I Saw Bob Knight Cry

By Jason Klein

I saw Bob Knight Cry.

I also saw him scream his way through an obscenity-laced tirade – but that’s what you’d expect from the legendarily intense Hall of Fame basketball coach.

Yes, I also got a rare look at the compassionate side of a man who once threw a chair across the court to express his anger.

I saw Bob Knight Cry.

I spent a full week with Coach Knight in his home.

I spent a week down in Lubbock, Texas with Coach Knight this month.  I was stationed at Knight’s house with a team of Steiner Sports personnel rummaging through his massive collection of sports memorabilia, awards, and NCAA Championship rings.  The unique items we discovered will be part of a Steiner Sports auction beginning October 8, 2012.

I was there to talk to the Coach about his collection and get a better understanding of where each item came from, and what it all meant to him.  I was fortunate to go one-on-one with the Coach.  The only person who interrupted my time with him was Frank Sinatra.  You see, every time his cell phone rang, Old Blue Eyes came on to the tune of “I Did it My Way.”

Fitting for a man who told me “If I spent time worrying about what other’s thought, I’d get nothing done.”

It was an unbelievable opportunity for exclusive face time with one of the most renowned coaches in the history of basketball.

Over the course of the week, Coach Knight played the role I’m accustomed to seeing him play.  He was gruff and crotchety, he was also focused and intense.  He mocked us, pushed us to work hard, and even threatened me when I inadvertently called him “Bobby.”

I found out, the hard way, that Coach prefers “Bob.”

But then, during a private moment, I saw the man momentarily let his guard down.  It was astonishing.

He was signing some pieces from his collection when he began to tell me another anecdote from his past – Coach has more stories than a library – but this one had a different feel to it.  Unlike his other tales, there was no fury in his voice and no sarcasm in his delivery this time. Known for always having his guns blazing, this time, the resident of Lubbock, Texas held his fire.

I hung on every word.

He was recounting the story of Landon Turner, an Indiana University forward who played for Knight from 1978-1981.  An All American in High School, Turner had his choice of playing at just about any top college basketball program in the country.  He chose Indiana, and Coach Knight.

Knight told me how instrumental Turner was in his 1979 NIT Championship, and their 1981 National Title run.  Earlier in 1981, Knight mentioned how he had spent some time in Knight’s “dog house,” (who hasn’t?) but won him over with extraordinary play down the stretch that resulted in the National Championship for Indiana.

Knight had more stories than a library – each one better than the last.

Knight was beaming when he told me how proud he was of Turner, and how bright his future was going to be at the next level, the NBA.  Then, Coach’s demeanor changed drastically.  He started speaking quietly, and got misty-eyed, as he continued his story.

You see, just four months after winning the 1981 National Championship, Turner was paralyzed, from the chest down, after suffering through a nasty car accident.  So much hard work and dedication, and in an instant, Turner’s career on the basketball court was over.

Knight was heart-broken.  He was devastated by the sudden tragedy.  He sat slouched in his chair, and looked up at the ceiling as he recounted the story.  Though helpless, Knight told me, he felt he had to do something to honor his player.

“I called Red Auerbach and asked him to draft Landon anyway,” Knight told me.  “I asked him to make Landon a Boston Celtic.  I only asked once.  I never mentioned it to him again.”

On June 29, 1982, Knight got his wish.  With the final pick of the draft – pick number 21 in round 10, Auerbach selected Landon Turner out of Indiana University.  It was a poignant gesture to commemorate the collegiate career Turner had in Bloomington.

I sat there speechless.  I had never heard the story before, and to hear Coach Knight tell it with emotion and sincerity left me stunned.

Knight quickly shook it off and got back to autographing pieces of his collection.  Moments later, he was back to his normal self, using colorful language to describe just about anything he could.

As an outsider, that’s about what you’d expect from the Coach who once requested that he be “buried upside down so his critics can kiss his ass.”

That’s what I expected when I first flew out to Lubbock to meet with him.  I knew I’d get insider access to his home, I never imagined I’d get such a close look behind his emotional steel curtain as well.

I never thought I’d see Bob Knight cry.

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Granderson Represents Himself, Game With Class

By Jason Klein

As Seen in In New York Magazine  – 8/16/12

Commissioner Bud Selig once said he couldn’t think of anyone better to represent the game of baseball than Curtis Granderson.

