Shutting Down the Jersey Sure
In the season two premiere of The West Wing, AARON SORKIN and the gang flash back to then-Governor JED BARTLET, still in the primary stages of ending up President. Strolling the wind-swept streets of his native New Hampshire, MARTIN SHEEN's Bartlet openly doubts his ability to serve as - citing another Sorkin opus, and another Sheen vehicle - The American President. Just days from the first Primary (Iowa has Caucuses, people!), he confides in an old friend, his soon-to-be chief-of-staff LEO MCGARRY, who passes along this one-two of 12-step wisdom:
LEO: I'm tired of it! Year after year after year after year of having to choose between the lesser of Who Cares; of trying to get myself excited about a candidate who can speak in complete sentences; of setting the bar so low I can hardly look at it. They say a good man can't get elected President. I don't believe that. Do you?
BARTLET: You think I'm that man.
BARTLET: Doesn't it matter that I'm not as sure?
LEO: Ah... Act as if ye have faith and faith shall be given to you. Put it another way: Fake it 'til you make it.
This exchange kept circling the recesses of our mind as the NEW YORK JETS circled the drain on Sunday, not long after many of us sat there thinking, "Ya know, it may take a quarter or two, but Peyton's gonna figure this out at some point." Sure enough, Eli's big brother started dropping dimes into a bucket (and the waiting hands of some Mormon named COLLIE); PIERRE GARCON started doing his dead-on Marvin Harrison impression, and a Pro Bowl corner kept chasing Harrison's old partner in crime (so to speak) all over "Revis Island" as fruitlessly as a Sahara-set Survivor. Ultimately, Gang Green's Cinderella Story came to The End as REX, "The Natural" and the rest of the Swaggerlicious 53 headed home, defeated but cocky as ever. Which leads us to... The New Yorker TV Critic NANCY FRANKLIN and the cast of Jersey Shore? Really? (Yep.)
Ms. Franklin's look-see at MTV's hottest reality trainwreck since Britney shaved her head includes this gem that leapt off the page for its wide-ranging applicability: "Like all reality show participants, Pauly D, The Situation, and the others speak in categorical certainties. They know things for sure, then those things blow up in their faces, then they hate those things and take about three seconds to find new things to believe in." (For anyone who spent post-Mangenius time on a Jet fan messageboard this qualifies as a humdinger of a dead-ringer. For anyone who's ever tuned in to a Rex Ryan press conference, "categorical certainties" are a categorical certainty.)
For the record, it is our position that the Jets have a slew of talented, aggressive and instinctive players, as well as a devoted, if largely delusional, following. They have an elite defense, a dynamic, smash-mouth running game and an all-world corner in DARRELLE REVIS. True, last week he stooped to labeling RANDY MOSS a "slouch," but we'll attribute that to his rightly feeling dissed by # 81; to the BART SCOTT-flavored culture that pervades their (still rented) locker room, and to the lack of perspective that comes with being twenty-four years old and awesome at your job. (That said, Darrelle, talk to us when you've set the DeLorean for Minnesota, circa 1998, and had success against a Moss who isn't 32 and twelve years in.) Then there's the big man...
Talk all you want about Ryan - and we've talked plenty, 'though less than he has - the guy turned his team into true believers. In him, in his system and, most importantly, in themselves. You might not always care for his methods or his madness, but they clearly worked wonders. (The fact that we learned this week that he consumes 7000 calories/day should have no bearing on that whatsoever, which of course it doesn't, but we thought it bore mentioning, if for no other reason than to gratuitously invoke Rex and a homonym of "boar.") You can front all you want about "backing into the playoffs," but give credit where it's due. They had two legit playoff wins - on the road. Doing that against anyone demands respect. Against a team like the high-flying Chargers, it grabs you by the throat in a dark alley. Their loss to Indy, while disappointing to the Gang Green faithful, augurs well for their future. On the other hand, this doesn't:
"The Sanchize" wearing his ROY HOBBS-inspired "Wonderboy" t-shirt to a presser in the run-up to a playoff game his team wound up losing by double-digits.
Ryan, a day after the loss, re: which areas his team can improve on: "We don't need a whole lot."
*Ryan, on the new facility the Jets will be sharing with the 3-time Super Bowl-winning GIANTS: "This is our stadium. We are the biggest show in town. That's the way it's gonna be." *
As WFAN's Extremely Big Cheese MIKE FRANCESA put it: "They never stop talking. They got whooped and one day later, they're talking." Which leads us to the bottom line...
Attention, Jet Nation, from Rex on down to his messageboard brethren: It is, at long last, officially time to SHUT. UP. Time to stop telling people how awesome you are and how everyone should (and secretly does) fear you. Rex had to blow in and "change the culture," and it took Bart Scott's big mouth to help the others "buy in," BUT: You just came within half an hour of going to the Super Bowl. "Fake it 'til you make it" no longer applies. You've made it. No one's suggesting you undergo a personality transplant - we believe in the Popeye Manifesto of "I yam what I yam" and its West Wing corollary, "Let Bartlet be Bartlet." You dance with the girl who brung ya, we get it. Just...tone it down a bit, grow up. You're a big part of a big league, not some trashy, little, hot-tubbing, spray-tanned twenty-something called SNOOKI, who doesn't get that calling yourself the "[effing] princess of [effing] Poughkeepsie!" might *seem * self-aggrandizing, but really kind of isn't.
