Ok, a few things you should know about me: I am a Patriots fan. I think Tom Brady should be named President of the World, even with his Ugly Man Uggs. Yeah, me, the kid who grew up in Puerto Rico and the Bronx and used to wear Yankee caps and actually liked the J-E-T-S JETS JETS JETS (NY Sack Exhange, anyone?). The Pats are my team, but I still have to say: what was up with my fellow Patriots fans hating on current NY Jets quarterback Mark Sánchez yesterday?
It was the following post from Buzzfeed Sports that caught my attention today, the day after the Patriots beat the Jets, 29-26, in overtime. The Buzzfeed piece was simple enough. It showed a picture of a hanging Sánchez effigy with the word “LOSER” twisting in the wind before Sunday’s game in Foxborough. Buzzfeed’s Kevin Lincoln called the image “disturbing,” and in fact, I can see why. For example, in one book I read a long time ago about Jackie Robinson, people burning an image of Robinson in effigy would never be acceptable in 2012.
Why then an effigy of Sánchez? Has the hate toward Sánchez gone too far? Or is Sánchez now part of the NFL fan tradition of hanging quarterbacks like Brady (effigy in Buffalo) and Peyton Manning (effigy in Chicago)? Granted, I would have been more “disturbed” if the effigy had said something else besides “LOSER” and tried to rag on Sánchez’s Mexican American background, but nonetheless, it got me to thinking: What’s up with Mark Sánchez hate? And has the hate gone too far?
Now, the easy answer could be that the Jets are just underperforming this year. At 3-4, the luster of Rex Ryan has started to wane in New York, and it does not help Sánchez one bit that Tim Tebow (remember him?) is the backup quarterback.
I doubt that the effigy hate towards Sánchez is based on his Latino background, although when I saw the Buzzfeed piece, I instantly recalled the time last year when ESPN’s Boomer Esiason had to apologize for referring to Sánchez as a “chihuahua” while describing Sánchez’s playing style. Esiason claimed that he wasn’t referring to Sánchez’s heritage at all, just that his style was that of a “skittish” little dog (who also happened to be associated with Mexican culture).
This whole Sánchez bashing might have to do more with his pedigree as a player and nothing more. Take this into account: starting quarterback at USC with an illustrious high school career and the league’s 5th overall pick in 2009. This is now Sánchez’s fourth year in the NFL, and it is safe to say that he has not lived up to this expectations. Jet fans are realizing it, and fans of other NFL teams know it as well. However, if you take yesterday’s game into account, it wasn’t Sánchez who should be pinned for the New York loss.
I will say that even though Sánchez had a good game yesterday, he is still seen by many as a middle-of-the-road quarterback. When he entered the NFL in 2009, there were marketing visions that Sánchez would be the first real crossover Hispanic NFL sports star. Those days might have passed, and maybe if Sánchez ever returned to the southern California area to play pro ball (oh, wait, Los Angeles doesn’t have a team), the crossover appeal could become a reality. Sánchez is still very popular in his home state. I doubt you would see effigies out in San Diego, San Francisco, or Oakland.
As a Patriots fan, I respect Sánchez for his accomplishments. I am also rooting for him to reach the level of Tom Brady and become a visible Latino crossover pro football star. As long as he doesn’t wear Man Uggs, I am down with Sánchez.
Julio Ricardo Varela (@julito77 ) founded LatinoRebels.com in May, 2011 and proceeded to open it up to about 20 like-minded Rebeldes. His personal blog, juliorvarela.com, has been active since 2008 and is widely read in Puerto Rico and beyond. This year, Julito represented the Rebeldes on Face the Nation, NPR, Univision, Forbes, and The New York Times.