After meeting with the Yankees Centerfielder, I can see why.

Granderson lived up to the high praise when I spoke with him on Monday afternoon at Yankee Stadium.  We chatted in front of a group of fifty children, and their parents, during a meet & greet event coordinated by Steiner Sports Marketing.

Speaking with Curtis Granderson

The Yankees center fielder was all smiles as he addressed the kids on a wide variety of topics, many of which emphasized his solid upbringing and strong moral background.  Dressed in full Yankees attire, Granderson stressed the importance of “always doing the right thing,” “working hard,” and “having fun.”

Though he happily discussed his accomplishments on the field – including 3 All-Star selections and a 2011 Silver Slugger Award – Granderson was most proud of what he’s been able to accomplish off it.

“There are 750 Major League Baseball players.  Out of those 750 players there are 38 of them with a college degree.  I’m one of them,” he said.  “So that’s one of the big things I brag about.  I don’t brag about too much else, except for that.”

And rightfully so.

Granderson earned a degree in business from the University of Illinois-Chicago after being drafted by the Detroit Tigers in 2002 as a junior.  He easily could have given up on school after securing a professional baseball contract.  However, as the son of two teachers, Granderson grew up understanding the importance of a solid education and the opportunities it can create.

“The great thing about getting your college degree is, after you’ve done that, you can do a million other things in life,” he said.  “All the doors and opportunities are available for you.  I do have an opportunity to play this great game of baseball, but that’s not going to happen forever.  I have to start thinking about other things I want to do with my life afterwards.”

The possibilities will be endless for the articulate and animated Granderson.  He didn’t dismiss the idea of going into teaching like his parents did, but upon his retirement, there will be no shortage of television and radio opportunities available for him.  An energetic and well-spoken former player is a hot commodity in the sports media industry.  Granderson’s bubbly disposition certainly fits the part.

He let his personality shine during our interview, joking with the kids about his obsession with social media and texting.  He admitted: “you can’t keep the phone out of my hand.”  He acknowledged an addiction to Facebook & Twitter – confirming he does all of his own posting and tweeting – and laughed while admitting that eating, sleeping, and putting on a clean pair of socks are among his favorite activities.

Regular stuff for a regular guy.

“We just go around and do our thing,” he said.  Everyone is surprised to see us in basic places like Walmart, Target, and Bed Bath & Beyond.  We need groceries, and toothpaste. We need to go get that stuff too!  We’re normal people!”

In Selig’s eyes, Granderson is anything but normal.  He is a special player and an extraordinary ambassador for baseball.  For this reason, he’s shown no hesitation in sending him out to spread the game to other cultures.

“This game of baseball has allowed me the opportunities to do amazing things,” he said.  “I get a chance to be here at Yankee Stadium, travel all over the world to places like South Africa, New Zealand, China, Europe and Panama.  I’ve been to a bunch of different places to help promote baseball.  I get to meet with a lot of kids from all over the world and show them how cool this game is.”

They also get to see just how cool Granderson is.

Selig already knew.

Now I do too.

Watch My Interview With Granderson!

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Jeter Keeps it Simple: More Winning, Less Talking

By Jason Klein

As Seen in In New York Magazine  – 6/25/12

Derek Jeter doesn’t want to talk about himself.  Heck, he doesn’t even want to hear someone else talk about him.

Believe me.  I tried.

I met with Jeter on Tuesday afternoon, at his place of business, Yankee Stadium.  A group of fifty children had just finished up an on-field clinic, coordinated by Steiner Sports Marketing, and had since gathered out in the centerfield bleachers.  Sitting along with their parents, they anxiously awaited their chance to chat with the Captain of the Yankees.

Jeter Was Humble During Our Talk.

I was there to emcee the question and answer session – a staple of most Steiner Sports events – and decided to give Jeter the type of introduction an athlete of his stature rightfully deserves.  I was prepared to mention his Rookie of the Year Award, all of the Gold Gloves, the All-Star appearances, “The Flip,” “The Dive,” the fist pumps, his 3,000 hits, and of course, his 5 World Series Rings.  It was the proper thing to do, no question.

