A Little Hate Makes Sports Better

Steve Murray
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Wednesday - January 19, 2011
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It’s the best feud since the kin of Randolph “Ole Ran’l” McCoy and William Anderson “Devil Anse” Hatfield started shooting at each near the Tug Fork of the Big Sandy River in the late 1800s.

History doesn’t record whether Devil Anse pointed to the McCoy bench after racking up another win against Ole Ran’l's bunch, nor does it provide evidence of the less successful McCoys referring to their instigator as an ansehole.

Current chroniclers of history don’t have that problem since Antonio “Who’s your daddy” Cromartie, and seemingly everyone with access to the Jets facilities, have not hidden their disdain for Tom “Big Brass” Brady. And thank God for that.

Cromartie’s comments leading up to the Jets-Pats playoff game this past Sunday go overboard, but if there is one thing the NFL doesn’t need it is more kumbaya-let’s-get-along bro-fests. The NFL, and sports in general, are always better when there is a little animosity.

Scheduling, roster size, salary caps and copy cat offensive and defensive schemes have turned a league that was black and blue into a universal beige, where the comments are as predictable as the game plans.

When Brady said he didn’t watch the HBO series Hard Knocks because he hates the Jets and refuses to show them any support, he rescued every one of us from the banality that has taken over the game. So while Cromartie’s response that Brady is an “a**hole” was a bit over the line, it generated more interest in a rivalry that the Patriots have dominated.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick has remained mostly silent, but Rex Ryan has been anything but quiet. He recently took a slight dig at Brady, saying he doesn’t study like Peyton Manning and that Brady gets more help from Belichick than Manning does from his coach.

Ryan has purposely separated Brady from his other antagonizer. Prior to playing the Colts, the Jets coach said the game was personal between Manning and himself. Against New England, the battle changed to one between him and Belichick, since the on-field talent, he felt, was equal. Say what you want about the intelligence of poking an angry bear, but Ryan and his players have turned a nice-tosee game into must-see TV.

Passion is what makes college athletics better than its professional counterparts. Michigan-Ohio State and Duke-North Carolina are circled in red every year because they don’t like each other. In 2007, Michigan tailback Mike Hart inflamed its in-state rival when he said Michigan State was the Wolverines’ little brother. The comment was historically accurate, but it provided a rallying point for the friends of Sparty. Three years later, Big Brother hasn’t won since, former Spartan linebacker Greg Jones hasn’t forgotten, and MSU fans penned a “little sisters” chant for men’s basketball games. Good for the green and white. This is what the NFL needs. Anger. Passion. Fun.

When Brady pointed to the Jets’ sideline after throwing a fourth-quarter touchdown pass in a blowout victory Dec. 6, he helped propel one of the few true rivalries left in professional sports. Retirement has taken the nastiness out of the Red Wings-Avalanche series. In the NBA, Boston-L.A. is more historical than inflammatory. And while the Red Sox still hate the Yankees, the rage is more one-sided.

To be clear, this call for more trash doesn’t come without warning.

There’s a fine line between confidence and cockiness. Back it up and you’re usually fine. Don’t, and that becomes problematic.

Keep it team-oriented. Don’t make it personal. Know when to strut and when to shut up.

Brady provides the example. Yes, he hates the team but he respects the players. At least publicly.

So keep on talking. Hatred makes for great TV, and ratings.

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