Make no mistake about it. The NY Jets are routinely derided, despised and yes, hated, by a big part of the media and many NFL fans. Examples are too numerous for comfort: Just before the beginning of the season, experts decided that the Jets deserved the last spot in their power rankings (we'll see about that); on the Sunday of Week 1 another panel of experts on one of the proliferating morning football shows unanimously pronounced the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to be sure winners (they lost). Or think about Tim Tebow. Moral opprobrium was heaped upon the Jets in prodigious quantities for letting down and derailing the career of the finest America has to offer. There was simply no end in negative stories about this episode; and then Tebow signs with the New England Patriots and is cut after failing to make the 53 man roster. And what happens? Nothing! The Patriots get a pass, turns out Tebow simply cannot throw. If there is one example of media bias against the Jets, this is it. But the question remains, why do they hate the Jets so much? Here are the three major reasons.
1) The Jets Face the NY Media Market.
New York is the largest media market in the country and every single media outlet that counts at the very least has an office here. Operating essentially on a 24/7 news cycle, it is simply more convenient and easier to cover the Jets; and keep in mind that very many people sincerely care about the Jets, a team with probably a few million of supporters (the official New York Jets page on Facebook had at last count 1,505,866 likes). Now this could have been a symbiotic relationship creating a virtuous circle of good reporting. It hasn't. The complication is that most in the media have figured out that starting a controversy about the Jets is far likelier to produce attention and bring traffic to their work.
Manish Mehta, the Daily News beat writer for the Jets provides a case in point. Now I am not saying that he is not competent or conscientious or scrupulous (though Roger Angell he ain't). The point is that when he called for Rex Ryan's firing it was no less than Chris Christie, the Governor of New Jersey who responded (or took the bait) calling him among other things "a dope." So here it is how it works: you attack the NY Jets and possibly the next leader of the free world deals with you. Certainly not a pleasant experience but the moral of the story is that Jets baiting guarantees extensive, wide controversy and publicity even (or especially) for beat writers; and when it comes to journalism that is a net plus.
2) The Jets Are Iconoclastic.
It possibly goes back to Broadway Joe and the mythology that put this team on the map. But the Jets have never been boring, have even flirted with the counter-culture and have been willing to break or bend some rules. In many ways, Rex Ryan embodies this tradition. No ordinary NFL coach he: think of HBO's Hard Knocks, his tattoo, running the bulls etc -- well the list is long. But many want the NFL to be a conservative continuity without anyone rocking the boat. Many do not appreciate the fun ethos of the Jets; and many downright despise such attitude. Hatred ensues.
The Jets have not won a Super Bowl since 1969, why should fans be jealous of them? Well, that is precisely the point. Perennial underdogs, with no celebratory confetti in decades, the Jets dominate attention, command headlines and quite often cause a national discussion. Supporters of teams whom they consider more worthy become green with envy. If only their teams were as interesting; if only more people cared about them. But they don't. It is the Jets that get the attention, it is the Jets that have the multitudes of passionate followers. Their response is predictable, if unfortunate: they end up hating them Jets.
Hatred and bias against the Jets will not go away anytime soon. The best way to deal with them is for the Jets to finally win another Super Bowl, thus allowing feelings of envy to have a firm basis in reality.
Dr Aristotle Tziampiris is Visiting Fellow at New York University's Remarque Institute
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