach of the New York Jets, who happen to be the subject of the HBO reality documentary series ‘Hard Knocks’.  For those of you who don’t have HBO or are just plain old anti-football people, the show is an all-access, behind-the-scenes look that follows one NFL team through its training camp as they prepare for the upcoming NFL season.  In other words, it is basically Heaven for one hour on Wednesday nights for most football fans.  This particular season of the show has been phenomenally entertaining, in large part due to the funny, crude, boisterous, yet charming, behemoth of a man that is Rex Ryan.
In talking about 'Hard Knocks', I haven’t seen someone steal the show or dominate a scene quite like Ryan since the creepy  German dude from Inglourious Basterds.  Every time Ryan appears on screen, a smile forms on my face in anticipation of the laughter that is sure to ensue from something that he does or says.  He speaks with a normal, everyday guy vocabulary and crassness, and is not afraid to drop a few f-bombs or a dirty joke or two to liven up a practice or a team meeting.  He is able to portray himself to his players as just another one of the guys, yet at the same time he is still able to draw the line and make it clear to them that he is the boss.  At times, he acts like a complete clown (in a good way) by pulling practical jokes on members of his coaching staff, having punting and passing contests like he were a kid at recess, and even organizing a Mr. Ugly competition for guys to vote on who they think is the ugliest player in camp.  He is even seen at one point, blatantly orchestrating a pre-meditated fight, where he and his coaching staff, discuss who they should send at Vernon Gholston (a talented but docile linebacker turned lineman), in an attempt to fire him up at the next days’ practice.

If there is one bone that I have to pick with Rex, it would be that he did not exercise his "final cut" (According to Herm Edwards, whose team was on the first season of 'Hard Knocks', the head coach gets to tell HBO what they can and can not show) rights on one particular scene with current Jet and former Chargers pro-bowl cornerback Antonio Cromartie.  In the scene, the interviewer from HBO asks the player about his family (clearly HBO already knew the answer).  Cromartie proceeds to go through each one of his eight kids, all under the age of three, clearly from different mothers. The worst part of it all is that he struggles to remember a couple of their names (he even refers to one as "my daughter who just turned three").  While HBO was irresponsible to ask the question, knowing the answer, Ryan was even more irresponsible to allow them to air it.  It makes one of his players look absolutely awful and feeds into every bad stereotype out there about the dumb jock.  Maybe I'm looking at all wrong.  Maybe Ryan looks at from the perspective of proud papa (pun intended) glowing with pride about his new player on the verge of breaking a once thought to be unbreakable record.... children out of wedlock (currently held by Sean Kemp).  But really, I think like most people, he just thought it would be funny, even if everyone was laughing at one of his guys expense.  Who am I kidding though?  No one's perfect, and Rex Ryan is no exception.  Let's get back to praising him.     
While Ryan’s act has rubbed some people the wrong way, most notably Tony Dungy, I’d argue that his unique style is what makes him a great coach (The Jets were a playoff team last year and Superbowl contenders this year).  As a decent former athlete and current high school basketball coach, I know firsthand that getting players to buy in is the greatest challenge in the coaching profession.  There are many different strategies to do this.  The Bear Bryant “I’m going to make you wish you never met me and make you so scared to let me down” approach used to work, but in this day and age, is pretty impractical and why Bobby Knight couldn’t get it done after about 1994.  The John Wooden “I’m going to kill you with kindness and be the greatest teacher who ever lived” style is very effective but you need tremendously talented players and an inordinate amount of patience to make it work.  The Ozzie Guillen “Say whatever I want no matter how crazy, outlandish, or politically incorrect it is to deflect negative criticism off of my players” managerial style will work, but it will also get you fired.  There’s even the John Calipari “I’m going to send shady, hair slicked back, assistant number one to out-pay, I mean “out-recruit”, everyone even if it means leaving every school I ever coached at on double-secret probation” type of leadership which will give you quality teams, but will never get you to the mountaintop, and certainly will never get you respect.  And then there is Rex Ryan.  Leaving the X and O’s and all other things football out of the argument, Ryan has an uncanny ability to interact with players and manage personalities better than anyone I have ever seen.  In doing so, he is able to create a relationship where they will do whatever he asks, whenever he asks it.  His big personality and downtoearthedness (yeah it’s a word now) breeds respect and loyalty.  Considering the fact that 99 percent of NFL coaches probably have the same football acumen and IQ, this is what separates him from the rest of his peers, and in turn, makes the Jets a good football team.

No Rex Ryan
‘Hard Knocks’ has made me envious of Jets fans.  Sure, Lovie Smith seems likes a nice guy and I certainly don’t know enough about his football intelligence, game planning, or teaching ability to comment on those particular aspects of his coaching.  But I do know that he has an emotionless personality that is just as evident in his interviews as it is on the field.  If Rex Ryan is Zack, then Lovie is Screech or for the younger generation, Ryan is Jim Halpert to Lovie’s Toby Flenderson (Not to leave the baby boomers out,  a Michael-Fredo analogy would suffice as well).  His lack of personality leaves many bears fans empty and wanting more out of the coach of their football team.  Before, I wasn’t particularly sold on him one way or another, but after watching ‘Hard Knocks’, I started to lean towards the anti-Lovie side of town.  Shoot, even if we still sucked, with a guy like Rex Ryan at the helm, at least we as fans would still be entertained.  With Lovie, we stink and we’re bored.  Not a good combination.

Here's where Ditka weights in on the debate
Just in case you thought I was blowing Rex Ryan’s greatness out of proportion, I asked a friend of mine, who’s a Jets fan, “What do you New Yorkers think of this guy (Although I had a pretty good idea what his answer was going to be).”  His response: “He’s a cross between Jesus Christ and well...... Jesus Christ.”  Well, after hearing that, I can’t even begin to think how big of a rock star this guy would be in Chicago.  I’ll even ask the question that no one wants to ask, would he be……no I’m not going to say it…. shame on me for even thinking it….the fact that I even started to write about it should automatically force me to lose my Da Bears man card….hell I might as well just ask it for the sake of discussion….okay fine, I’m going to do it…. would he be bigger than Ditka if Rex coached the bears?  Before you answer that, watch a couple of episodes of ‘Hard Knocks’, and if you could with 100 percent certainty say that he wouldn’t be, then I’d respect your opinion but I'd still think that you're a liar.  I’m of the opinion that he would be bigger, but maybe I’m just lost in the heat my man passion.  Maybe, once the show is off the air and the allure is gone, Ditka will be the only thing on my mind.  Until then, there is one thing I am certain of, the current bears need a new leader.  It’s not you, it’s me.  I simply don’t Lovie you anymore.  

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