Jeter arrived on time sporting his familiar game day attire, personalized Brand Jordan cleats, and Yankees cap pulled down low – like his reputation, the curve on his brim was flawless.  Everyone stopped to stare at him upon his arrival, as if Superman had entered the building.   A hero to Yankees fans, the shortstop was wearing his signature “Jeter Shield” logo across his chest, instead of a Super “S.”

I sat down next to Jeter – we shared a bleacher seat – took a deep breath, briefly introduced myself to the audience, and then began my pinstriped soliloquy:

“I have the pleasure of introducing someone who really doesn’t need an introduction…” I started.

Then, it happened.

“So don’t introduce me…hi everyone!” interrupted Jeter.

Derek Jeter cut me off like an errant throw from the outfield.  I quickly recovered.

“I’ll do it anyway,” I said.

I was determined to deliver my premeditated homage to the star player.   I continued:

“The guy right here to my right, drafted by the Yankees…”

It happened again.

“No, no, no, you don’t have to do all that,” Jeter interjected again.  This time, defiantly waiving his arms above his head.  “Hi, I’m Derek.”  He said.

He’s just Derek.  Simple as that.

The Kalamazoo Kid has never been one to hog the spotlight, or discuss his personal achievements.  It’s just not his style.  Throughout his legendary career, Derek Jeter has maintained a very consistent message.  His priorities are his teammates, and his mission statement is to win championships.  Period.

It’s a theme that permeated our chat.

Jeter was asked to decipher which of his seventeen seasons he cherished most.  His answer was confident, and decisive, like his swing.

“‘96, ‘98, ‘99, 2000, and 2009.  All five of them,” Jeter said.  “We won all of those years.”

Many of the little sluggers listening in weren’t born when confetti rained down on those teams from the late nineties.  I asked Jeter to explain to them what made those World Series teams so special.  His response reinforced his selfless stance.

Jeter Larger Than Life With Fans.

“The only thing we cared about was winning.   That was it.  We didn’t care about statistics.  I can’t tell you what anyone hit on those particular teams, but I can tell you we won a lot of games.  The only thing that mattered to us was winning.”

When asked for his thoughts on potentially catching Pete Rose and his record 4,256 career hits, Jeter dodged the question admitting, “I’m just trying to make it to 7:00 tonight.  Rose is a long way away.”

I couldn’t break him.  His team-oriented responses are polished, professional, and genuine.  He consistently looks you in the eye with every noble word he speaks.

He’s just as dependable on the field.  He shot down any notion he plays differently in big games against the rival Red Sox, stating: “There are more fans, but I try to play the same all the time.”

Jeter was unflappable throughout the session, hitting all of his points with the same consistency he does a baseball.

One audience member wondered how Jeter was able to get over the 2004 ALCS collapse to the Red Sox, admitting he had not yet recovered.  Jeter responded with: “Time to let it go buddy.”  Then adding, “When you lose it’s tough, but you have to be able to turn the page.”

The reply gave insight into his tremendous composure and focus on the field.

Rather than boast about his triumphs, Jeter chose to use the open forum to communicate uplifting messages to the throng of adoring kids.  He urged them to “get good grades,” and “be willing to work harder than everyone else.”  He also told them to “try and have fun and stay as positive as possible.”

There is no one in the game more positive than Jeter.  Always confident and smiling, Jeter tries to avoid all negativity, a trait that will ultimately keep him out of the broadcast booth once his Hall of Fame career comes to an end.

“I have a hard time criticizing people,” he said.  “There’s no chance I’ll ever be in the broadcast booth.  I know what it’s like to fail.  I know what it’s like to be out there and struggle.”

He also knows a lot about success.  He’s had a ton of it over the course of his seventeen seasons with the Yankees.

You could ask him about all of his triumphs.  Chances are, he won’t elaborate too much.  You see, Derek Jeter doesn’t want to talk about himself.  In his eyes, he’s no bigger than anyone else on the team.

He’s just Derek.  Simple as that.

Watch My Interview With Jeter (e-mail for password)

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Hello Melo, Goodbye Complacency

By Jason Klein

Originally Written For The Official Steiner Sports Blog – 2/25/11

It was an opportunity for the New York Knicks to honor their past, but instead, Legends Night was all about their future.

Chants of “Me-lo…Me-lo…Me-lo” rained down from above on Wednesday night at the World’s Most Famous Arena.  With team icons like Walt Frazier, Earl Monroe, and John Starks in attendance for scheduled halftime ceremonies, Carmelo Anthony made his debut in a Knicks uniform.

