At first glance, Woody Johnson doesn't look like a guy who would relish being hated.
His suit with baseball cap combo, his decision to allow fans to watch the team's post-game press conferences and his willingness to bankroll the acquistion of one big name after another all lead you to believe that he puts being well-liked above all else. Following that line of thought, you'd assume that the fact that Rex Ryan's big boasts and the team's penchant for breaking rules on and off the field have made the Jets a team people love to hate would be a problem for the owner.
In an interview with the Post, Johnson said that nothing could be further from the truth.
"I don’t mind it at all, no," Johnson said. "People are gonna like us. People aren’t gonna like us. But we’re gonna be who we are."
Snap judgments about Johnson aside, this makes quite a bit of sense. You'd rather have people turning out to hate you than ignoring you. As a business owner, you want people to be talking about it and you want people to have a burning desire to sample your product. In many businesses, that only comes about because of good word of mouth, but sports works differently.
For one thing, being hated by the rest of the world can make your own fanbase become even more passionate about the team. It's one thing to root for a team because they are local or because your dad rooted for them or whatever, but it becomes quite another to root for them because it gives you a chance to lord it over all the people rooting against that team. You need only think of all the great college sports rivalries in this country to see how hate can sell.
The Yankees draw massive crowds in road ballparks because there isn't a team they play against that doesn't see them as the enemy. They have plenty of fans around the country, but it is the desire to see the Yankees beaten and humiliated that drives people to spend their money on chances to see them. The Heat are doing the same thing during this NBA season, entirely because of LeBron James's self-serving "decision."
Ah, but there's a difference between those two clubs and the Jets. A good deal of the hatred is because those two teams are seen as being capable of bludgeoning their every opponent into submission because of their superior talent. The Jets talk like they are that kind of team, but they are the only ones who really think about themselves that way. To everyone else, they are more sizzle than steak.
The longer things remain that way, the more likely it is that the hatred that Johnson welcomes turns into laughter, the same way a bully who gets his or her comeuppance becomes the joke of the schoolyard. Saturday gives the Jets a chance to avoid that fate and to start working on becoming feared.
Being loved or hated is all well and good, but being feared is what really matters in the world of sports.