As the NFL pre-season is about to commence, one thing is inevitable: the national and local media will be unable to resist the temptation of calling the NY Jets a circus. Yap, Johnny "Football" Manziel is in Cleveland, Aaron Hernandez is in jail pending trial for murder, but it is the same old Jets that will be branded a circus. There is only one problem with this stereotype: It has nothing to do with reality.
Consider the following:
According to Forbes Magazine the NY Jets are the 14th most valuable team franchise in the world, worth approximately $1.38 billion. That is not 14th in the NFL, but of any team sport franchise on planet Earth. Now is this the profile of a circus club? Woody Johnson has consistently shown impressive financial acumen in the most competitive market anywhere. In my view, he will prove a very successful owner. But at any rate, if the Jets are indeed a circus, then someone is laughing annually all the way to the bank.
One could mention a dozen anecdotes here, but one should suffice. It is taken from Nicholas Dawidoff's Collision Low Crossers, the most important book ever written about the NY Jets and a must-read for any self-respecting Gang Green (and NFL) fan. Before a pre-season game against the NY Giants in 2011, it became known that a tropical storm would hit the area. It was announced that the game would be postponed while:
...[T]he facility would be locked and all entry passcodes deactivated so coaches wouldn't try to drive through the storm and keep working... Immediately, some offensive coaches began plotting to go straight to Florham Park, ahead of the storm, and stay there, locked in through the hurricane, bedding down under their desks.
This is not a portrait of circus clowns, but of highly motivated and committed professionals who are obsessed and wholly committed to winning. Jets haters please take note.
Rex has gotten a raw deal. He is often portrayed as a buffoonish character, the poster boy of the circus NY Jets, a coach who will run the bulls, get his body tattooed with the image of Mark Sanchez and lace his speeches with profanity. But Rex Ryan is a defensive genius, a great motivator of raw talent, a head coach who rarely experiences a losing season, and the person who shepherded his teams to two consecutive AFC Championship games with a mediocre (as it turned out) QB. Without any doubt, players want to play for him. At the same time he is maturing, becoming more media-savvy, more measured, but still fun and inspiring. To survive and thrive in NYC is no mean accomplishment and has nothing to do with nurturing a circus atmosphere.
Jets fans are long suffering ones, not having experienced any Super Bowl celebrations since 1969. But this is exactly the point. They have never stopped believing or supporting their team. They maintain a sense of enjoyment, of celebration though adversity (and they unfailingly make their presence felt during the NFL Draft as I got to personally witness this year). To be a Jets fan is to take chances, to build character, to eschew conformity, to show profound commitment and love of team. Jets fans always know how to have fun but they never condone nor represent a circus.
So there you have it: Despite the insistence of the media, the NY Jets never really were and never will be a circus. The team is simply too wealthy, has too many committed professionals working for it, is headed by an inspiringly good coach and has some of the most interesting and loyal fans in the league to be relegated to being a mere circus.
Dr Aristotle Tziampiris is Visiting Fellow at New York University's Remarque Institute. His views are personal.