Carmelo Anthony Came Home, to New York.

After an electrifying video tribute, and a dramatic introduction, the prodigal son dropped 27 points, pulled down 10 boards, and put the buzz back into Madison Square Garden.

He came home.

Less than twenty-four hours after officially being acquired by the Knicks, the Brooklyn-born, and Syracuse Alum, Anthony joined forces with Amar’e Stoudemire to defeat the Milwaukee Bucks 114-108, and in the process, give Knicks fans hope.

The NBA in 2011 is all about power alliances – top players hand-picking their landing spots to play alongside other superstars.  With STAT and ‘Melo, the Knicks now have their two stars.  For suffering Knicks fans, this development couldn’t be any more comforting.

The Batman and Robin-like union brings new expectations to the orange and blue.  Over the last nine seasons, the Knicks have averaged 31 wins.  That futile result is no longer acceptable.  It will take time for this team to gel, but they are now in a position to compete for a title every season.  No more excuses.

Despite rumors to the contrary, Knicks Owner, James Dolan confirmed Wednesday that Donnie Walsh – not Isiah Thomas – is responsible for this turnaround and for Anthony’s acquisition.  It took three seasons, but Walsh has managed to dig New York out of the dark hole Thomas left them in when he departed in 2008.

Wednesday night was not about the past though.  It was about a bright future, on the brightest of stages…Broadway.  The Knicks certainly paid a hefty price to land Anthony, but the players they parted with were nice role players at best.  Carmelo is a legitimate superstar – a top 5 talent in the NBA.  They are better equipped to compete with teams like Miami and Boston with ‘Melo.  Without him, they were just an above average team.  With him, they can be great.

Together, Stoudemire and Anthony will attract a lot of attention, and future big-name free agents, back to Madison Square Garden, setting the Knicks up to compete for a championship in the coming years.

Yes, like the history they honored Wednesday night, the future appears bright for the New York Knickerbockers.  Stoudemire was the first piece to the puzzle, but Anthony’s acquisition has put the sizzle back in MSG.  The Knicks are relevant, exciting, and capable of achieving greatness.

All because, he came home.

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Shonn Greene & Ray Rice Meet & Greet Scheduled for March 7

By Jason Klein

Originally Written For The Official Steiner Sports Blog – 2/16/11

Are you ready for some football…in March?

Why wait until September to talk football?  Pitchers and catchers may be reporting to camp this week, but Steiner Sports is preparing for an unforgettable evening featuring two of the bright, young runners in the NFL today.

Meet Greene & Rice on March 7!

On Monday, March 7, a limited group of people will be talking football and enjoying time withShonn Greene of the New York Jets, and Ray Riceof the Baltimore Ravens.  The event will take place in New Rochelle, NY at the Steiner Sports Corporate Headquarters.

Greene’s tough, bruising running style and Rice’s quick, elusive feet have made these two studs invaluable parts of their respective teams, keeping them on top of the competitive AFC.  These two backs figure to be among the league’s elite for the foreseeable future – this is an opportunity to pick their brains and hear their stories.

This event will be limited to just 100 people (50 total packages of 2) and each package will take home mini helmets or photos signed by each athlete.  Plus, fans in attendance will have the chance to take pictures with both players, enjoy food and beverages, and tour the world famous, Steiner Sports facility.

In 2011, the Jets and Ravens will no doubt be competing for a spot in Super Bowl XLVI.  Before they begin that journey, they’ll be headed to New Rochelle on March 7th for an unforgettable “chalk talk” with fans.

Are you ready?

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Believe it. Pettitte One Of Most Reliable Yankees Pitchers Ever.

By Jason Klein

Originally Written For The Official Steiner Sports Blog – 2/3/11

Trust Andy Pettitte.

For sixteen seasons, he dramatically stared down opposing batters and came up big in the biggest of spots.  More times than not, Pettitte delivered, earning the trust of his teammates and his fans alike.  Tomorrow afternoon, Pettitte will stare down a throng of media at Yankee Stadium to announce his retirement.  When he does, trust him when he says, he’s thrown his final pitch in baseball.

