“I’m a fan of football, I love the sport, and I’ve said a million times that I’m just an average person given an incredible opportunity,” New York Jets coach Rex Ryan.
The NFL lockout between the players and team owners which began on March 11th and lasted until July 25th is thankfully over, which is an extremely positive thing. If the season had been shortened, or if it had been forgone altogether, the people who would have really suffered, undeservedly so, would’ve been the individuals who work at the various stadiums. Among others, the food servers, vendors, parking lot attendants, merchandise sellers and maintenance staff, for many of whom the season offers the opportunity for a second income in order to make ends meet. In addition, there would’ve been an incredible amount of lost revenue because the games wouldn’t have been broadcast on television and the radio. The companies that sell merchandise and food to the stadiums, and the companies that deliver those goods would have been severely impacted. Sales of team merchandise would no doubt have been greatly diminished, causing further economic woes to the stores that sell those items, as well as to the companies that manufacture, distribute and deliver the merchandise to those stores. These are just the people and industries I can think of off the top of my head. No winners would have emerged from a lockout, especially in the type of dismal economy America is currently suffering under. The regular season will kick off on September 8, 2011 when the champions of Super Bowl XLIV the New Orleans Saints travel to Wisconsin to the home of the “cheese heads,” Lambeau Field, to take on last year’s Super Bowl winners, the Green Bay Packers. I am very happy that pro football will be played, so I decided in this blog to review newly minted author, New York Jets’ coach Rex Ryan’s book “Play Like You Mean It: Passion, Laughs, and Leadership in the World’s Most Beautiful Game. Love him or hate him, this book is an examination of one of the most charismatic – and sometimes controversial – coaches to ever grace the playing fields and press rooms of the National Football League.
If you’re a football fan, and in particular a fan of the New York Jets franchise, then you’re probably going to get exactly what you expect in this page turner, which isn’t at all a bad thing, at least not in the blogger’s opinion. Coach Ryan is brash, not afraid to speak his mind, and an encyclopedia of football knowledge, which was in part handed down to him by his father, Coach Buddy Ryan, who won Super Bowl rings with both the Jets and the Chicago Bears, thanks to his masterminding the vaunted 1985 Bear’s defense. As an aside, Rex Ryan gave the first copy of his book to his father, who has recently been treated for cancer; and dedicated the book to him as well.
Written with co-author Don Yaeger, who is the former editor of Sports Illustrated, the 280 page “Play Like You Mean It,” published by Doubleday, is a time line through Coach Rex Ryan’s life told in first person, conversational style. The book, which got the full support of Jets owner Woody Johnson, is an in-depth character study of a person going through life with a powerful passion to do his quintessential best. Among varied topics, the book talks about his modest beginnings, his parents’ divorce, his first forays into coaching, and all through his NFL career up to his taking over as the head coach of the New York Jets in 2009.
The book, like past statements Ryan has made, has generated the ire of New York Giants fans, who believe that Coach Ryan used the printed page to take cheap shots at their organization; this has been blown way out of proportion. All this blogger came away with regarding that topic is the typical Ryan confidence which is the coach’s signature calling card. The way I took what he wrote to mean was that he wants to inspire Jets fans to show pride in the team. True, the Giants have won three out of the four Super Bowls that they have played in, as compared to the one time the Jets reached the pinnacle of football in Super Bowl Three and were victorious. But that was in the past, and Rex wants Jets fans to look toward the future. He wants Jets fans to believe that the team has a legitimate shot of returning to glory, and once again become the toast of the town as they were when Joe Namath and his underdog teammates brought the title to New York. Rex Ryan wants to turn naysayers and perennial pessimists into true believers. What true fan of a team wouldn’t want their coach to eat, sleep, and breathe his franchise, while speaking about it in terms that are meant to inspire perpetual pride?
Speaking as a Jets fan, the team has far too often had coaches that projected a sense of doom and gloom, men whose faces seemed to register expressions that conveyed that the Jets weren’t going to win that day’s game, or anything else for that matter during the season. The team has also had coaches, who have been on the opposite side of that spectrum, men who were positive, but played too conservatively and therefore also never really achieved all they might have been able to. Coach Ryan fits into neither of those categories. That’s just this blogger’s opinion. The book includes testimonial excerpts from former Baltimore Ravens head coach Brian Billick, Jets owner Woody Johnson, football hall of famer Ozzie Newsome, linebacker Jason Taylor, and Jets linebacker Bart Scott.
One topic that was not fully addressed by Rex in his book, and I feel rightfully so, was the ridiculous “foot fetish” video that surfaced last season. The woman in the video bore a striking resemblance to Rex’s wife Michelle, but he has always addressed the matter with the media as a personal one, and in the book, he doesn’t divulge any new tidbits of information. Coach Ryan, does, however, comment on the other scandal that caused the powers that be in the NFL to investigate the Jets, the incident in which a female reporter from Mexico, Ines Sainz, accused Jets players and coaches of acting inappropriately toward her. In addition, Ryan denies that he saw the sideline tripping of a Miami Dolphins player by Jets strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi. Coach Ryan did admit to the members of the Associated Press that there were a few things in the book that he would change. One was when he used the word “phony” to describe former New York Jets, defensive end and former first round pick Vernon Gholston. Ryan has since commented on his word choice and clarified his feelings. ““What I meant by the ‘phony’ thing was that his (NFL combine) numbers were phony. His numbers were better than maybe anybody in the history of football, and I was like, ‘That’s not how he plays. Nobody plays like that.’ But, Vernon got better, and he was a tremendous person.”
During the great times and the hard times; that which seems to come without much difficulty and that which must be earned through rigor; the thrill of victory and the heartbreak of defeat, Coach Ryan’s book delves into the moments of his career in a manner that can be enjoyed by all passionate football fans, not just fans of the Jets. The book is an entertaining, informative, and most of all enjoyable read – one worthy accomplishment among many from a man who has struggled with dyslexia all his life.