While the Jets are preparing for their first AFC Championship Game since 1998 and a battle with the Colts, there’s another team that already invaded the Jets home this week — the media horde.
Armed with pens, digital recorders and cameras, this swarm of press arrived from all corners. Azteca TV in Mexico was here for Mark Sanchez, Nippon TV in Japan was here to cover Rex Ryan (who I understand is big in Japan).
Denver, Philly and even Boston papers were here — though I think Boston is still trying to figure out who they hate more, the Jets or the Colts. Judging by the fact that most former Patriots have picked the Jets to win, it makes me think there’s actually more hatred for Peyton than the Jets in Beantown.
Of course every local press outlet was well represented. The Daily News had eight people at the facility every day. In all, the Jets issued 115 press credentials for Wednesday’s big media blitz. That’s more than Brett Favre’s arrival press conference.
Now it’s tough to make that many reporters happy, but two things can do the trick: great sound bites and vittles. While I’m on it, I have to say I was very impressed with the cuisine. We’ve had parmesan crusted chicken with a mango salsa, three-cheese pasta, and a fantastic garlic bread that required two pieces of Eclipse gum to mask its strength. (Thanks for the gum, Dennis Waszak … the Jets players I interviewed are also appreciative.)
The sound bites have been quite tasty, too. It all started with Marques Douglas calling out the Colts for chattering about gifting the Jets the Week 16 win. Bart was colorful saying "To be the best you have to beat the best" on this Website. I think he borrowed that from Ric Flair.
And Ryan never disappoints. He’s talked about everything from his 7,000-calorie diet to championship T-shirts not coming in 4XL to his final words of wisdom for Mark Sanchez: "I mean, just because every kid in the world dreams about this spot, don’t let it affect you."
Speaking of Mark, did you see the shirt he was wearing on Friday? It said "Wonderboy" on it with a lightning bolt. At first I thought he was a big fan of Tenacious D, but I asked about it afterward and he pulled off his hoodie and showed me the back that read "Don’t play me if you don’t expect me to play my best." It’s from "The Natural."
I don’t think that’s as inspiring as Tenacious D’s song. How much better would it have been if the back of Mark’s shirt said "That’s levitation, Holmes"? See what I mean. That song has the power … to move you.
I was curious to see how the Jets responded to the crush of media. They weren’t affected one bit. They joked with out-of-town writers as much as with the beatwriters who are out there every day.
This is a loose locker room. And as they get set to head to Indianapolis for one of the biggest games in franchise history, they are amazingly relaxed and confident, unfazed by the extra media sessions and barrage of rapid-fire questions that came at them.
And they answered them honestly. Indianapolis reporters were almost giddy with the quality of material this team provides. Compared to a Colts team whose strongest statement was about Sanchez’s beard, you can understand why it’s fun covering the Green & White. When you’re exposed to the cameras as much as the Jets, it’s hard to put on a facade.
Those of us who have been in that locker room the entire season have seen a range of emotions. This team has shown us brash talking, frustration and embarrassment. They’ve had discouraging losses and inspiring wins. They have not been robotic. They’ve been human. They’ve been straightforward. And they’ve answered all questions.
Some teams shrink in the spotlight, but the Jets seem more like a group that stands tall on the biggest stage. Maybe along the way they’ve said stuff they regret, but they’ve all been themselves and that freedom with the media mimics the latitude they’re given on the field to play the game.
This week they’ve been as relaxed as a team preparing for a championship game can be, and if they keep that same mentality on the field, they’ll be meeting a much larger media army in two weeks.
Tags: AFC Championship, Indianapolis Colts, Mark Sanchez, Marques Murrell, Rex Ryan
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