Pettitte will not pull a “Brett Favre” and un-retire.  He gave the game of baseball, and the New York Yankees specifically, everything he had.  Joe Namath once said, “If you aren’t going all the way, why go at all?”  Pettitte, a workhorse, and a perfectionist on the mound, must have asked himself this very question.  Most likely, the answer wasn’t up to his standard of excellence and he decided to move on rather than perform at a level below what he expects.

Pettitte’s Reliability Will Be Tough To Replace.

So Andy Pettitte will call it a career.  One of the most beloved and reliable players in Yankees history, he will retire a 3-Time All-Star and a 5-Time World Series Champion.  He is the all-time leader in Postseason victories (19), finishes with a 240-138 career regular season mark, and a 3.88 ERA.

Along with teammates Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, and Mariano Rivera, Pettitte helped make up the “Core 4” of longest-tenured Yankees, despite playing three seasons in the middle of his career for the Houston Astros.

Perhaps his most memorable moment in pinstripes came during his second season in baseball.  It was Game 5 of the 1996 World Series, and the Yankees and Braves were tied at 2 games each.  The Yankees called on their young lefty to win a pivotal game in Atlanta, squaring off with John Smoltz.  Pettitte threw 8.1 innings allowing 0 runs on just 5 hits.  That night, his reputation as a big-game pitcher would be born.

Over the next 14 years, Pettitte would appear in 7 more World Series (once with Houston in 2005) and would consistently answer the bell when called upon.  Whenever the Yankees were in need of a big win after a Game 1 series loss, Pettitte could be trusted with the ball.

In 2007, Andy Pettitte confronted the allegations of his HGH use with the same class he displayed throughout his tenure in the big leagues.  His admission to wrongdoing restored faith among fans and his sincerity allowed him to turn a dark page that other offenders never could.

With his retirement, Pettitte will most likely settle back down in Texas, with his family, and leave behind a legion of adoring fans and a suspect pitching rotation in the Bronx.  The 38-year-old Yankees legend will depart as an iconic figure in franchise history and a fan-favorite.

Tomorrow, when Andy Pettitte tells the world he’s retiring, trust him.  He will not be making any comebacks, not if he doesn’t believe he can pitch at the level he expects.  While his final statistics place him in the Hall of Fame discussion, there is no guarantee he will ever find himself enshrined in Cooperstown.

Monument Park is a different story.  Andy Pettitte Day at Yankee Stadium will happen one day soon and his #46 will be removed from pinstriped circulation.  He’ll be honored for his remarkable body of work, his class, and for the way he represented the Yankees.

The game of baseball says goodbye to one of its greats.  Yankees fans will miss him and his reliability on the mound will be nearly impossible to replace.

That you can trust.

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Mariano Rivera Meet & Greet Scheduled for February 7

By Jason Klein

Originally Written For The Official Steiner Sports Blog – 2/1/11

Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” might not be playing, but everyone will know when Mariano Rivera enters the room.

On Monday, February 7, the greatest closer in the history of baseball will be meeting and greeting fans at the Steiner Sports Corporate Headquarters in New Rochelle, NY.  Rivera commands a room just as well as his cut fastball, and will have the lucky audience captivated with his pinstriped stories.

Want to Meet Mariano Rivera?

A 5-Time World Series Champion and 10-Time All-Star, Rivera’s legendary career with the Yankees is mind-blowing.  At age 41, he has shown no signs of slowing down, and has remained at the top of his craft for over 15 years.  He is currently just 42 saves behind Trevor Hoffman on the all-time saves list, a number he could potentially pass in 2011.

During the hour-long event, Rivera plans to recount his past successes and entertain questions from fans. After posing for photos with those in attendance, fans will receive a special limited edition photograph, signed and inscribed specifically for the event.  Restricted to just one hundred total people, this unique opportunity to spend time with the future Hall of Famer is not to be missed.

Among the most intimidating pitchers of all-time, Rivera is warm and respectful in person, reinforcing his place in the hearts of Yankees fans.

Raucous crowds welcome him nightly in the Bronx.  When the Sandman enters the room on February 7, he will have the audience silent, in awe, hanging on his every word.

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Hard Knock Jets Get Knocked Out in AFC Title Game…Again.

By Jason Klein

Originally Written For The Official Steiner Sports Blog – 1/25/11

His eyes were bleary.  His voice was filled with uncertainty.  The New York Jets had just fallen to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship Game and Jason Taylor was addressing the media.

