Monday, April 2, 2012

NFL-MLB Crossover Week: Jeter is to Brady as the Yankees are to...

 Today I'm pleased to present another post from my good friend and fellow blogger, Gary Hailey (you may remember the post he did in February on the connections between football and hip hop).  Gary is the author of the enlightening and popular blog, 2 or 3 lines (and so much more), which can be found at  If you like music at all, you must check it out.  You'll learn more than you thought you could about your favorite songs and artists from all genres and periods. 

In addition to being a music lover, Gary is an ardent baseball fan.  With the 2012 MLB season in, er, full swing, we're experiencing a bit of cross-sport synergy this week.  I was also excited to see Gary's post because I, too, have a big crush on Tom Brady--though mine is more of the "If I weren't a married woman..." variety. 

Anywho...enjoy and PLAY BALL!

I've been a New York Yankees fan since I was a kid. While Mickey Mantle was my favorite Yankee back then, Derek Jeter is my favorite Yankee now.

I don't have a favorite NFL team any more, but I must admit that I have a serious man-crush on Tom Brady. He and Derek Jeter share many of the same essential qualities -- they both are quietly confident, perform in the clutch, know how to handle themselves off the field as well on the field, and are pretty snazzy dressers. I guess I would say Tom Brady is the Derek Jeter of the NFL.

Let's take that premise one step further. If Tom Brady is the Derek Jeter of the NFL, what team is the New York Yankees of the NFL?

Before we can answer that question, we need to identify the essential qualities of the Yankees. What is it that defines the Yankees in the mind of the typical fan?

The Yankees have two fundamental characteristics. First, they are winners -- no team in the history of professional sports has been more consistently successful.

Second, they are hated by those who don't love them -- no one is neutral when it comes to the Yankees.

Are the New York Giants the Yankees of the NFL? Both are New York teams, and most fans of one team are fans of the other as well -- and the franchises have some other things in common.

Back in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the New York Giants were almost as successful as the Yankees. The Giants won the '56 NFL title (the Yankees won the World Series that year) and made it to the NFL championship game five times in six years between 1958 and 1963. The Yankees played in five World Series during that same six-year period.

Both teams’ fortunes then took a turn for the worse. The Yankees won the Series in 1962, but that was their last championship until 1977. The Giants suffered an even longer drought, and didn't win a Super Bowl until 1987.

The Yankees became dominant once more in the 1990s -- their last losing season was 1992, and they missed the playoffs only once in the past 17 seasons. No NFL team has managed to be as consistent as the Yankees, but the Giants have been in the playoffs seven times since 2000 and won two of the last five Super Bowls.

But while the Giants have been a prominent franchise with its share of detractors, they don't inspire nearly the same degree of loathing from fans of other teams. The Giants have never had a lightning-rod owner like George Steinbrenner, or widely-despised players like Reggie Jackson and Alex Rodriguez.

Let's consider two other teams who may deserve the "Yankees of the NFL" title.

First, there are the Dallas Cowboys -- "America's Team." Both the Cowboys and the Yankees get much more media attention than they deserve -- at least that's what their non-fans believe. The extravagant new stadiums both teams recently moved into are symbolic of their financial muscle and organizational ego. Cowboys' owner Jerry Jones reminds people of George Steinbrenner in his heyday.

And the Cowboys’ record of success on the field is certainly Yankee-like -- no NFL team has had more consecutive winning seasons (20), more postseason appearances (30), or more Super Bowl appearances (eight).

On the other side of the ledger, the Cowboys' recent lack of success on the field is very un-Yankee-like -- they have won only one playoff game since 1996.

I think the team that most deserves to be called the Yankees of the NFL is the New England Patriots. Like the Yankees, most fans expect the Patriots will be in the playoffs every season -- it's always a surprise when they don't make it to the postseason. (Since 1996 -- the year the Yankees began to dominate baseball again after a decade-plus of mediocrity -- the Patriots have been in the playoffs 12 of 16 seasons and made it to six Super Bowls.)

But the main reason I think the Patriots are the Yankees of professional football is how intensely they are disliked by their non-fans. The Yankees had an owner who rubbed everyone the wrong way -- the Patriots have a coach who everyone hates.

And for no good reason, a lot of people hate Tom Brady and Derek Jeter.

