Friday, the NFL warned teams about going overboard with the trash talk in the media. By "teams," they meant the one team constantly barking. The No Fun League must be thrilled at that one team surviving to yap another week.
We thought last night would be the end of it. We thought the Jets would go down as another footnote, another team who talked big and ate their words. You usually only remember the teams who lose, because their statements gain a dramatic irony in retrospect. Three years ago, Tom Brady dismissively scoffed, "We're only going to score 17 points? Okay." Now, we watch that video knowing he wouldn't even get that many. The lens of history focuses on hubris.
But these Jets, led by boisterous, blustery Rex Ryan, are making a different kind of history, a rarer one. There a are so few instances of teams talking such smack then backing it up, that Joe Namath's prediction is allowed to go down as simply "The Guarantee."
Will they keep talking this week? There's no history with Pittsburgh, but we don't expect the Jets to dance with anyone other the one who brought them. And honestly, with Rex, we don't think he knows any other way to be. And the media's loving it. One writer told me this is the most fun she's ever had in her career. Another says it's the first time he can remember that the Giants beat writers are jealous of their Jets counterparts.
And they're a fan's dream. For those of us without a horse in the race, they're livening up the usually staid weeks between games. Rants like Bart Scott's or Antonio Cromartie's show a human side: the kind of trash talking we break out when we're playing Madden. They also help us believe, if just for a moment, that these games mean as much to players as they do to us. And even if you can't stand the Jets and their assholery, you're rooting for them to lose with a passion. That's a good thing for the league.
But the NFL isn't happy. Intent on sifting all the fun out of the game, they'd rather their players keep quiet and play football. Much like the Steelers, with their generally businesslike approach (with a few exceptions), respected ownership, and embrace of history. Next Sunday will see a clash between the league's clear favorite, and everybody else's. Both teams carry a big stick, but only one speaks softly. Should the Jets pull off another upset, it's the NFL's worst nightmare: two weeks of news to manufacture, and Rex Ryan there to fill the void. Regardless of what happens in the Super Bowl, that's what we should all be rooting for.