Taylor and his Jets teammates had the rug pulled out from under their magic carpet ride towards a Super Bowl appearance, and he was discussing the harsh reality that awaited them in the offseason.

“This team as you see it tonight will never be together again,” he said. “Whether Jason Taylor’s back, or anybody else is back, it will not be the same football team again.  It just can’t be.  It’s sad in its own right.”

The Jets will huddle up this offseason to regroup for a 2011 Super Bowl run.

It’s sad, but that’s life in today’s National Football League.  Teams looking to maintain a certain level of success each year must contend with factors like expiring contracts, salary caps, injuries, and age – all of which play a role in shaping a roster.

The 2010 Jets were built to win now.  They acquired veterans entering the final year of their contract, and although their hand was stacked, they folded in Pittsburgh.  Now they must deal with the ramifications after pushing all their chips to the center of the table.

Tough decisions will have to be made on key free agents like Braylon Edwards, Santonio Holmes, Antonio Cromartie, Brad Smith, Shaun Ellis, and David Harris, among others.  Both kicker Nick Folk and punter Steve Weatherford are free agents too.  Gang Green will also have to reach a verdict on the futures of aging superstars Ladainian Tomlinson and the aforementioned Taylor.

The Jets were presented with an opportunity in 2010, a once-in-a-lifetime shot to play for a Lombardi trophy.  So what will it take for the Jets to get this chance again?  It starts with another draft, mini camp, and grueling training camp two-a-days.  They must endure another four-game pre-season and sixteen-game regular season.  Along the way, they have to avoid potential pitfalls like key injuries, treacherous weather conditions, and any off-the-field issues that could prevent a player from performing.

If they manage to surface with a playoff-worthy record in January 2012, they’ll have to win at least one postseason game (at most two) just to get back to the same exact position they already had on Sunday morning.

It’s possible.  After all, they’ve now done it two years in a row.  They have a young, and now experienced quarterback in Mark Sanchez, and a passionate Head Coach in Ryan. One would have to believe they are set up well in those two key areas for years to come.  As long as Ryan is leading the Jets, the mission statement won’t change either.  He expects the Jets to be chasing a Super Bowl every season, starting with 2011.

In truth though, chances like the one the Jets just had are rare.  Just ask Taylor.  It took him fourteen seasons to get to this point, and he had to join the hated rival of his former Dolphins to do so.  Taylor gave it everything he had, invested in Rex Ryan’s scheme, and believed his career would come to an end with him hoisting the Lombardi trophy in a green and white uniform.

Long-time suffering Jets fans also had dreams of green and white confetti raining from above.  It will be 43 years and counting since Joe Namath led the Jets to glory in Super Bowl III, the franchise’s only appearance on the big stage.  After all the hype, the free agent additions, Hard Knocks, Ryan’s bluster, the 11-5 record, and road playoff victories over Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, the fans believed this 2010 Jets team would be the one special enough to end the drought.

The Steelers had other ideas.  The sobering reality left Taylor, his teammates, his head coach, and all fans bleary-eyed, filled with uncertainty, and forced to accept that this team, as constituted, will never be together again.  It just can’t be.

A missed opportunity.  It’s sad, in its own right.

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Same Old Jets Advance to AFC Title Game…Again!

By Jason Klein

Originally Written For The Official Steiner Sports Blog – 1/18/11

Just End The Suffering.

The always-candid Head Coach of the New York Jets stood at the podium Sunday night in Foxborough, MA.  His team had just knocked off the top-seeded New England Patriots 28-21, earning them a spot in the AFC Championship Game for the second consecutive season.  Rex Ryan looked out at the throng of reporters before him and punctuated the evening with his usual bravado, giving positive meaning to a phrase once dripping with negativity.

Sanchez Celebrates in Foxborough, Now 1 Win From the Super Bowl.

“Same old Jets,” he said, “Back to the AFC Championship Game.  The only difference is, this time we plan on winning.”

It’s rare in sports that a team gets a shot at a do-over, but that’s exactly what awaits Gang Green this Sunday in Pittsburgh.  Just twelve months removed from their last shot at an AFC crown, the Jets defied the odds, backed up all the talk, and are once again just sixty minutes away from the Super Bowl.

It’s only the fourth time in their, at times, tortured past, that the Jets have advanced this deep into the playoffs.  They have only won the Conference Championship once, the same season they won their only Super Bowl, in January 1969.