In the end, the more we review that review of Jersey Shore, and the more we reflect on Rex and the fans and the rest of "The Jersey Sure," the more it becomes clear that these two groups are one and the same. In describing Snooki, The Situation, Pauly D and the others, Franklin points out that they know "instinctively or consciously, what to bring: a little swearing, a little temper, a need for attention, a large bottle of immodesty, and the ability to deliver a sound bite."
Need we say more?
Out-Takes had a double-date with "chagrined" and "regretful" recently, having failed to write about a trio of timely items. Luckily, each story has shown Cialis™-like staying power, so this week'll do just fine. First of all, we failed to mention "Pants on the Ground," the song gone viral that kicked off on American Idol * and led to a feature in *USA TODAY, an appearance on The View, countless mass emails and way too many Facebook status updates. It also holds the distinction of being the sole reason we've found to like BRETT FAVRE, even a little, in months.
GENERAL LARRY PLATT, the 62-year old former Civil Rights activist whose refrain was chanted by # 4 following playoff victory number one, was flown to New Orleans for the NFC Championship game and, we guess, a bit of good luck. Platt looked to be the Vikings' less offensive version of PEDRO's 2004 mascot, NELSON DE LA ROSA, whom the Red Sox hurler unabashedly referred to as "my lucky midget." We'll chalk up this rather un-p.c. designation, this Pedro-being-Manny moment, to cultural cluelessness. (Everyone knows they prefer to be called Munchkins.)
Also, Out-Takes recently cited a five-pack of playmakers who make watching football especially fun: ED REED, CHRIS JOHNSON, his partner in the backfield VINCE YOUNG, PERCY HARVIN and JOSHUA CRIBBS. Somehow, though, we managed to avoid typing the words "RAY," "RICE" "DESEAN" and "JACKSON," which makes us about as lame as any SKIPPY HANDLEMAN scene ever to make the cut on Family Ties. As for our other lamentable omission...
Friend of Out-Takes BLAKE had a birthday last Friday, and if we're gonna drop the ball, we might as well pick it up while in the vicinity of American Idol talk. Out-Takes has a diverse readership, some fans of football, some of, say, ADAM LAMBERT, some of both. Here's to the lot of you.
~ Playoff predictions-wise, we opened 1-3. Then went 2-2. Then 2-0. (Out-Takes on the upward trajectory!) Will we finish over or under .500 for the post-season? Not quite a cliffhanger on the level of North by Northwest but, still, we're pretty sure Mom Out-Takes is impressed.
~ Nice to see Karma triumph like it did in the Big Easy Sunday, but how surprising was it, really? A hurricane-ravaged city still trying, in fits and starts, to remake itself...or...a guy who screwed over teammates, fans and the organization that made him, getting rewarded with a storybook ending? Then again, is there ever really a contest, Karma-wise, between "Saints" and "Vikings?"
~ Hard not to feel absolutely awesome for GARRETT HARTLEY when he nailed that game-winner straight down Bourbon Street. Happy days are here again, New Orleans. We'd tell you to let loose, but that's pretty much implied. And redundant.
~ Believe it or not, even Out-Takes sympathized with Favre after he lost in such excruciating, hilariously familiar fashion the other day. At least we'll be hearing less about his "heroic" and "gutty" performance - as long as we avoid any contact with the Worldwide Leader's worldwide leader in Favre-related rump-smooching, TOM "That's the thing about Brett Favre - he's not afraid to throw an interception. That's one of the things I most admire about him..." JACKSON.
~ On Sunday BRAD CHILDRESS, to no one's surprise, tried to get cute when calm, steady leadership would've had the Vikes staring down the barrel of a makeable game-winning FG. Instead his team bumbled its way to an unconscionable penalty in literally THE most important moment of his professional life. Cross-dressing for the flight to Pittsburgh was a better idea.
~ Just when Patriots fans thought CHAD JACKSON and BETHEL JOHNSON were done being infuriating, along comes a highlight-reel stuffed to the gills with AUSTIN COLLIE and PIERRE GARCON as Peyton and the Colts re-load. Wow.
~ This week's prediction: The AFC, despite NORV TURNER, will beat the NFC, because of WADE PHILLIPS, and no one will care. (Take that last part to the bank.)
~ Chide Hollywood all you want, but they throw a helluva telethon. Those who didn't see the fundraising extravaganza GEORGE CLOONEY mobilized in a matter of days last week owe it to themselves to check out www.hopeforhaitinow.org. As STEVIE WONDER put it, "A whole lotta littles make a whole lotta lots." Give what you can - plus five. And count your blessings.
John Cockrell is a screenwriter, whose other work has run the gamut from "Sesame Street Parents Magazine" to Playboy TV's "The Weekend Flash." (He figures everything else is pretty much in-between.)