How can this be? These two athletic paragons are admirable above all other current pro athletes -- if you think there are better role models in the world of professional sports, I'd like to hear who they are. (OK, OK -- Brady did desert his ex-girlfriend after getting her pregnant, but there's probably a very good explanation.)

Let's face the facts, folks. If you're not a fan of Brady or Jeter, it's because you are envious of them. You know both men are more successful, smarter, more attractive, and much, much cooler than you are and you just can't live with that knowledge. Am I right, or am I right?

There is only possible reason for not giving the Patriots the "Yankees of the NFL" title -- and that is the fact that the Patriots are a Boston team. As a Yankees fan, it's not easy for me to admit that any team from Boston deserves to be compared to the Bronx Bombers. (Watching a Patriots home game on TV and seeing that half the guys in the stadium are wearing Red Sox hats is a real turnoff for me.)

Now that we've settled the question of what pro football team deserves to be called the Yankees of the NFL, let's move on to some other football-baseball pairings.

Who are the New York Mets of the NFL? To answer that question, let's decide on what the essential qualities of the Mets are. For one thing, their defining moment was one of the most shocking World Series upsets in history -- the victory of the lightly-regarded "Miracle Mets" over the powerful Baltimore Orioles in 1969. For another, they seem destined to always play second-fiddle to the Yankees -- they just can't compete with their American League neighbors.

It should be easy to figure out who the Mets of the NFL are -- the New York Jets, of course. The Jets' greatest moment was their shocking upset of the powerful Baltimore Colts, also in 1969. And the Jets generally take a back seat to their more successful NFL brethren, the Giants.

Add to that the fact that Mets fans generally root for the Jets -- like Yankees fans generally support the Giants. (In my experience, Mets/Jets fans are usually unhappy misfits -- often younger siblings who suffered growing up in the shadow of a smarter, better-looking, or more athletic older brother.)

Who are the St. Louis Cardinals of the NFL? The Cardinals are a model organization. They have won more World Series than any other National League team -- and they've done it without the material advantages that the major-market teams (like the Yankees and the Dodgers) have. Cardinals fans are known for being supportive and well-behaved -- players love playing in St. Louis.
Albert Pujols celebrating with fans after Game 7 of the 2011 World Series

One team that is definitely not the St. Louis Cardinals of the NFL is the Arizona Cardinals -- who were once the St. Louis football Cardinals. That team made the playoffs exactly three times in its 28 seasons in St. Louis, and never won a playoff game. They may have shared a city and a nickname, but the football Cardinals and baseball Cardinals were polar opposites.

I think the two NFL teams that most resemble the baseball Cardinals are the Packers and the Steelers. Both are among the most successful NFL franchises of my lifetime. And both play in relatively small and unglamorous cities in front of loyal and devoted fans. Maybe we should declare a tie and leave it at that.

Next, who are the Baltimore Orioles of the NFL? From 1968 through 1985, the Orioles never had a losing season, and seemed to have the number of the richer Yankees, who consistently lost to them despite their bigger payroll and lineup full of famous names. The Orioles won the AL East in 1997, but haven't had a winning season since -- that's 14 straight sub-.500 campaigns, boys and girls. (The team drew 3.7 million fans in 1997, but fewer than half as many fans last year.) And there's no indication that the team has turned it around.

To find the Orioles of the NFL, you need only head south down I-95 a few miles. The Washington Redskins were regulars in the NFL playoffs between 1982 and 1992, winning three Super Bowls in a ten-year span. Since 1993, not so good -- only five winning seasons and no Super Bowls (not to mention no NFC championship game appearances) in 19 years . . . and their records in those five winning seasons were only 10-6, 10-6, 9-7, 9-7, and 8-7-1 -- not exactly impressive.

Like the Orioles, the Redskins have morphed from being a model organization to being irrelevant. In recent years, both teams have been known for incompetent ownership, a revolving-door policy when it comes to hiring and quickly firing coaches and managers, and disastrous free-agent acquisitions. (Albert Belle, meet Albert Haynesworth.)

Last -- and almost certainly least -- who are the Cleveland Indians of the NFL? That's easy -- the Cleveland Browns! (Sorry, Cleveland fans -- I admit that was a cheap shot.)

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