That year, the legendary Joe Namath guaranteed they would win the Super Bowl, Ryan has repeatedly predicted the same outcome for this year’s squad.  Is there any reason to doubt him anymore?

In two seasons with the Jets, Ryan has transformed the culture within the organization and the mindset of its fan base.  His confidence is contagious, his personality is infectious.  He has delivered on every single thing he has promised to date, except one thing – a Super Bowl.

He can take another step towards cashing that check on Sunday at frosty Heinz Field.  It’s something this team shouldn’t take lightly, despite their overwhelming confidence.  Though it only took them one season to get back to the Title Game, there is no assurance they will ever return again.  Plus, with labor unrest, and a potential work stoppage in 2011, now is the time for Ryan to end the misery and capture the team’s first Lombardi Trophy in 42 years.

In order to get to Dallas, home of Super Bowl XLV,  the Jets will have to beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh for the second time in a month.  It’s a tall task, but it’s a game they must win.  There are no moral victories for just getting back to the Title Game – not when your mission statement is a Super Bowl victory or bust.

Make no mistake about it, defeating the Patriots on Sunday was a great accomplishment, but there is no relief for Jets fans.  That won’t come until Mark Sanchez is picking green and white confetti out of his curly mane.

Back in August, during the first episode of HBO’s Hard Knocks, Ryan announced their goal in 2010 was to win the Super Bowl.  He then famously bellowed, “I want to lead the league in wins.”  Two more victories would accomplish both goals, a Title and a 15-5 overall record – good for most wins in the NFL this year.

Before then, the Same Old Jets are headed back to the AFC Championship Game.  The only difference is, this time they plan on winning.

It’s been 42 years in the making.  Get it done.

Just End The Suffering.

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Like Namath, Rex Ryan Intends To Keep His Promise

By Jason Klein

Originally Written For The Official Steiner Sports Blog – 1/12/11

Joe Namath once guaranteed Super Bowl triumph, and delivered.

Rex Ryan pledged the same thing two years ago.  His quest continues Sunday in Foxboro against the Patriots in their AFC Divisional Playoff Game.

Rex Ryan Looks To Deliver a Title for the Jets

Forty-two years ago today, January 12, 1969, “Joe Willie” made good on his promise, defeating the Baltimore Colts16-7 in Super Bowl III.  Not since then have the Jets had a personality quite as colorful or brash.

Since his arrival in New York, prior to the 2009 season, Rex Ryan hasn’t been coy with his intentions.  He doesn’t just want to win a Super Bowl.  He plans on it.

During his introductory press conference, he assured Jets Nation of a pending trip to the White House following a title run.  This summer, he even hand signed an ESPN Tour Bus with an inscription of, “Soon to be Champs.” Ryan is ultra-confident and doesn’t care who he offends.

“I’m not apologizing,” he said this past August.  “I just know what’s going to happen.  My crystal ball, I’m seeing a Super Bowl trophy in there.  I could be wrong, but that’s what I see.  But every time I go to work, that’s what I look at.”

Ryan can thank Namath for the trophy he ogles over each day in Florham Park.  For forty-two years, that Lombardi Trophy has stood alone.  Ryan insists he is the green & white Messiah to add another to the collection.

He faces, perhaps, his biggest challenge this weekend.  Coming off of an embarrassing 45-3 Monday Night Football thrashing last month, Ryan knows this rematch with New England will not be easy.  However, he’ll tell anyone who will listen of his plans to pull off the upset and even out-coach the former HC of the NYJ, Bill Belichick.

His bluster might seem dumb, or even reckless on the surface, but Rex Haters must understand one thing:  he just doesn’t spew anything without purpose.

Right or wrong, and always controversial, Rex Ryan takes calculated risks with each bold statement he dangles to the media.  His intentions are almost always targeted at taking pressure off his players and coaches, and putting it squarely on his own shoulders.

It’s hard to argue with the results.  In two years, Ryan has posted an impressive 20-12 regular season record, made an appearance in the AFC Championship Game, and won a total of 3 playoff games (so far), more than any other Jets Head Coach in history.

Love him or hate him, Rex Ryan delivers.  If he can pull three more victories out of his Jets cap this year, and make good on his promise, he’ll own New York.

Just like “Joe Willie” did, forty-two years ago today.

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