The Show is far more important than the win

Jim Harbaugh’s buzz earned him a five-year, $25 million contract with the 49ers.

Rex Ryan may be the only football coach in America with the ability to maintain a straight face while calling his offense “spectacular” after a 17-point performance.

The Jets’ 17-16 wild-card playoff win in Indianapolis was a lot of things — gutsy, timely, fortuitous, needed — but spectacular never came close to entering the building. Ryan’s biggest accomplishment came in his inexplicable psych-out of the Colts and their coach Peyton Manning … er Jim Caldwell.

Once Manning and the Colts elected to roll over and cower, to run out the clock with a minute left in the first half, despite leading 7-0 and being one drive from a kill shot … any heartbreak was well deserved.

Ryan, of course, won’t find the New England Patriots playing so scared of his overhyped defense this Sunday. But maybe it doesn’t matter. As long as the Jets don’t lose by 42 points again, it will probably be enough. Woody Johnson will be more than satisfied.

Sure, the Jets will have finished one step short of last season, but Rex will have put on one heck of a show. From “Hard Knocks” on, right through his one-sided Peyton grudge and whatever silly thing he says about New England this week.

The Jets of Woody don’t seem to burn to win as much as they crave to be cool, to be a sports franchise that transcends ordinary ho-hum headlines.

This isn’t just a Woody and Rex thing either. There is a lot of it going around in sports these days.

Do you really think the Nets are obsessed with trading for Carmelo Anthony because Mikhail Prokhorov yearns to win the NBA title?

Please. Melo is a one-dimensional player who showed what he’s all about when he punched and ran at Madison Square Garden that one-fateful night in 2006.

Anthony makes the Nets much more interesting, but in the end, he’s mostly just a good visual — like one mayor shoveling away a snowstorm himself while the billionaire in the city across the river just throws up his hands.

Doing something is vital in the 24-hour sports media cycle of today. Winning? That’s no longer top priority.

Jim Harbaugh didn’t suddenly become one of the highest-paid coaches ever because he’s a guaranteed winner. John’s overrated brother got that cash for the instant buzz he brings, something that many franchises are finding is more important — and far easier to secure — than a true title run.

This is the type of thinking that allows Houston Texans owner Bob McNair to argue in all seriousness that playoff-repellent Gary Kubiak deserves to keep his job because his offense is entertaining. It prompts the Miami Dolphins to decide that Tony Sparano is suddenly good enough again — as soon as the real buzz-generating candidates are gone.

Is it more important that St. John’s is winning or that Steve Lavin’s back story got the program into Sports Illustrated? No one should be surprised by the real answer.

–Chris Baldwin covers the sports media for Metro.

Metro does not endorse the opinions of the author, or any opinions expressed on its pages. Opposing viewpoints are welcome. Send submissions to letters@metro.us.


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