There was a time in sports where a player no less famous than Babe Ruth could run up and down the cars of trains, full of baseball media covering the Yankees, and do so with three blondes in his big right arm and a bottle of whiskey in his left. As he did it, one writer typically would say to another: "It's too bad we can't write what we just saw."
It's clear we are eons and light years away from those days. The internet and a voyeuristic society have made great bedfellows, and everything, it seems, is fair game these days.
And this is why a video purportedly involving Jets head coach Rex Ryan, his wife Michelle and some fancy footplay is making news today.
If you haven't seen the video — or don't care to, if the thought of that sort of thing makes you uneasy — it's basically a role-playing video that skirts along the lines of sexuality but keeps it quite clean, by all indications the kind of thing thousands of couples around the country make to privately keep the spice in their lives.
The difference, we'll say, is that it involves Ryan, and you certainly could make the argument that he has opened his doors about as wide as any coach in recent memory — in any sport, for that matter.
Now we come to the issue: Does anyone care? Strangely, yes. Should they care? Well, that's a whole other can of (funny) worms.
The presence of this video, which apparently has been floating in the flotsam and jetsam of the internet for years back to Rex's days with the Ravens, does not affect the way Ryan coaches. It doesn't change the way the Jets play. It has no bearing on this week's big matchup against the Bears in Chicago.
But these are the Jets. It's the media hub of the universe. It's dripping with controversy and sexuality, just like the Jenn Sterger and Ines Sainz controversies. It's another distraction, just like the Braylon Edwards DUI or the Sal Alosi incident. Bottom line: It's Rex, and you want to read about it.
Short of making statements about society and why people want to see grown, adult couples playing footsie and filming it, we'll say this: It's a bit surprising that Rex allowed this kind of thing get out there and stay out there on the Web for so long, and right when he was trying to get a head-coaching job.
NFL teams hire private investigators to dig into the backgrounds of anyone they seek to hire — players, coaches or administrators — and will use that information to help make their million-dollar decisions. I heard two stories of a conservative team not wanting to hire a certain coach (who was well-qualified, I might add) because of rampant rumors of his infidelity.
Now, Woody Johnson is a progressive owner and you'd have to think he was made aware of this sort of thing before he hired Ryan, because it doesn't appear that the couple — using their actual birthdays and former hometown on the video sites — was trying to hide it too much.
But why is this getting kicked around so much today, really?
Face it, if Eric Mangini's wife or Leslie Frazier's wife — I don't know either man or his wife personally; I am just trying to prove a point here — was involved in such coquetry, people might be interested in the story at first and it would be gone from our memories in a New York minute.
Because it's Ryan, a guy who never holds back, it's a story. It's yet another goofy tale from Florham Park this season, a year in which the Jets were going to ride the backs of their bombastic head coach and sail to a Super Bowl title. They opened the doors wide with "Hard Knocks" and let us in. Heck, they demanded we come in and see their circus.
Does that make this video fair game? In many people's minds, yes it does. But this is not "Foot-gate," or any lazily named controversy the media will create and run with. Because you can't tell me that this harmless video, which comes off as a cross between a "Kids In the Hall" skit and a Lady Foot Locker commercial, will have any real effect on anything related to the Jets and what they do on the field.
What it might do, which would be sad for the rest of us, is shut down Rex a notch or two. He declined to answer questions about it on a conference call with the Bears media, noting that it is a "personal matter." And these are not private parts we're taking about — it's clean. It's a private deal that was made surprisingly public. I don't want to see the hooves of Rex or his wife or pretty much anyone for that matter. I have feet that look like a gorilla's. This is not a fetish I choose to dabble in.
Past this point, I will turn back the clocks to Ruth's day and not write about it. Not everything we see has anything to do with football. And I am putting my foot down on this issue.