(Rex Ryan: a jowly, unkempt Johnny Cash for the modern age.)
If you watched the Showtime broadcast of Strikeforce: Miami on Saturday night then you probably saw the cageside interview with New York Jets coach Rex Ryan, where his comments were partially drowned out by the chorus of boos from the Florida crowd. Or, if you got up to make yourself a sandwich and wonder why they hadn’t opted to try and squeeze in another fight from the undercard, maybe you missed it altogether. Regardless, the crowd at the BankAtlantic Center had more verbal abuse in store for Ryan throughout the night, and at some point he evidently got fed up and resorted to that great intellectual equalizer, the obscene gesture. This was naturally followed by the media storm, and ensuing hollow apology, all within just a little over 24 hours.
Fifty years ago, if Bear Bryant had gone to a boxing match and responded to a fan’s jeering with a middle finger, one gets the sense that it would not have been news. For one, nobody would have been there to snap a picture with their cell phone. For another, the fan on the receiving end of the finger would probably have just been glad to get away without being punched in the mouth.
But we live in a different era. Ryan has already apologized for the gesture, calling it “stupid and inappropriate,” and the Jets have issued a statement on it. There’s also a very real possibility that he’ll face a fine from the NFL as a result of all this, though his players seem to think it was pretty awesome:
"I’m not surprised," said Jets defensive end Shaun Ellis, who seemed amused. "He’s one of those guys who if you come at me, I’m coming at you. It was all in fun. They were probably yelling and talking stuff at him and it ticked him off. Fans can be like that."
Yes they can, particularly at an MMA event, where some fans seem to be paying solely for the opportunity to boo everything they see, and others maintain constant vigilance for anything that might serve as an excuse to start a fight. Factor in the beer and the halter tops, and you’ve got yourself a volatile cross section of humanity charged up with bloodlust and choking on the smoke from the pyrotechnics.
In the face of all that, you really can’t get too worked up over a guy giving another guy the finger. As MMA event etiquette goes, that’s downright civil. Besides, how long is Ryan supposed to stand there and let Dan Henderson yell at him about his team’s inability to stop Peyton Manning before something in him just snaps?