— Chances are you have a wide-screen television. That’s good, because the New York Jets and the Philadelphia Eagles will soon test the boundaries of your set with their preposterously large presences.
I’m not even referring to the zeppelin-esque forms of coaches Rex Ryan and Andy Reid. Everybody knows they’re large. So I’m not going to make cracks about them, such as their tailors probably take their measurements in latitude and longitude. I just won’t go there.
It’s more about the amount of media time and space they will hog. Those two teams will be the “American Idol” of sports programming. You can change the channel, turn the dial, click on to another site. It won’t matter. They’ll be everywhere.
The Jets and Eagles have hacked into your lives.
The Jets have of a head start to this level of magnification. They court it. They crave it. Every year Ryan struts out onto the national stage like some gruff version of Susan Boyle and barks about how his team is headed to the Super Bowl winner’s circle and everybody else is playing for second place. No one outside of Washington, D.C. stays on message quite like Rex.
With the Eagles, it’s been more of a slow burn. They generated lots of buzz when they first acquired Michael Vick. The Kevin Kolb watch worked as an entertaining sideshow. DeSean Jackson is always good for an occasional blast of arrogance.
But when the Eagles signed Nnamdi Asomugha, they thrusted themselves into a whole new realm of reality television. Asomugha, coupled with the additions of prized defensive players Jason Babin, Cullen Jenkins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, along with Vince Young as a backup quarterback, assured the Eagles that most major news organizations will now have to establish a bureau at their practice facility. I don’t mean just MSNBC, CNN, Fox, large newspapers, etc. I’m talking the BBC, Al Jazeera, Radio Free Europe and the Pyongyang Bugle. News of the World was closed down, and it still might send a correspondent.
The Eastern corridor between New York and Philadelphia will become a transit line for a season-long press junket. They’ll probably set up a gigantic buffet table somewhere around New Brunswick, N.J.
There is some justification for all the attention. Ryan’s Jets made the AFC title game the past two years. Quarterback Mark Sanchez is a little older and a little wiser, even if he’s as limited as ever. He’ll have a big playmaking wideout in Plaxico Burress.
Most important, the Jets reflect Ryan’s irrepressible bravado. The other day Ryan expressed his desire that someone else chip in and beat the Patriots once in a while, because the Jets are tired of doing all the work. Can you imagine Bill Belichick saying that? First of all, it’s way too many syllables.
The Eagles? They’ve made the playoffs nine of the past 11 seasons. Vick will be more comfortable now that he knows he’s the unquestioned starter. And collectively they seem to sense that it’s their time.
Yet whether the Jets and Eagles are worthy of a mind-numbing barrage of publicity from now through January and maybe all the way to the Super Bowl isn’t as important as whether we’ll survive it.
Remember, there aren’t too many high-profile buffers. The Dallas Cowboys surely will disappoint again; they’ll be as appealing as a corral full of cattle with hoof-and-mouth disease. The Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens will be fairly noteworthy, as will the defending champion Green Bay Packers and the Indianapolis Colts. And there will be other fine teams ranging from competent to excellent who will distinguish themselves by playing good football.
But that’s not the same as a franchise that doubles as a carnival. The Redskins will possess some train-wreck qualities worth checking out, as will Jay Cutler with the Bears. That’s really it. The potential for fireworks in New England now that Albert Haynesworth and Chad Ochocinco are there will be tamped down by the dull hammer of Belichick’s personality.
No, I’m afraid it’s going to be Jets and Eagles, Eagles and Jets, all the way to the Super Bowl, where the two finalists might very well be … you know who.
Each week, we’ll hear from Philly about the merits of keeping Vick and trading Kolb; whether Young has matured enough to lead a team if needed; if Asomugha has been worth the money; if Reid is overrated as a head coach; if that’s really Cheese Whiz on those famous cheesesteaks.
We’ll be regaled with stories from the Jets’ camp about Ryan’s new tribal tattoo; about his relationship with brother Rob, defensive coordinator of the Cowboys (the Jets host Dallas in Week 1); about whether Darrelle Revis is still the game’s best corner, or if that honor belongs to Asomugha; about some new tabloid item involving Ryan’s wife; about Sanchez’s standing among NFL quarterbacks; and about whether Bart Scott automatically answers “Can’t Wait!” to every question, including those about a full-body waxing, a tax audit, an upcoming Celine Dion concert, and a colonoscopy.
And the developments I can think of that might actually push the hype around the Jets and Eagles beyond the limits of human tolerance is if whispers begin about a return to football for both Brett Favre and Randy Moss. I’m sure if that happens you’ll hear each say that he has narrowed his choices down to two teams:
Take a wild guess.