The first two episodes of "Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the New York Jets" on HBO have been watched by an average of 850,000 people. This includes TV critics, who called head coach Rex Ryan "a Rodney Dangerfield character come to life," and Jets players, who say they enjoy watching themselves on the show. Newspaper columnists and Internet bloggers loved seeing a mock bed-check on holdout Darrelle Revis' dorm room and new CB Antonio Cromartie's attempt to recite the names and ages of all his children. Reviews for the show have been almost unanimous with approval.
There is one person who, while he's seen a lot of video on the Jets over the years, isn't a fan of "Hard Knocks." When asked in a radio interview if he watched his AFC East rivals on TV, Patriots QB Tom Brady responded, "Honestly, I haven't turned it on. I hate the Jets, so I refuse to support that show."
When told what the All-Pro had said, Ryan responded, "Hell, he knows we hate the Patriots. So what's the difference?"
Brady's dislike for the Jets and the program may not be received well in the NFL offices in midtown Manhattan or by Gang Green fans all across the tri-state area. Ryan's response might ruffle some feathers of the Boston sports junkies. But to everyone else, the barb-trading should be welcomed like a tax refund. Dislike between divisional opponents, especially between the league's loudest coach and arguably its greatest quarterback, is good for everybody involved with the NFL.
Since the league's formation 90 years ago, rivalries have been at the forefront of football's growth from regional niche sport to America's Game. From long-standing rivalries like Bears vs. Packers and Giants vs. Eagles, to temporary ones, such as Steelers vs. Raiders in the 1970s and 49ers vs. Cowboys in the early '90s, the dislike between two teams, two organizations and two cities builds a stronger league.
Having a game circled on the schedule as a must-win not only because of division standing, but also for the pride of the players and coaches in a locker room, leads to the passion, excitement and drama in football that we as watchers love so much. The Patriots know this better than anybody; their rivalry with the Indianapolis Colts has been the defining one in the league for the past decade.
It has become commonplace in sports for players and coaches to become friendly with their opponents. Look on the field before or after any game and you'll see guys chatting and joking, acting like buddies at a cookout instead of players preparing to go into a three-hour battle of strength and endurance. It is refreshing to hear that both the Patriots quarterback and the Jets coach dislike their rivals. They may respect each other — Ryan added that he recognizes Brady's talents and accomplishments yet still refuses to like the guy — but that won't get in the way of them trying to take each other down.
The comments of Brady and Ryan will surely be brought up again in just a few weeks, when the Patriots and Jets meet on Sept. 19 at the New Meadowlands Stadium.
The Patriots are the de facto kings of the AFC East until notified otherwise; Bill Belichick's team has either won or tied for first place in the division for the past nine seasons. They've won three Super Bowls in that span and reached a fourth following an undefeated season.
New York, while reaching the AFC championship game a year ago, hasn't put together consecutive playoff appearances since 2001-02. Ryan's club has a lot of hype coming into this season, but it's hard to forget that if the Colts hadn't rested their starters in Week 16 of the 2009 season, the Jets may not have even made the playoffs a year ago.
The Patriots have the crown on their head, while the Jets have the pressure on their back.
Tom Brady hates the Jets. Rex Ryan hates the Patriots. Everyone else associated with football should love that these teams will be playing each other twice this season.
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